Sitges 2009: Great first day

October 6, 2009 at 10:45 am (Festivals, Movies, Reviews, Sitges)

My first day here in Sitges, fifth of the festival, and what a day. My first impressions of Sitges are amazing. A truly big, famous, perfectly organized festival, great movies, friendly people, plenty of events all around. I’ve seen 5 movies so far – all of them at the Auditorium, one of the 4 screening locations here in Sitges, a huge theater that is almost full even during daytime screenings. The quality of the screening itself is unreal –  most movies look as if the copies are digital – but no, they’re 35 mm. It’s such a huge difference from the mess in pretty much every Romanian theater.

After picking up my press pass in the morning – and with it a huge catalogue, a Sitges bag and all sorts of other informations -, I started the first day marathon.

First movie: a cop drama starring Nicolas Cage, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Cage snorts through his role of a drug-addicted bad cop that uses every possible illegal method to solve his cases and get his share of cocaine. The movie is bland and typical – a normal case of multiple homicide, investigations, drug dealers, snitches, all the rest. What’s really disappointing is Cage. His role could have been above average (and surely above his latest choices), but he’s as inexpressive as he’s been in every single film of the last decade. Eva Mendes has an easier role but deals with it like she should, portraying successfully Cage’s prostitute girlfriend. The movie is dark and gloomy, and that’s Herzog’s merit, just like a couple of the scenes invoving Cage’s hallucinations, including some singing iguanas – yes, singing iguanas. Other than that, nothing but a badly acted run-of-the-mill cop drama.

Nothing remarkable about the second film of the day either – but at least this one was a low-budget Irish attempt at a drama with supernatural elements. The Eclipse tells the story of a failed Irish writer who forms a relationship with a successful novelist from London, while also dealing with her former boyfriend and a ghost that seems to walk around in his house. The film is slow and simple, with few memorable moments and very few scares – but the ones that pop in unexpectedly are very well done – I literally jumped in my seat a couple of times. Too bad the rest was bland and boring.

As soon as this film ended, another one began. Metropia is a superb semi-animated SF story set in a post-apocalyptic future in which the minds of most Europeans become controlled by a large corporation. Until our hero appears, that is. Our hero being a normal guy who just stumbles upon some truths and becomes determined to find all the answers. The movie is a Swedish-Danish coproduction, but features Hollywood voice talent, including Vincent Gallo and Juliette Lewis. The story is strong and interesting, and so are the characters, but what sets this film apart is its aspect – a weird combination of live-action and animation, and a beautifully designed, ultra-dark and stylish future. (Actually, if I wake up in time tomorrow, I’m planning to attend a workshop presented by the director of this film, entitled Building Metropia).

Then came the highlight of the day. Mr. Nobody was a huge revelation – mostly because I never heard about it or its director. I love it when I walk in a theater not knowing anything about the movie I’m about to see – no trailers, no story, nothing. The reward for finding that unexpected gem is much bigger than when you know you’re gonna see something good. The film’s first 5 minutes are so intense, so interesting, and, more than anything, so impressive to look at, I was instantly hooked and never blinked for the whole 2 hours. The film tells the story of the choices a kid can make at a crossroad in his life, and the way these choices mix up to form his future. Simple, right? Not really. Director Van Dormael blends everything together so perfectly, it takes a while to figure out what the hell is going on. Different points in time, and different possible paths for our main character, are all mixed together in a sea of possibilities, dreams, hopes, fears and imagination. The look of the film is unbelievable – props to DP Christophe Beaucarne. Also a big heads-up for Jared Leto, who keeps surprising everyone by the weird – and also outstanding – roles he chooses, and by the persistance with which he refuses bland Hollywood stereotypes. The film is a must – and my favorite so far here at Sitges.

After the Melies Awards gala, which saw Martyrs win the award for Best European Fantastic Film of the last year, came the last film of the evening (for me – cause screenings here at Sitges continues every day till dawn). Les derniers jours du monde is a boring French attempt at creating a compelling romance set on the bakground of the end of the world. Unfortunately, nothing is compelling about this nonsense. Trust me, when you’re not capable of making an interesting movie about the end of the world, something’s wrong. At midnight, before the film reached the hour mark, I walked out – something I do very rarely. But I couldn’t stand watching another second of a middle-aged crippled French guy searching for his long-lost mistress, while the world was (uninterestingly) collapsing around him.

