Allowed myself a somewhat extravagant indulgence and bought a 10-trip to the film festival.
Here’s what I saw in the first week:
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present
Hands down my pick of the festival so far.
Abramovic is a 60 year old performance artist with a fairly insane back-catalog of work. (I blogged about her back here.) The documentary follows her preparing for a career retrospective show at MoMA, at which she will perform a new piece (the artist is present) which features simply her sitting unmoving on a chair facing a chair which any member of the public can sit on and look at her. She does this for three months during opening hours. The results are incredible.
An excellent portrait of an extraordinary artist, her loves and life, and an examination of what art is, what it is to be an artist, the artistic process, and by extension life itself. Exceptional, powerful, hugely recommended.
It screens twice more, once each on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. See it.
Caesar Must Die
Film of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. All the actors are inmates in an Italian maximum security jail, the idea being guys who have been involved in bloodshed and power, loyalty and treachery will bring something to a play about those themes. The film also has a meta-level of them in jail rehearsing, but is not a documentary, which makes for some weird moments. Many of the performances are excellent. Won the Golden Bear at Berlin. It was cool, but am slightly surprised at that.
Farewell, My Queen
French period piece about the last days of Marie Antoinette, from the point of view of a young woman of the court who is in love with her. Set and filmed largely at Versailles, the whole thing looks lovely. I really enjoyed it; the French seem to bring far greater depth, maturity and intelligence to their historical/period pieces than the americans or english. (Earlier in the year, the standout for me from the Cinema Showcase was House of Tolerance, another french period piece set in a turn of the 20th century brothel.)
Cabin in the Woods
Lots of fun Joss Whedon penned post-modern horror-comedy. If you are the kind of person who knows they want to see it based on that sentence, read no further. Ultimately a fun, disposable and relatively forgettable outing – much like most of what it was critiquing, only funnier, with better dialogue and characterisation.
There were a bunch of moments I loved, chief among them Fran Kranz’s final joint, a perfect Bruce Willis beaten and bloody cigarette moment. And frankly Kranz throughout stole the film.
I didn’t know about the central conceit going in. And on the whole it danced somewhat awkwardly along this level of trying to be a horror and being detached and funny and a reflexive commentary on the genre; a fun ride but something in the combination of humour and gore didn’t sit quite right with me for the first half. The third act saved a lot, though; it was where we finally largely left predictability behind; and the ending itself was amusing; it is not often you get to cheer the apocalypse. Surprised it was a giant human hand.
Occasional plot glitches, which saddened me. (Glaring one being the watchers not noticing Kranz is still alive despite the excessive monitoring showed earlier.)
Random note – it turns out Hemsworth can actually act a bit. This was not apparent from his being Thor.
Don’t have a lot to say, really, and frankly, the internet will doubtless be full of people who care far more about this than me ranting on anyway.
French animation about characters in a painting seeking their painter and travelling between various paintings in search of him. Visually pleasing, narratively slight.
Japanese top-shelf nutbar Sono Sion returns.
He was adapting a manga when the tsunami hit Japan, and he changed that movie into a commentary on Japan dealing with it, making for an oddly patriotic film about teen rage and total family breakdown. Emotionally psychotic and very funny (sort of what you wish Lars von Trier would do), utterly unpredictable in his trademark way, it is really a matter of hanging on for the ride and staring in disbelief with an incredulous grin on your face.
Definitely worthwhile, and I will happily watch what he does next, but if you are starting out on him I reckon check out his incredible (and substantially crazier) Love Exposure ahead of this.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Imaginatively told from the point of view of a 6 year old. Peculiar study of eccentrics living in low-lying land beyond the levee who refuse to leave their homes, choosing to living free off the land, works out to be an oddly magical tale on universal themes of love, death and belonging. Moving and enjoyable, it won big at Sundance and Cannes this year (I went in blind other than that fact.) Never seen anything else like it.
Planning on filling the rest of the 10-trip with Holy Motors, Sound of My Voice, and maybe Existence.