Sitges 2009: A trip inside a dying mind

October 11, 2009 at 11:55 am (Festivals, Movies, Reviews, Sitges)

Thursday, another busy day here in Sitges. I started it with a couple of press conferences. First, Philip Ridley and Jim Sturgess came to present their new beautifully crafted fantasy-horror flick, Heartless, that I’ve seen (and wrote about) yesterday. Just like with Sam Rockwell and Duncan Jones, I’ll post their answers a bit later – I really don’t have any time right now to transcript everything. The second press conference was useless – Gaspar Noe is born in Argentina, speaks Spanish perfectly, and there was no translation, so I stood the entire 30 minutes not understanding anything. I’m glad I did stay, cause I got the chance to meet the man aftewards. Ever since Irreversible, he’s been one of my idols, so it was great to actually talk to him personally.

Thursday meant 4 more movies, again, all of them at the Auditorium. I’m not purposely planning to avoid the other 2 theaters, but the headquarters are here, the important movies are here, and there’s a 15 minute walk to the other locations, not very tempting with the hot weather outside.

I started the day with A Town Called Panic, an innocent Belgian stop-motion animation adventure, featuring a Cowboy, an Indian and a Horse. The film won the Melies d’Argent this year at the Rome film festival, impressive accomplishment for such a simple, chaotic film. Sure, some gags are funny, sure, the animation is well done, but everything gets old really fast, and the lack of a proper plot contributes to the downhill slide the film suffers after its fresh first half hour.

Dorian Grey followed – a British supernatural drama based on the famous Oscar Wilde novella. Directed by Oliver Parker (who visited TIFF a couple of years ago with his obnoxious comedy I Really Hate My Job), the film has plenty of good moments, especially for those (like me) who weren’t familiar with the original story. However, the film is too slow, and, despite some good acting performances, especially from Ben Barnes, it failed to attract me in any way. At least in my book, if a movie doesn’t make you feel anything, it’s a bad movie. This one didn’t.

But the next one, Enter the Void, sure did. It made me feel more than pretty much everything I’ve seen all year, anywhere. It made me feel amazed. Then shocked. Then angry. Sad. Hopeful. Shocked again. It stuck with me long after it ended. It’s the weirdest, least commercial, most shocking film I’ve seen here at Sitges. It’s Gaspar Noe all over again – think Irreversible, times ten. The guy has no shame to play with you, to toy with your emotions, to twist them however he sees fit. The film tells the story of Oscar, a young drug dealer from Tokyo, and his sister Gina, a prostitute. One day, Oscar gets shot. Stuck between life and death, his mind wanders, creating a puzzle of memories, hopes and fears, some of them real, some of them imagined. A dying mind’s final trip, when, in those final seconds of consciousness, you see your life, its best and worst moments, mixed together with your random thoughts, your biggest fears, your weirdest hopes and illusions. The film has some of the toughest to swallow scenes I’ve ever seen. It’s like a punch in the gut. Some walked out during the screening. Most stayed, and enjoyed a ride like no other. I’m glad I was one of them.

Last film of the day was 9, but it had the huge misfortune of starting only 15 minutes after Enter the Void ended. I was still too shook up to be able to get involved in its story. But it did look interesting – an animation I’ve been waiting to see for a long time, set in a beautifully created post-apocalyptic world in which Machines destroyed all Humans, and the only hope remained in 9 robotic creatures manually sewn by a scientist right before his death. Extremely dark and inventive, the world of 9 and all its characters surely deserves a second viewing.

In this report: A Town Called Panic 6/10, Dorian Grey 5/10, Enter the Void 10/10, 9 7/10

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Sitges 2009: Lazy Wednesday

October 11, 2009 at 11:53 am (Festivals, Movies, Reviews, Sitges)

Lazy Wednesday at Sitges. Got up really late (again) and barely caught the Sam Rockwell & Duncan Jones press conference, in advance of their movie, Moon (that I’ve already seen & loved at IIFF). I’ll post the conference later – it was fun and interesting, despite Rockwell being extremely tired and in a big hurry once it ended. Duncan Jones was much more friendly, I even got to talk to him for a few minutes. I told him about the Iasi film festival, he said he had no idea his film was screened at IIFF, and he would have gladly come to Iasi if he knew. He was also extremely interested in the audience reaction at Iasi for his flick.

A couple of hours later, I caught the first movie of the day, Kinatay. A very dark, realistic thriller from Brillante Mendoza, the film tells the story of Peping, a wannabe cop who unwillingly gets mixed in a kidnapping and murder. The very minimalistic shots, some of them dark, others shaky, or out of focus, add to the realism and build tension – not that this was necessary. The story itself is tensed as it is. (Spoilers ahead) It is practically a step-by-step guide on how to kidnap, rape, kill someone, and then dispose of the body – without any sugarcoating. Everything is seen through the eyes of the main character, a kid who can’t (or doesn’t want to) get out of the mess when he has the chance. Still, some scenes are unnecessary or a bit too long, and the overuse of the shaky camera becomes tedious and tiring.

Then came Heartless, the first film in 14 years for director Philip Ridley, a British flick starring Jim Sturgess as a scarred photographer with a wild, dark imagination, whose mind starts playing tricks on him, in a superbly gloomy and stylish London. Actually this was my favorite thing about this film: its look. The dark, grotesque London is sometimes reminiscent of Clive Barker, while the supernatural elements are imaginative and very well done. Sturgess’ character is as well interesting and well built. The story is intriguing until the very end, and the fact that the final twist is predictable and maybe a bit overexplained doesn’t hurt the very good feeling I had at the end of this movie.

That was it for the day – the hectic rhythm of the last couple of days eventually got the best of me. I would have gone to see Moon again, but the screening was already sold-out when I got there, so I decided to call it an early night.

In this report: Kinatay 6/10, Heartless 9/10

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