review 14th November 2014
the magazine by NISI MASA - European Network of Young Cinema
The New Girlfriend Magical Girl G端eros Corrections Class from Gueros by Alonso Ruizpalacios
Editorial Navigating through this year´s Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival endless program brings me back to an interesting discussion that took the festival circuit by storm in the beginning of the year. Someone at Indiewire decided to launch a relentless attack at the Rotterdam Film Festival´s programming policy with an article insinuating that quantity was no replacement for quality, and that such programs were a sign of a clueless modern vision of film. Despite some objections, I too also find it oddly suspicious when festivals come up with programs this large. This juggling game of incessant screenings usually means I am about to partake in a painful voyage through some of the worst films of the year. For this reason alone it is particularly ironic that this year´s circuit closes with such an extraordinary program, that the Black Nights team prepared for us. If you needed any further proof of the event´s increasing influence and impact, all you need to do is have a quick look at what is on display to understand this is an intimidatingly well-oiled machine. They´ve selected nearly all the masterpieces, the fortunate surprises and the disturbing revelations of 2014 and now we are left alone to pick up the pieces. Just in case you are going through what I am struggling with right now, trying to figure out how the hell I am going to fit all of these unmissable works in less than two weeks, allow me to give you a discreet push. The first sign of how great these following days will be is the fact that Alexey Fedorchenko and Takashi Miike have their new films in the main competition (Angels of Revolution and Over Your Dead Body respectively). For an unconditional fan of the Russian´s weirdness and the Japanese´s insanity such as myself, this is enough to faint. Speaking of new Russian cinema, there is plenty on the bill to remind us that this once great nation of film is definitely awaking from its long sleep. Andrey Konchalovskiy´s The Postman´s White Nights, one of the great winners in Venice this year, will bring a healthy dose of rural life, while Ivan Tverdovsky´s Corrections Class will undoubtly give you a few chills with its portrait of a somewhat troubled disabled school. While on the subject of dysfunctional schools, beware this program contains what is perhaps the most tragic, exploitative yet im-
pressive film of the year: Ukrainian Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy´s The Tribe, which took away all the main awards at Cannes´ Critics´ Week. If you are determined to only force yourself for one unpleasant but necessary trip into the dark side, make sure this is it. Eastern Europe could hardly be better represented, starting with Estonia, of course. It´s most celebrated filmmaker, Ilmar Raag, who back in 2007 shocked the world with his phenomenal Klass, is back with I Won´t Come Back (no pun intended). Andres Maimik´s and Katrin Maimik´s Cherry Tobacco was a sweet and provocative surprise in Karlovy Vary this year, and now threatens to put a nostalgic tear in many Estonian eyes. Georgian star George Ovashvili certainly made a bigger impact in the Czech mega festival with Corn Island, another obligatory view, that alongside older entries such as Polish Tomasz Wasilewski´s Floating Skyscrapers or Romanian Andrei Gruzsniczki´s Quod Erat Demonstrandum makes a pretty impressive vision of what that side of Europe has to offer. There are also many European giants stepping on the stage. Ozon´s disappointing The New Girlfriend is unquestionably eclipsed by Susanne Bier´s scandalous Second Chance, Ruben Östlund´s staggering Force Majeure or Roy Andersson´s dreamy and surreal A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, the other great winner in Venice. Oh yes, let´s not forget Godard´s return to form with what many think is one of the most surprising films of the year, the 3D art house sensation Goodbye to Language. And there is still time for many revelations, such as the much talked about Stations of the Cross by Dietrich Brüggemann, Phoenix by Christian Petzold and the Icelandic new kid on the block, Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson, director of Paris of the North. Despite all the austerity, one Spanish artist is teaching the film world how Latin People do it Better. I´m talking about Carlos Vermut, whose Magical Girl is probably the most gorgeously insane film in the program. Allow me to add a little secret: Carlos MarquesMarcet´s 10.000KM has such a buzz around itself that you would be crazy to miss it. If European cinema is not your thing, do not worry. The North-Americans are in force with what in my book are possibly the two best films of the year: Birdman, from the not so
American Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Whiplash by the much celebrated newcomer Damien Chazelle. Yes, if you can tolerate Oasis and Dido and a lot (and I mean a lot) of over the top drama and odes to the Hipster generation, then Xavier Dolan´s Mommy is the film for you. Obviously there are always those to whom extreme facial hair and Apple products are hardly satisfying enough. These people should perhaps focus on the amazing Asian masterpieces on offer, with Yi’nan Diao´s Black Coal, Thin Ice definitely overshadowing everything else, after all, it did not win this year´s Berlinale for no reason. Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming Liang´s is also back with his usual dose of mind-blowing long shots in Journey to the West. Oh, and did I mention Takashi Miike, the enfant terrible of Japanese filmmaking, also has a new film in competition? Documentary wise Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard bring us a different look at the all encompassing man that is Nick Cave in 20,000 Days on Earth, while Anders Østergaard returns with 1989, one of the most eagerly awaited films of the year, and Gabe Polsky reminds us of the cold war years in great style with Red Army. And how could I possibly not mention some guilty pleasures as well? They may be twisted and hilarious, but they are also some of the best films of the year. Damián Szifron´s Wild Tales has been rocking the festival circuit ever since it premiered in Cannes, and fortunately so, depriving audiences of such a film should be considered a violation of the most basic human rights. Most likely you are still a virgin when it comes to cinema from the faraway land of New Zeeland. This should be corrected with the many gut laughs you´ll be unable to hold while watching What We Do in the Shadows. And for all the horror fans out there, check out David Robert Mitchell´s It Follows, I saw many respected critics and film fanatics jumping repeatedly when faced with this film. We could be here for hours to be honest. You see, in 2014 the Black Nights gang is redefining the term: “death by cinema”. So see you in the screening room. Fernando Vasquez (Portugal)
CREDITS NISIMAZINE TALLINN 14/11 - 30/11 Edition of 14st November 2014 EDITORIAL STAFF Director Fernando Vasquez Coordinator Mirona Nicola Layout Francesca Merlo Contributors to this issue Fernando Vasquez (Portugal), Matthew Turner (UK), Sara Martínez Ruiz (Spain), Teresa Pereira (Portugal), Ewa Wildner (Poland)
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With the support of the Youth in Action of the European Union. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
The New Girlfriend François Ozon, France - So Different, So Similar Arriving at a period where sexuality is at the forefront of public discussion in France, François Ozon had the potential to deliver a timely address on a subject much in need of mature screen representation. With The New Girlfriend, a gender bending screwball comedy, the prolific French director with an eye for provocation miscues, trivialising the issue entirely. Opening boldly, Ozon pans out gradually from a series of obscured facial close-ups to reveal Laura (Isild Le Besco) in full profile. Clad in a wedding dress, resting serenely in a casket, she is a sleeping beauty who will not be awoken. Absent from the rest of the film in person, her spirit remains a presence as those close to her engage in a new chapter in their lives. Switching jarringly in tone, Ozon moves to show Laura’s best friend Claire, (Anous Demoustier) meeting with husband David (Romain Duris) to address the bereavement. A sombre circumstance twists outrageously when Claire walks into David’s home to find him in full wig and makeup, proudly modelling his wife’s best dress. From here on, Ozon takes material that could have made an compelling psycho-drama and pushes it ever further into absurdity, frustrating matters further with each increasingly ridiculous development. In an act of bizarre reanimation, David keeps the memory of his deceased wife alive by assuming her gender, embracing his desire to cross-dress as warped bereavement therapy. Impersonating her image begins as “something to remember her by,” but quickly becomes more than a ritualistic pleasure. David becomes Virginia and a new relationship is born in the sexually confused sisterhood of Claire and Virginia. This is precisely the kind of complex, politically-charged material then that demands serious treatment. Yet in Ozon’s film, this befuddlement leads to a series of romps involving lower back waxing, forgotten lipstick, misunderstood fumblings and a particularly nauseous shopping trip montage scene set to Katy Perry’s ‘Hot & Cold.’
