Saturday, February 15, 2014

Film Comment Selects 2014 Preview

Each year, Film Comment Magazine holds a film series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, its selection of films assembled from festivals around the world by its esteemed editors. In its 14th year, Film Comment Selects 2014 consists of 22 films (17 of them local premieres) from all corners of the cinema spectrum, including genre tropes, new films by seasoned and upcoming filmmakers, well-deserved revivals and Jane Campion's much praised TV show Top of the Lake in its entirety.

Specifically, the selection includes new films from Lukas Moodyson, Hong Sang-soo, Denis Villeneuve, Lasse Hallström, Bernardo Bertolucci, Ti West and much more.

It will also feature two earlier works (Wolfsberg and Ghosts) of the lead figure in Berliner Schule, Christian Petzold, The City of Pirates -- a seldom seen masterpiece by the master surrealist Raul Ruiz -- as well as the adaptation of Betrayal, arguably the greatest play that famed playwright Harold Pinter ever wrote, starring Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley.
The series will open with Hong's new film Our Sunhi and close with Bertolucci's Me and You. 

Please visit Film Society of Lincoln Center website for the full list and tickets. The series runs 2/17 - 2/27.

Here are the preview of five films I was able to watch in advance:

OUR SUNHI - Hong Sang-soo    *Opening Night Selection
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Singular, prolific Hong Sangsoo graces us with Our Sunhi, soon after last year's Nobody's Daughter Haewon. Another slight variation on the world of post-college entanglement soaked in soju & stained with cigarette butts. After getting a less than satisfying recommendation letter from her former professor, timid Sunhi (Jeong Yumi) confronts an old flame, Moonsoo and her former college senior and the professor in an attempt to define herself. The three men, all rekindled their interests in Sunhi, try to grapple themselves with their overwhelming attraction to the young woman who they find kind, smart and sometimes brave. Heavily inflected by alcohol and desire, their opinions of her overlap and get muddled. But in the end, after much digging, everyone reaches pretty much the same conclusion of that she is a good person. Hong concocts yet another delicious human comedy.

ME AND YOU/IO E TE - Bernardo Bertolucci     *Closing Night Selection
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The reason there hasn't been a new Bertolucci film for more than ten years was because the now 72-year-old master has been having health problems. His bad back led to multiple surgeries and, ultimately left him wheelchair-bound. Me and You, his new film, directed from his wheelchair is a simple, affecting story of a 14-year old loner and his older junkie sister bonding over the course of a week, trapped in the basement of their parent's apartment building.

The film is unexpectedly sweet. Sure, there is a bit of Bertolucci's usual sexual innuendos/brashness but skin is kept to a bare minimum. Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori), a pimply young Malcolm McDowell lookalike fakes a school ski trip to get away from the world and his overbearing mom into the stuffy basement. He gets provisions (junk food) for a week, brings his computer, music and a freshly purchased ant farm for entertainment. But his peace is suddenly interrupted by his twenty something half-sister Olivia (sultry Tea Falco). She is heading up to the countryside to her friend/lover's, but first, she needs a place to crash in Rome to clean up her drug habits. Since she hates his mom, she blackmails Lorenzo to let her stay in his escape pad. Bertolucci uses a confined space effectively: the tiny shared space forces the siblings to bond and share intimate moments. Seeing these slightly drawn characters portrayed by not-too-pretty unknowns is refreshing in the world saturated with cookie-cutter pretty young thangs on TV.

If concentrating on youth reinvigorated Bertolucci to direct again despite his conditions and the result is this good, I am all for his future endeavors. The great soundtrack starts with The Cure's Boys Don't Cry and ends with Bowie's Space Oddity.

GHOSTS/GESPENSTER - Christian Petzold    *Revival
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My full review here

Blood Glacier - Marvin Kren
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3 German scientists and a technician stationed at the high Alps to monitor the ever receding ice shelf have a stunning discovery one day. The part of the glacier has turn red. They suspect that it's some kind of bacterial phenomenon. Little do they know that it thawed mutation causing microbes that turn mountain mammals and insects into a giant hideous mutants, preying on humans. Things get hairy when a team accompanying an important government minister arrives for a tour.
This is a sophomore effort from Marvin Kren, whose low-budget, solid German zombie flick Rammbock delighted the genre fans few years back. Blood Glacier is a topical eco-disaster horror mashup of The Thing and The Mist. Quite enjoyable

CITY OF PIRATES - Raul Ruiz    *Revival
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My full review here

THE FLESH OF MY FLESH - Denis Dercourt
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French director Denis Dercourt writes, directs, edits and also does camera sound work in Flesh of My Flesh, a psychological horror in the vein of Repulsion. With a shallow focus and soft edges, the handheld image mostly concentrate on the face of mentally unstable heroine (new comer Anna Juliana Jaenner) for much of the running time. Anna, a young Austrian woman working as a domestic worker/nanny in France has a sick daughter. In order to improve her daughter's condition, Anna needs to feed her human flesh and blood. With often veiled, soft frames, Dercourt succeeds in reflecting Anna's singular mental state. But I find the film too clinically cold and distant and its elliptical storytelling devoid of mystery or seductive power.

CANNIBAL - Manuel Martin Cuenca
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With a pitch perfect performance from Antonio de la Torre as the title role, Manuel Martin Cuenca's expert, low-key film betrays its not-too-subtle title. De la Torre plays Carlos, a soft spoken, loner tailor living in deeply the religious town Granada. He has a dark side: he likes to kill women whom he is attracted to and consume them. Things change when a flirtatious Romanian masseuse Alexandra (Olimpia Melinte) moves in to his building. After Alexandra's suspicious disappearance, her introverted sister Nina (Melinte playing a double role), comes into his life.

Sumptuously photographed and beautifully acted, Cannibal is a real gem. Cuenta manages to translate a tricky subject into a moving love story.

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