Thursday, August 06, 2009

MIFF 2009 Day 13 - 5/8/09

  • Eastern Plays (Kamen Kalev, Bulgaria, 2009)
  • Villa Amalia (Benoît Jacquot, France/Switzerland, 2009)
Eastern Plays
The cliched MIFF blurb for this film didn't give me high expectations and yet I was surprising satisfied by this small film that contains a little bit of a lot of elements that I like about festival films. The ideological divide between brothers fortunately wasn't the main thrust of the film and consequently didn't intrude on the overall narrative.

The protagonist, Itzo, is a likeable enough guy - it seems. Then, inexplicably, he becomes a real asshole, the result - we discover - of his being a recovering junkie. The film deals with the nature of relationships, communication, cultural acceptance, politics and violence. The story doesn't seem to dwell too much on any one issue, avoiding any overt didactism but clearly making some points to be pondered.

Coming from a country I know next to nothing about, and covering many of the universal social issues that appeal to me and in a skillful manner, this is a very enjoyable film and worth seeing.

Villa Amalia
A woman (Isabelle Huppert) walks out of her man, her house, her life when she discovers her lover of 15 years is cheating on her. The plot seems to share common threads with Three Colours: Blue, one of my two favourite films, or Haneke's The Pianist (also starring Huppert) but is not as strong as either of those two films. I initially thought that Huppert's character may be suffering mental illness, as her reactions to her infidelity seem very extreme. But there are mysteries that need to be unearthed.

I've often mentioned my appreciation for Huppert as an actress and this role seems like it's cut out for her. Perhaps too much so, to the extent that it seems a little cliched, as if the part were written especially to showcase the talents we know so very well. I tried not to dwell on these thoughts while watching the film, but they sometimes haunted me, which I found a little distracting. Which is not to say that the performance isn't good, because it is. The story keeps an air of mystery which, shrouded in the film's gorgeous visuals, works quite well.

I enjoyed the film. It doesn't aim particularly high, but nor does it need to. What it sets out to achieve, it does it well. In that respect, I could describe it as another 'quietly satisfying' film like, Still Walking.

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