Before long, David has gone full drag (chicken fillets, crotchtuck and garter belt) and seems to have finally found some kind of inner peace. He announces that if “girls are born in flowers, and boys in cabbages” he “was born in a cauliflower.” Ozon is responsible enough to avoid suggesting that his desire to crossdress comes entirely from bereavement, suggesting instead that trauma can surface long repressed urges and reveal new ones as well. In a delicately handled scene near the film’s denouement, Virginia stares longingly into the eyes of a drag-queen in a cabaret bar, find a sense of belonging that had been evasive before. Left here on this sensitive note, The New Girlfriend’s story might have seemed believable. That it is instead interrupted violently is a given in a film that asks for far more than a reasonable amount of suspension of disbelief. In an admittedly unforgiving role, Romain Duris is unconvincing in either gender position, exaggeratedly queenish as Virginia and forgettable as David. Anous Demoustier fares little better, but it is most likely Ozon’s screenplay (adapted from a Ruth Rendell short story) that is to blame. Every plot point that could be predicted occurs, and whenever Ozon feels a twist he has committed to is a stretch too far, he wimps out with a fake-out dream sequence. A film that deals with gender identity issues is welcome, but it´s hard to believe The New Girlfriend is the film Ozon envisioned. In a film of contradictory, abrasive tones, Ozon expects his audience to empathise with our displaced protagonist, whilst simultaneously inviting the viewer to laugh cruelly at his/her suffering. We are not always born into the bodies we want to be in and to an extent the film does well to recognise this but perhaps comedy, at least as broad as this, is not the vehicle in which to explore this line of thought. Or perhaps it should just be left to Almodovar? Matthew Turner (UK)
whom Carlos Vermut is unavoidable linked to by their particular harsh-nonsense low cost (as they say) halo, it was impossible to imagine that the special black, ironic and completely absurd Youtube humour would one day reach the big screen.
Magical Girl Carlos Vermut, Spain/ Panorama I just can imagine one thing more personal-style than Carlos Vermut’s Magical girl: Carlos Vermut himself. There is something magic around a group of thirty something highly audiovisual guys that have been scratching at the side door of Spanish cinema for the last few years, trying to blow the dust with fresh air. The surprising but deserved Golden Shell, unusually walking hand in hand with the Best Director´s Silver one, comes to allow an invisible flow from the underground to the surface, much like Truffaut did in Cannes half a century ago. Far away from claiming histrionic similes between films and filmmakers that have little in common, the triumph of Vermut’s second feature, first one in terms of traditional way of filmmaking, means indeed a golden opportunity for a smaller cinema, living on the edge, to become visible for huge audiences. More than film directors, these, Vermut included, are 21st-Century artists. An intellectual blend of film, literature, painting, music, design, comics, videogames or just random homemade clips of video makes them masters in mixing high culture with popular references, under their peculiar sarcastic point of view. They are out of the box, so they don’t care about what they are not supposed to say or do. They conquered the Internet and made it their ally. Apart from some random screenings of his posthumour Catalonian colleagues Carlo Padial or Venga Monjas, to
That’s the hypnotism of Magical Girl. Apart from its accurate technical mise en scène, in which the director himself takes an important part as art director, the irreverently funny spirit of his short Don Pepe Popi, feels comfortable along this almost thriller about the lack of limits to reach human desires. As calm announces the storm, Vermut’s stages the narrative in peace, plain and clear, simply beautiful, waiting for the strength of the complicated characters to destroy everything in a sudden perverse spiral. The story of an unemployed father trying to please his badly ill daughter, by buying a scandalously expensive original outfit of her manga heroine, Yukiko, little by little turns into a dirty network of blackmail, obligated favours, wickedness and death around the real magical girl, the enchanting Bárbara. The first introduction of the 12-years-old manga fan, twists soon into a flamingo style intense femme-fatal story, leaded as a leitmotiv by Manolo Caracol’s Niña de fuego, in a subtle trick where Vermut, the illusionist, blows up that first kitsch colourful pop layer in a brilliant demonstration of handling McGuffin without leaving a trace. Magic girl is a deconstructed thriller where the Spanish filmmaker and comic illustrator (also designer of his film’s poster) stays faithful to these features that make us recognize his work. Leaded by his nonsense rules, and still adding a touch of unjustified magic, far away from looking pointless he also reaches to finger the critical points of the social context where the film is built upon. Economic, social and political crisis, educational budget cuts, unemployment, sensationalizing in the media and other taboos all show up behind this clever and funny drama which proves that, paradoxically, fun and drama can be matched in the same sentence with a unique result. Sounds like a new wave to explore an alternative path, parallel to the main usual road, has finally appeared in Spain. Sara Martínez Ruiz (Spain)
This film about convictions (or the lack of them) is a prodigious story of young people discovering themselves, their city, and their Icons. Ruizpalacios’s debut feature is an extraordinary, refreshing approach to coming of age films. Güeros, meaning a white skin blonde-haired person, is an easy going comedy made of contrasts: between brothers, between ideals, between expectations and truth.
