Monday, August 29, 2011

The Fantasia Daily, 2011.20 (2 August): Kidnapped, Marianne, and Bas-fonds

Let me say, I had pretty high hopes for getting much closer to done with Fantasia reviews this weekend; you'd think that with the hurricane and all, I might stay indoors and just grind through them. It turns out that Bas-fonds is a killer to review when there's any chance for distractions at all, and it kicked my butt until I was on the bus this AM.

Anyway, this was an interesting set of reiews to write, in that all three from this day grew in my estimation as I wrote about them. I still found myself not actually liking Kidnapped even as my esteem for its execution increased - it's one of a few movies I saw at the festival where I'm grateful that they exist, because they avoid taking the safe route and thus keep one from being too certain of what's going to happen when watching a thriller, but are kind of a dispiriting turd sandwich when you actually watch them. And I'm glad I finally saw what the filmmaker was going for with the second half of Bas-fonds, a month later.

The highlight of the day was easily Marianne, though.

Filip Tegstedt at Fantasia 2011

The fellow in the foreground is writer/director Filip Tegstedt, @TheNorthlander on Twitter and really an impressively hard worker at promoting his movie (see also @MarianneMovie). He had great-looking posters to hang and give away, and he was there for the whole festival, both to stoke word of mouth and to attend as a fan. That may not sound like much, but at a lot of festivals, filmmakers will arrive the day their movie screens and depart the next day, and even when they stick around, it's usually not for a three-week event. It appears to have paid off - it was a sold-out crowd on Tuesday and hopefully another good one on Friday. I really should bug the Boston TerrorThon people to try and book it, because it's good stuff that I'd really like the folks around here to see.

Secuestrados (Kidnapped)

Quality: * * * ½ (out of four)
Reaction : * * (out of four)
Seen 2 August 2011 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2011)

I'll say this for Miguel Ángel Vivas: He is committed. He knows exactly what he wants to do with this movie - what sort of terror he wants to put the characters and audience through - and he goes for it with an admirable focus and determination. It's not always a pleasant journey, but the film is as tense as a hostage drama should be; it certainly hits its targets. The question is, then, whether or not the potential viewer wants to see those targets hit.

A scene before the title gives the audience some idea of what's to come, but for a bit after that, the tension is of the familial variety: Jaime (Fernando Cayo) and Marta (Ana Wagener) have moved into a nice new house in a nice development in the suburbs, and their teenage daughter Isa (Manuela Vellés) is not thrilled to have been yanked away from her friends. There's a party tonight that Isa wants to go to with her boyfriend César (Xoel Yáñez), and that leads to a bunch of "we're spending our first night in our new house together as a family", "but papa said", and so on. By the time the night is over, though, Marta and Jaime will wish they'd let Isa go out, and maybe done something themselves - three masked men with Eastern European accents (Dritan Biba, Martijn Kuiper, and Guillermo Barrientos) break in, hold them hostage, and threaten unspeakable things if they don't co-operate.

Right from the start, Vivas and company don't mess around. The hoods are quickly established as ruthless and violent enough that questions of personal motivation are extraneous, or at least a distant second behind surviving the next five minutes. Even the most professional, intelligent-seeming member of the crew seems to be using a relatively crude calculus as to whether hostages who can withdraw money from ATMs or otherwise be used as leverage are more valuable than corpses who can't talk to the police, and Vivas gets a great deal of mileage from moments that clearly shift favor killing the witnesses.

Full review at EFC.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 2 August 2011 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2011)

Marianne is less a genre-straddling film than one that straddles the line between what is traditionally called "genre" and the more-respected types of drama, and it's one of the good ones. It's a story of a haunting, sure, but it's filled with great little character bits and acting; it should impress the audiences who normally look down on horror stories as well as those who cringe at apparent award-bait.

Ten years ago, Krister (Thomas Hedengran) strayed from his wife Eva (Tintin Anderzon) - again - with the Marianne of the title (Viktoria Sätter). Today, he is at Eva's funeral, holding their infant daughter Linnéa. His daughter Sandra (Sandra Larsson) hates him, preferring to spend time with her boyfriend "Stiff" (Dylan M. Johansson) and resenting Krister's requests for her to babysit her new sister. Eva's mother Birgitta (Gudrun Mickelsson) comes to help out with that, and that's got to be uncomfortable. Something more than an infant and grief is keeping Krister up nights, though, and Peter (Peter Boija), the principal of the school where Krister teaches, has him visit a counselor (Peter Stormare). But maybe it's Stiff, an avowed occult enthusiast, who knows what is really going on...

Writer/director Filip Tegstedt's little story is deceptively ambitious; what could be a vanilla ghost story based on a straightforward set of sins is instead a more complex set of interlocking plots with messy human emotions behind them. We see the Eva/Krister/Marianne triangle as well as Krister's mourning, but interestingly, not as something sexy and salacious - what Tegstedt shows is almost entirely the moments when Krister is hurting somebody and hating it. It's presented as a situation with no good answers - Marianne isn't a monster and Eva is very passive (it's no wonder Krister keeps having affairs if Eva just puts up with it) The flashbacks mesh tightly with the ones in the present, but never in a way that becomes confusing when a given scene is taking place. There's also a second triangle going on that is in many ways as interesting as the first - Krister, Sandra, and Stiff.

Full review at EFC.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 2 August 2011 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2011 - Camera Lucida)

Well, that was certainly something. Two somethings, maybe, which isn't a bad rate of success at all for a weird little art-house movie that clocks in at just a little more than an hour. Bas-fonds is far from perfect, but a large chunk can knock the audience flat.

Why? Because the three central performances are ferocious. Valérie Nataf, Noémie Le Carrer, and Ginger Romàn play a trio of women who are true outsiders, and their performances reflect a complete lack of interest in societal norms - it would be called overacting or theatrical in more conventional settings, but the yelling and various other forms of hysteria in those scenes is instead a genuinely shocking example of just how utterly divorced from the rest of the world these women are. The first half of the movie is mostly them running completely amok, letting the audience marvel at their odd dynamic, sexually and otherwise.

Odd because, in most cases, one might expect Ginger Romàn's pretty blonde Barbara Vidal to be the queen bee of the group, but she's not - writer/director Isild Le Besco has Romàn play her as nervous and subservient, always craving approval even when that should be an easy thing to come by. Noémie Le Carrer, meanwhile, has the younger of the Pichon sisters, Marie-Stéphane, positioned somewhere in between Barbara and Magalie, dominated by her older sister but also with some of her cruelty. There's a confidence to her that comes from knowing her place exactly; she can be on her knees scrubbing the floor and still cut Barbara down.

Full review at EFC.

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