header for reviews of new horizons film festival in Poland

Day 5 of New Horizons International Film Festival 2019 – The Souvenir, Tommaso & More

A ridiculously overrated, pretentious drama ‘The Souvenir” didn’t spoil the fun of the last day of New Horizons International Film Festival for me, because there was still plenty to enjoy.

ingvar sigurdsson in a white white day (2019)
Still from “A White, White Day” (2019).

White, White Day (2019)

Dir. Hlynur Palmason

Hate Grade: 3/10

One could see a particle of Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” floating somewhere in “White, White Day”. The film focuses on a widower named Ingimundur (a memorable role of Ingvar Sigurdsson), who finds out about an affair of his recently deceased wife.

The Icelandic drama moves quite slowly, but nonetheless firmly towards a bonkers ending that lets director Hlynur Palmason go loco, in an unexpected, thriller-type entertaining way. From the point it lures its audience into a belief that this here is a drama about loneliness, “White, White Day” clenches around a mortifying feeling that copying with grief and letting go is, at many times, the hardest a man needs to do.

Abel Ferrara in Tommaso by Abel Ferrara
“Tommaso” by Abel Ferrara.

Tommaso (2019)

Dir. Abel Ferrara

Hate Grade: 3.5/10

Abel Ferrara’s most personal film is a quasi-documentary film that plays out like Willem Defoe’s monodrama.

The American actor plays Ferrara himself, and stars next to the director’s real-life wife, Cristina Chiriac. “Tommaso” explores a crisis of a man, who is no longer in charge of his life. A playboy, and a star, whose bravado fades as he faces the harsh routine and everyday friction with his much younger, attractive wife.

“Tommaso” often feels very one-sided, and – to some extent – tends to coast dangerously close to being sexist, as some of Defoe’s monologues lack enough humour to sound sarcastic. But moving past a few eyebrow-raising moments, “Tommaso” fathoms what happens with man’s ego over time. Moreover, it is always a pleasure to see Willem Defoe.

The souvenir still from Joanna Hogg's film
“The Souvenir” by Joanna Hogg.

The Souvenir (2019)

Dir. Joanna Hogg

Hate Grade: 7/10

This portrait of an ill-conceived relationship requires from its audience the patience of a saint.

Joanna Hogg’s film revolves around her distorted self-portrait – a young, sensitive student of film faculty who meets a distinguished, classy man with some troubling secrets. Their relationship is depicted with a loose set of moments, when the two sail to and away of each other, fighting over the relationship doomed to ultimately fail.

But just as fruitless is their bond, so is “The Souvenir”.

In the washed-off colour palette, observing a naive, pretentious student who falls blindly in love is a story old as time. Add to the equation a swindler, who lives off her viridity and you end up with a film that’s both predictable and unattractive to look at. But what’s truly preposterous in “The Souvenir” is the way Hogg stuffs there pseudo-artistic mumbo-jumbo. Its most glowing example is a film class where students discuss Hitchcock’s “Psycho”, which obviously relates to the main character’s situation. Cheesiness alert.

Xavier Dolan and Gabriel D'Almeida Freitas in Matthias et Maxime (2019)
“Matthias & Maxime” by Xavier Dolan.

Matthias & Maxime (2019)

Dir. Xavier Dolan

Hate Grade: 5/10

If there’s one director in the world, who remained so deeply in his (un)comfort zone that any deviation from it seems to big of a risk for him to make, it has to be Xavier Dolan.

“Matthias & Maxime” revisits all of the hallmarks that made Dolan an enfant prodige a few years back. Slow-motion party scenes, beautifully shot sequences that serve as music videos – all checked.

But “Matthias & Maxime” lacks a reason to believe its wobbly story. The two titular characters are friends, who as a result of a silly bet, have to kiss in front of a camera. Kraken’s released, and the two spend the rest of the film in turmoil, tormented by the emotions bouncing inside them.

But instead of an emotional rollercoaster, Dolan’s latest earns little of an actual impact over time, and its true drama is that all the supporting characters (and their lives) are much more attention-grabbing than the leading duo.

Share your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.