The first day of the festival has been more than solid, with science fiction from Brazil, Quentin Tarantino’s favorite Chinese movie and a gallantly directed film about child soldiers in South America.
Dir. Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho
Hate Grade: 2/10
“Bacurau” focuses on a titular town somewhere in Brazil, some time in the future. The city’s been erased from satellite’s maps, and soon the local community is threatened by a series of brutal murders.
It’s hard to grasp the razzmatazz of genres that flows out of “Bacurau”. Filho and Dornelles begin on a Kusturica’s note, bringing “Time of the Gypsies” to mind as the camera explores the local folklore of Bacurau. From that point, their little bizarre darling meanders from science fiction to surrealism, a western-like siege that grows into a full-blown Tarantinosque experience. Deep within those juggled genres lies, however, a complex commentary concerning the gun violence that haunts the modern Brazil, as well as the current state of policitics in the highly unstable times for the country.
Dir. Jessica Hausner
The discussion concerning GMO, genetic modifying of food and plants has never really been silenced, yet Jessica Hausner’s “Little Joe” seems to have missed its most crucial moment to shine.
The film follows a single mother, who divides her time between work in a plant-engineering lab and her son, Joe. The company’s future relies on her new project – an infertile plant that exudes a special “happiness scent”. The compound seems to work fine at first, but soon the happy people begin to behave rather strangely.
Nor a full-blooded horror, neither a thought-through drama, “Little Joe” seems to be stuck on its conceptual level. Hausner argues that reality depends on one’s perception, thus leaving the audience wondering about the mysterious plant’s actual characteristics. Is it the protagonist who is too much in love with her own invention to see its possible perils? Maybe. Is it the plant that evolved outside of the controlled modification? Maybe.
While those almost philosophical issues could serve well, Hausner’s incapable of going deeper than skin-deep conclusions. And what’s left is to enjoy a solid acting piece from Emily Beecham and some nicely shot interiors, accompanied by an excruciating, out-of-balance soundtrack.
Dir. Sacha Polak
Hate Grade: 5/10
In the veins of “Dirty God” flows an energy of suburban London, with its vibrant clubbing scene and a stream of neon-coloured interiors. In the centre of it all is Jade, a single mother whose body was tragically disfigured by her boyfriend who spilt acid on her skin.
“Dirty God” never quite finds its equilibrium, because the Dutch director Sacha Polak’s unsure of what the story should lead to. Dipped in party-packed, techno-infused videoclips, Jade struggles to raise her kid, often turning the audience against herself by an extreme negligence she shows.
In both directions – as a film about dealing with the way you look and a dramatic story of a single mother – “Dirty God” works only partially.
Dir. Alejandro Landes
Hate Grade: 1/10
Juvenile guerilla was explored in several films already – among them was a stunning feature by Cary Fukunaga “The Beasts of No Nation” – but none was that exhilarating to look at, raw and riveting as Alejandro Landes’ “Monos”.
The introduction to the titular monkey squadron (monos means monkeys in Spanish) takes place in an almost phantasmagorical, unreal ruins, hidden somewhere deep in the jungle. The team holds an American tourist hostage, but soon the child soldiers need to move directly into the wilderness. In the meantime, the whole team slowly begins to rot from the inside out, disintegrating into a band of misfits.
The exquisite cinematography of “Monos”, with its magical palette of colours, ruins growing among the clouds, and angry rivers in the rainforests, sets the bar incredibly high for the narrative. Landes has a way of balancing it though – his film incorporates the austerity from “Apocalypto” to tell its own version of “Lord of the Flies” and how the monkey squadron treats their guerrilla warfare as crude, exciting fun.
Mind-blowing, beautiful and courageous film.
The Wild Goose Lake
Dir. Diao Yinan
Hate Grade: 3/10
Diao Yinan’s film is a slowburn crime drama, which demands the viewer’s attention over the span of its full run-time. The film is rewarding, at least partially, in a way it captures an intense pursuit after a criminal, only to dive deep into the rural and under-developed region of China.
Yinan likes to rely on tiny particles – there is a praiseworthy attention to details, a work that’s thought through. Contrary to fast-paced thrillers, “The Wild Goose Lake” oozes the same sleepy yet unnerving atmosphere like David Fincher did in “Zodiac”.