In this report: The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans 5/10, The Eclipse 6/10, Metropia 9/10, Mr. Nobody 10/10, Les derniers jours du monde 2/10

My first day here in Sitges, fifth of the festival, and what a day. My first impressions of Sitges are amazing. A truly big, famous, perfectly organized festival, great movies, friendly people, plenty of events all around. I’ve seen 5 movies so far – all of them at the Auditorium, one of the 4 screening locations here in Sitges, a huge theater that is almost full even during daytime screenings. The quality of the screening itself is unreal –  most movies look as if the copies are digital – but no, they’re 35 mm. It’s such a huge difference from the mess in pretty much every Romanian theater.

After picking up my press pass in the morning – and with it a huge catalogue, a Sitges bag and all sorts of other informations -, I started the first day marathon.

First movie: a cop drama starring Nicolas Cage, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Cage snorts through his role of a drug-addicted bad cop that uses every possible illegal method to solve his cases and get his share of cocaine. The movie is bland and typical – a normal case of multiple homicide, investigations, drug dealers, snitches, all the rest. What’s really disappointing is Cage. His role could have been above average (and surely above his latest choices), but he’s as inexpressive as he’s been in every single film of the last decade. Eva Mendes has an easier role but deals with it like she should, portraying successfully Cage’s prostitute girlfriend. The movie is dark and gloomy, and that’s Herzog’s merit, just like a couple of the scenes invoving Cage’s hallucinations, including some singing iguanas – yes, singing iguanas. Other than that, nothing but a badly acted run-of-the-mill cop drama.

Nothing remarkable about the second film of the day either – but at least this one was a low-budget Irish attempt at a drama with supernatural elements. The Eclipse tells the story of a failed Irish writer who forms a relationship with a successful novelist from London, while also dealing with her former boyfriend and a ghost that seems to walk around in his house. The film is slow and simple, with few memorable moments and very few scares – but the ones that pop in unexpectedly are very well done – I literally jumped in my seat a couple of times. Too bad the rest was bland and boring.

As soon as this film ended, another one began. Metropia is a superb semi-animated SF story set in a post-apocalyptic future in which the minds of most Europeans become controlled by a large corporation. Until our hero appears, that is. Our hero being a normal guy who just stumbles upon some truths and becomes determined to find all the answers. The movie is a Swedish-Danish coproduction, but features Hollywood voice talent, including Vincent Gallo and Juliette Lewis. The story is strong and interesting, and so are the characters, but what sets this film apart is its aspect – a weird combination of live-action and animation, and a beautifully designed, ultra-dark and stylish future. (Actually, if I wake up in time tomorrow, I’m planning to attend a workshop presented by the director of this film, entitled Building Metropia).

Then came the highlight of the day. Mr. Nobody was a huge revelation – mostly because I never heard about it or its director. I love it when I walk in a theater not knowing anything about the movie I’m about to see – no trailers, no story, nothing. The reward for finding that unexpected gem is much bigger than when you know you’re gonna see something good. The film’s first 5 minutes are so intense, so interesting, and, more than anything, so impressive to look at, I was instantly hooked and never blinked for the whole 2 hours. The film tells the story of the choices a kid can make at a crossroad in his life, and the way these choices mix up to form his future. Simple, right? Not really. Van Something blends everything together so perfectly, it takes a while to figure out what the hell is going on. Different points in time, and different possible paths for our main character, are all mixed together in a sea of possibilities, dreams, hopes, fears and imagination. The look of the film is unbelievable – props to DP ………. Also a big heads-up for Jared Leto, who keeps surprising everyone by the weird – and also outstanding – roles he chooses, and by the persistance with which he refuses bland Hollywood stereotypes. The film is a must – and my favorite so far here at Sitges.

After the Melies Awards gala, which saw Martyrs win the award for Best European Fantastic Film of the last year, came the last film of the evening (for me – cause screenings here at Sitges continues every day till dawn). Les derniers jours du monde is a boring French attempt at creating a compelling romance set on the bakground of the end of the world. Unfortunately, nothing is compelling about this nonsense. Trust me, when you’re not capable of making an interesting movie about the end of the world, something’s wrong. At midnight, before the film reached the hour mark, I walked out – something I do very rarely. But I couldn’t stand watching another second of a middle-aged crippled French guy searching for his long-lost mistress, while the world was (uninterestingly) collapsing around him.

In this report: The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans 4/10, The Eclipse 5/10, Metropia 9/10, Mr. Nobody 10/10, Les derniers jours du monde 2/10

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