Home Arts Festival du Nouveau Cinema’s gems and lemons

Festival du Nouveau Cinema’s gems and lemons

by Frédéric T. Muckle October 14, 2014

First part of our report of what the FNC has to offer this year

Montreal is known for its array of film festivals taking place during the whole year. The Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (FNC) could be considered one of the most prominent of those said festivals. This year is the 43rd anniversary of the famous festival. The numerous screenings take place in movie theaters all around the city, notably at Concordia University. The FNC started on Oct. 8 with local director Phillipe Fallardeau’s last film The Good Lie and will be ending on Oct. 19 with the acclaimed documentary about Brazilian photograph Sebastião Salgado presented earlier this year at Cannes.

Toronto may have the TIFF, but we have the FNC and, as you will read in this two-part article, our beloved city does not have to feel like less of a major cinematographic metropolis. Here are some of the films The Concordian saw this week–stay tuned for more reviews next week.

Difret

A trip into a troubling world in which the importance of cultural traditions may outweigh law and what could be considered outright justice, Difret will make everyone uncomfortable. Still, this feeling is somewhat inevitable when dealing with a tale as unsettling as this one, especially when it is inspired by an actual true story. Difret, Zeresenay Mehari’s first full-length movie, is the account of an Ethiopian 14-year-old girl accused of killing a man who abducted and raped her so she could become his wife, as the local traditional customs dictates to do. It is also the story of a lawyer working for an NGO which defends women’s and children’s rights, fighting an outdated legal and social system willing to condemn this child to death for murder. This movie offers the public a sober and meticulously slow paced rendering of a dramatic reality. For such a controversial topic, this modesty is a surprisingly mature and enjoyable aspect, since it could have been replaced by an array of cheap cinematographic tricks to try and get sensational and tacky reactions from the audience. Difret ends up being a successful attempt at portraying a harsh but genuine reality of still-relevant cultural issues about social inequalities from around the world. Angelina Jolie is also the film’s executive producer, a first for her.

 

Je suis à toi
with contributions from Olivia Ranger-Enns

How much would you pay for love? That is the poignant and difficult question the film Je suis à toi, by Belgian director David Lambert, asks. Lambert’s work dissects how easily love can be bought, but not sold.

How much would you pay for love?

We are immediately immersed in the life of Lucas, a young Argentinian escort, who is saved from the world of prostitution by Henry, a Belgian baker. Lucas is frankly disgusted by Henry, who is both fat and ugly. The camera frequently zooms in on the physical differences between the characters; whereas Henry sports a hefty figure and grey whiskers, Lucas is dark, handsome and cat-like. Lucas has to share a bed with Henry, give him oral sex, and work early hours in the bakery. As Henry becomes more and more possessive, Lucas becomes more violent. He’s like caged tiger. When Lucas is accused of stealing from the cash register, Lucas wields a kitchen knife, screaming: “I am the thief? You are the thief!” Tensions rise further between the “lovers” until Audrey, Henry’s assistant, comes on scene. It is only at this point that true love strikes. Audrey and Lucas take long walks by the river and feed each other Chinese food. The love triangle just gets more and more complex as the question arises: can Lucas ever really “belong” to Henry?

Although some scenes are cliché (like the shower scenes following forced sex), the film is overall heartwarming. We see Lucas look straight into Audrey’s eyes, admitting that his sexuality is “fucked up” as Audrey tenderly wraps her arms around his skeletal torso. We get the message: Lucas does not need sex. Rather, he needs love and a home. There are funny elements in this film, which provides comedic relief from the heavy drama. Seeing tiny Lucas trying to pummel mountains of dough into the flour machine is hilarious enough. All in all, Lambert struck a sweet note, finding balance between despair and happiness. The film juxtaposes sex to love, independence to dependence, and loneliness to friendship. We all want to belong to someone, but paradoxically we can never belong to anyone but ourselves. Which brings us back to the question: how much would you pay for love?

Cavalo Dinheiro

Cavalo Dinheiro will undoubtedly not satisfy everyone. Its famous Portuguese director, Pedro Costa, is known by the cinema community as an important figure in what could be described as cinéma d’auteur. His movies are mostly focused on depicting the lives and difficulties of the less privileged, especially in Lisbon, his artistic muse. Cavalo Dinheiro perfectly fits these criteria.

The movie follows the nerve-shattered Ventura, played by a non-professional actor, and its metaphysical tribulations relating to his past. The film also portrays the hidden decrepit side of an ever-changing Lisbon. With its dark and magnificent photography, Cavalo Dinheiro shares a vision of poverty and inequalities’ moving beauty.

However, the movie feels more like an exercise of style and form than an actual movie. Even if you can get a sense of strength emanating from the raw charisma of the main characters, it still manages to be too much and too long for the average movie-goer. Sure, every once in a while it is good to watch a good “artsy” movie. Still, this ode to a past Lisbon, this social commentary about poverty is sadly but simply boring. It is the perfect example of an uncompromising director putting his own thoughts on screen. It also shows that sometimes, you should keep in mind the people willing to experience your artistic work while putting on canvas your vision. If not, people may end up leaving the movie theater behind before the end, and never give the film a second thought.

Hermosa Juventud

Jaime Rosales’ latest movie, Hermosa Juventud falls a bit flat.

Hermosa Juventud, Spanish director Jaime Rosales’ latest movie, follows the mundane but still eventful lives of two young adults in love living in Madrid. The movie also depicts an economically crippled Spain in which a whole generation of youth lives without much hope for the future. An unexpected pregnancy, an inability to provide what is needed to form a family, a stab wound and even an amateur porn scene, Hermosa Juventud provides plenty of pivotal moments to the story. Still, it is all about how this relationship will evolve through all those incidents. Moments of love, despair and melancholy show that the potential of the director and actors of this production. However, even with two decent main actors and an experienced director at the mast, Hermosa Juventud ends up feeling flat. An ever-present feeling of monotony saturates the movie. It does not mean that such a movie needs action-packed scenes like a car chase or a gunfight to be good, but even routinal moments can be interesting enough so that the audience can enjoy the screening.

Something feels off. It feels as though something is missing from the lives of those beautiful young people. Cinematographic elements and some original and interesting aspects like using a smartphone screen as a tool for transitioning through time are nice additions. Sadly, they are countered by some other unexciting and even annoying features like the omnipresence of the shaking camera. It makes Hermosa Juventud look like a cheap movie. Other ambitious characteristics, like the  absence of music in the movie, once again shows the potential of the creators, but still lacks the sparks necessary to hook the viewer. Overall, a good idea made into a dull movie.

For more information on the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, visit nouveaucinema.ca.

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