Güeros Alonso Ruizpalacios, SPAIN/ Panorama What the hell is going on? It’s the first thing that pops in our mind when the awarded best first film at the Berlinale´s Panorama Section, Güeros, begins. And believe it, this will be the most surprising film we’ll witness in a long time. This exciting film by Alonzo Ruizpalacios brings us Santos, a boy that just likes doing pranks, but his tired mother decides to send him to spend some time with his older brother, to cold off. Sombra is the older brother who lives in a chaotic apartment with his friend Tomás. As good brothers they don’t get along, just sharing one commom love, Epigmenio Cruz´s music, the same that their father used to listen to, a musician known as the one that could have been the saviour of the national rock scene. Between the natural youth laziness and driving their neighbours crazy, they start a road trip within México city looking for their beloved icon. On their path they stop by a student strike to pick up Ana, Sombra’s sweetheart.
With a well worked mise-en-scene, where everything is left to chance, and every new frame has a new surprise. We could wonder if there’s space for so many things happening and if all work together, but the answer is not just obviously positive, as even humour finds its way in the film. The way Ruizpalacios decided transmit the Epigmenio Cruz music is just perfect, increasing our expectations until the moment of truth: the meeting with the artist himself. After all, what could be more powerful that our own imagination? The music is one of the most important elements and together with the black and white style, regardless of the reason for such choice, it just fits, giving a timeless aura to the film. The bound between the characters is memorable, set through several details and with humour notes which are right in the spot, form a touching, endearing relationships between all of them.
Güeros by Alonzo Ruizpalacios surpass in such way the expectations that, at the end, becomes difficult to identify fragilities in the film. We could say that at some point in the middle, the rhythm maybe slows down a little bit, at least compared with the beginning, but it’s also true that its necessary so we can dig deeper into the characters. And it simply doesn’t matter, we just want to continue following the story and wait for the next surprise, hidden in unsuspected moments. Teresa Pereira (Portugal)
key characteristic to have a full portrait of the teenagers in Corrections Class painted – it’s all about the idealistic ideas. And girls.
Corrections Class Ivan I. Tverdovsky, RUSSIA, GERMANY/ Just Film Apparently it’s neither serial killers nor dangerous psychopaths who appear as the most treacherous creatures of the cinematic universe. If spending numerous hours in the darkness of film theatres has taught me anything it is that the teenagers can be much more cruel that all the Leatherfaces of this imaginative world. Ivan Tverdovsky’s school drama gets off to a punching start – right in the first scene we are exposed to a corpse of a youngster who has just been run over by a train. Later in the movie we learn that it had to happen sooner or later since in the greyish setting of the Russian suburbs this is how boys impress girls, by lying flat between the railway tracks as a great mass of steel passes above them while they remain untouched. But it’s not just for the sake of showing off. Supposedly when their hearts are exploding with adrenaline they can see which of their wishes will come true. That precarious activity provides the audience with a
The film is a fit and recommendable choice for this year’s Karlovy Vary programme, alongside thematically similar Class Enemy and The Tribe. It’s almost a battle between the good and the evil in Tverdovsky’s movie. We see a thematically black-and-white movie where the main protagonist is a doe-eyed, no-make-up innocent. Mothers and female teachers on the other hand (no men though) are a bunch of witches who gasp at the thought that teenagers might have sex. No wonder, however, that the movie is told from a one-sided perspective, since the director seems to match the subjective point of view of the youngsters he portrays. Thus the camera moves in fluid and fast shots, as if it was another teenager with restless and fidgety way of observing the world around. The sound is exaggerated to imitate the commotion youngsters tend to create wherever they appear. As loud as the movie is, it is meant to be a sonorous voice in a debate about tolerance for disability that is currently taking place in Russia. The main character suffers from a condition that forces her to move on a wheelchair, but it’s the ignorance of society impersonated by the school staff and class peers that is incurable. What makes it even more striking is that although fictional, the story has a string of realism to it – the director admitted after the screening that he visited several Russian corrections classes before making the movie. Even though all students in these classes are disabled in one way or the other and went off with a similar start having their education neglected because of that, we can see how easy it is for them to take their frustrations on each other. The serious tone of the film, however, is broken by rare but desirable comical situations that make the audience guffaw as if they themselves were teenagers in the classroom. Nevertheless, the main message remains pessimistic, although it may comfort some viewers leaving them full of gratitude and relief that their school days are over. Ewa Wildner (Poland)
