IIFF 2009: Tuesday, best day so far

September 30, 2009 at 9:00 am (Festivals, IIFF, Movies, Reviews)

Ah, Tuesday, the middle of the festival. Another busy day, lots of work in the morning, another press conference and another lousy lunch. People are starting to gather here in Iasi – I assume most guests will be there for the final days and everything around IIFF will become more animated.

First movie of the day: a 2005 German romcom directed by Til Schweiger, Barfuss, that was released across Romania a while ago. I missed it back then, didn’t miss it right now, and that was a wise decision. The film is adorable, fresh and extremely interesting, despite being a bit too long. This is the story of Nick, a failure who isn’t able to keep any job more than a few days, who falls for a mental patient who’s about to commit suicide, and takes her across the country for a memorable trip. The story is simple and straightforward, but both characters are likeable, the chemistry is there, the jokes work, and despite missing a few notes, Schweiger does a tremendous job both directing and acting. Good film, highly recommended for everyone looking for a simple, relaxing good time, without feeling cheated by Hollywood’s commercialism and banality.

Then came the highlight of the festival (so far). Moon is a psychological SF about Sam Bell, a man sent on a 3-year mission to, well, moon, who, after 3 years of loneliness, slowly starts losing his mind, and hooks to the memory of his family back home as his only hope for going back to normal. Between hallucinations, dreams and hopes, things start unraveling and deteriorating for Sam, after he discovers a possible revelation. It’s really difficult to find anything wrong with this film. From the story, to the directing, acting, cinematography – everything is top notch. The plot is extremely intriguing, despite developing extremely slowly, and never feels overdone or exaggerated. Sam Rockwell’s acting is of Oscar caliber. Duncan Jones directs everything like a pro, not a beginner, knowing exactly what to emphasize and how to move everything forward without ever losing grip of the material. Moon is one of the best films of the year – and a sure candidate for the IIFF trophy.

I ended the day watching another older movie, Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, that I’ve already seen a couple of times. Nothing new here. Solid movie all around, highly recommended.

In this report: Barfuss 8/10, Moon 10/10, Eastern Promises 9/10

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IIFF 2009: Football night

September 30, 2009 at 8:55 am (Festivals, IIFF, Movies, Reviews)

Day 4 was the first day in which I actually had work to do. Rushed to a press conference in the morning, with the main competition jury, including Anamaria Marinca, and then went to Cinema Victoria where I spent the next few hours writing. After a(nother) disgusting lunch on the house, and some more writing, I caught the first film of the day late in the afternoon.

Short Sharp Shock, Fatih Akin’s debut in 1998, sets the tone for what will eventually become an amazing career for the German-Turkish director. The film, despite some obvious normal flaws for a directorial debut, has the same angst and power Akin’s later movies will make him famous for, but the story and the characters are much less complex. I couldn’t shake off the feeling this is some sort of exercise for Akin, knowing that he will use the same world, the same themes, for his future, more polished and famous movies, especially Head On. Still, for a debut, this is a great film.

Both evening’s movies at Victoria Theater revolved around the world of football. The first one was a Mexican comedy, starring the greatly talented Gael Garcia Bernal and Carlos Luna, in a film directed by Alfonso Cuaron’s brother, Carlos. Rudo y Cursi is an interesting, albeit conventional sports comedy, about two poor brothers from a Mexican village who get noticed by an agent and end up playing in the Mexican first division. All the musts of such a film are present, including the big match between the rival brothers. What sets this apart are the characters – both of them, simple people caught in a world they aren’t familiar with, a world they don’t really want and for which they’re not ready to sacrifice their lives for. What I really didn’t like was the total lack of soccer action from the film. Even the games are shot only suggesting what’s going on on the pitch – and that destroyed part of the excitement and audience involvement. Still, the debut of Carlos Cuaron is a good film, with good performances. I don’t think this will stand a chance for any awards here at IIFF, but it’s a movie worth seeing.

The last film of the day was another good one – but not great. The Damned United tells the story of Richard Clough, one of the legendary coaches of English soccer, and his extremely short tenure at Leeds United, where he lasted only 44 days before getting fired. Michael Sheen does an outstanding job portraying Clough, but the movie, despite being extremely interesting for soccer fanatics, fails to gain the attention of the “outsiders”, and also twists some important events, becoming mostly a film “inspired by real events”, and not a true biography.

In this report: Short Sharp Shock 7/10, Rudo y Cursi 6/10, The Damned United 7/10

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