on into Week Two of Cinequest, we were greeted by possibly
the best and the worst of what the festival had to offer.
Films both local and international; inspiring tales and
god awful wastes of time.
one film called Set Point was so bad, I felt the
need to write in the rating “god awful” on my
audience survey card. I also went on about how movies like
this one start wars and that I’d never wanted to take
a movie and punch it in the face, until now (Just being
honest). It’s not just that the movie was boring,
pretentious, hard to follow, and ultimately not worthwhile.
It sucked, too!
in the Tallin, the capital of Estonia, this movie finds
us caught up in a murder mystery. A guy gets shot in the
street, three witnesses happen to be on the scene, and one
of them is the wife of the local police supervisor. But
she also fears her husband is trying to kill her. As the
evening goes along, we start to think that might not be
such a bad idea.
filmmakers had been willing to rein in their egos, this
might have been a nice short film. It’s well shot,
pretty decently acted, and looks to have been funded by
the entire Gross National Product of Estonia. But the story
is so bland and unimaginative, revolving around a group
of people whose ambitions seem limited to wanting to have
sex with any nearby source of warmth or reciting bad poetry.
warrant that some things may have been lost in translation,
but, when so little is actually happening, there’s
not much for you to lose. If characters die and no one cares,
you could be in trouble. When people in the theater are
actually rooting for the stars to get killed, you messed
to cleanse the taste of the last film from our palates,
we headed into Trench Road, a drama about the dangers
of being a househusband in Finland. ...well, more about
the dangers of pursuing masculinity in this modern world
lead character slaps his wife one night after she blasts
him for how boring their lives have become, so she walks
out on him with their young daughter in hand. Our hero then
undergoes a strange transformation, trying to purchase a
house to please his spouse (nothing more exciting than that!)
and turning himself into a blackmailing wannabe commando/stalker,
pestering a real estate agent, pissing on peoples’
lawns, and making money through semi-erotic massages.
being wrapped around a few messages I can appreciate, this
film is bizarrely dull and too creepy for its own good.
Nice cinematography and a strong if repetitive score kept
us waiting for the big ending, but, when it came, there
just wasn’t any satisfaction to be found. It felt
like we’d been watching a serial killer flick where
no one died. There was no salvaging it. Trench Road
wasn’t tragicomic, suspenseful, or involving. Just
way foreign language films had been treating us, we did
indeed have some fear when approaching Villa Paranoia.
Thankfully, we finally struck some cinematic gold. This
charming Danish dramedy finds us with Anna, an unemployed
actress who’s reached her wits’ end, and Walentin,
a nearly comatose old man who’s barely tolerated by
his creepy chicken farming son. When Anna finds herself
too artistically compromised to continue her dramatic career,
she accepts an offer from Jorgen, the aforementioned farmer,
to nursemaid the old man.
the story unfolds, we learn of the dark past shared by Walentin
and Jorgen when Anna figures out her patient isn’t
nearly as vegetative as people believe. When he throws things
at her, she throws things back and cusses him out. When
he stares longingly at a picture of his dead wife, Anna
finds an old dress in the house and and tries some roleplaying
on him. When he sleepwalks and cries out in his sleep for
loved ones and days gone by, she knows she has to help him,
despite what a bastard he might be.
the psychological drama with biting satire and well-timed
comedy, Villa Paranoia draws us into the mystery
of the plot and the emotional arcs of its characters with
a subtle hand that isn’t afraid to slap us in the
face every now and then. If I had one complaint, it would
be that Jorgen’s such a despicable character it’s
hard to tolerate him (even after we learn about his childhood
traumas). Thankfully, every scene with Anna and Walentin
works well enough to suck you right into the film.
picking up some buzz on popular films at the fest, our crew
just barely managed to catch the last showing of Verflixt
Verliebt, a film title that could translate as “Crazy
Love, Crazy”, “Jinxed Love”, or “F**ked
Love” (though the director preferred the consonance
of the original German title). It follows Miro, an Argentinian
in Switzerland who’s mistaken for a famous international
this happens just when he meets the girl of his dreams;
an actress so impressed by his mistaken identity that he
continues the ruse in hopes of winnning her heart. What
follows pulls from cinematic traditions dating back to the
golden days of Charlie Chaplin. Though somewhat hard to
summarize, the story unfolds like an inverted Man Bites
Dog when a group of student documentarians attach themselves
to Miro and force him to continue making his “masterpiece”
even after he’s gotten the girl.
and slightly uneven, Verflixt Verliebt is still
the best film about filmmaking to grace Cinequest in quite
a long time (quite an achievement when you consider that’s
this year’s common plot). Sharing some of the pseudo-documentary
tricks that have made films like Albert Brooks’ Real
Life such strong examples of the sub-genre, this is
one that’ll have even the most jaded film geek smiling
like a kid on Christmas.
all for now, but we’ll be coming to you with more
reviews of films like The Works, Uno, Dark Arc,
and Vares – Private Eye.