Alonso Ruizpalacios director of Güeros, Panorama Mexican director Alonso Ruizpalacios debut feature, Güeros, has been one of the most talked about films of the year. It has been repeatedly awarded several accolades, most honourably with prizes at the Berlin and San Sebastian Film Festivals. With background in writing and directing for television and the theatre, Ruizpalacios directed a fearless film that has left no one indifferent. We had the opportunity to meet him back in late September in San Sebastian, so we could find out his motivations behind what is fast becoming an immensely influential film. What was your inspiration for the film? Well, the film sprang from this time when I finished university and was unemployed for a long time. I was sharing an apartment with some friends and we were living in this sort of limbo state of not working, not studying, not cleaning the house, not cleaning ourselves very much. So that was kind of the starting point and I started to write, as an occupation the5
rapy, to get myself out of that place. They say you have to write about what you know, so it took me back to some years before when there was this strike in México, in the main University, in 1999 and a lot of my friends we’re involved in the movement. Some didn’t care, but they were all affected by it and they all lived in a similar state, as the unemployed, in this limbo state.
Why black and white? It was really a gut feeling. When I was writing the film I always saw it in black and white. But then you have to think of stuff to convince the producers, because black and white can be a commercial suicide. So analysing why I had this gut felling, it just seemed right because it’s a story about contrasts, and black and white is very good for contrast, for obvious reasons. And also because it helped us to take the specific time frame element away from the film, so you don’t really know in which year it’s taking place. It’s not a reconstruction of the strike in 1999, but it’s not also really the present, it’s somewhere in between. Did you want to do a reflection or statement about the political and social situation in México? I think it tries to portrait a specific generation rather than making a statement. I don’t believe it’s the role of films to make statements, but to portrait moments of life and, for me, was the most honest thing to do, just to portrait the people and the confusion that I knew. I tried to place it there and maybe that makes some political statement, but I think that’s for other people to decide. Music plays an important part in your film. How did you work it? Did you think of the sound during the writing process? Well, I’m very interested in sound design in films and I like to get involved as much as possible. I know that other directors, when they finish editing, they leave the sound design for others. I can’t. For me it’s literally 50% of the film. So I’m very involved in it. There’s a lot of sound notes on the screenplay. The music that we chose, we found during the editing. Before, we thought on putting music of the era of the strike, the rock that they used to listen to, but then we thought it would be too time specific. So we choose this old music that came from the golden age of Mexican cinema, by this composer called Agustin Lara, and his music helped us to take you back to something that’s more classic and ancient and gave the film this kind of colour of beauty, I think. Everything was written on the screenplay? Not everything. I mean, I think it’s a process of finding the film you’re making while you are making it. I also gave myself that challenge and I knew, when I was planning in pre-production, that I wanted to leave myself a certain margin for improvement. But always based on a strong rational of “these are the limits and these are the rules” and we can improvise and move around these rules. You also wrote it. What you prefer the most, writing or directing? I like both, for me it´s part of the same thing. I enjoy directing more because it’s less lonely and it’s more fun, even though it’s more stressful. But at least you’re not crying by yourself, you’re crying with other people! In your film every frame is a new surprise. Were you, at any point, afraid that’s there might be too many things happening in one film? I don’t think that fear is something to rely on when you’re making a film. It should be other things like an intelligent argument that refrains you from doing something, but not fear. So what I’m happy about in the film it’s that I think it’s quiet fearless in that way, and we just did everything we wanted to do and we weren’t afraid of what people were going to say. We did what we really wanted to do. Teresa Pereira (Portugal)
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