Explore by #Giuseppe Di Salvatore
Une séparation observée en toute discrétion et avec sensibilité du point de vue d’une jeune fille sur le point de congédier son enfance. Plus que la crise de couple, Axelle Ropert analyse la transformation intérieure de la « petite Solange », dont l’épithète ressemblera de plus en plus à une petite cage inconfortable, un cliché dont elle voudra se débarrasser. Si le final dramatique et libératoire de Petite Solange apparaît un peu écrit, voulu, voire forcé, cette pellicule aux couleurs intemporelles brille pour le soin des détails, notamment pour les hésitations, les non-dits, les émotions retenues.
Rare représentant d’un cinéma de nuances dans une édition du Festival de Locarno obsédée par le cinéma de genre et les clins d’œil populaires, Petite Solange a fait l’objet d’une discussion spontanée à Locarno, autour d’un « café critique » – avec des critiques de Filmexplorer et de la Locarno Critics Academy.
Petite Solange | Film | Axelle Ropert | FR 2021 | 86’ | Locarno Film Festival 2021
Medea | Zeldovich
In ancient Greek mythology, Medea embodies the insane side of love, at least insofar as she is ready to kill for her love, only to suffer a betrayal and venture into a cruel revenge. Alexander Zeldovich’s Medea follows the same path of cruelty, in a crescendo of irrationality, which is but the result of the radicalisation of rational cynicism. The omnipresent Tinatin Dalakishvili – model and actress from Georgia – spends almost all of her time in calculating the do ut des balance of interests, according to a “justice of love” that she has herself established as absolute principle in defiance of any reciprocity. In Medea, love is not a theme but a mere presupposition, and the story is rather focused on the ruthless consequences of the absolutisation of love, an increasingly implausible love, which is finally reduced to an unintelligible tantrum. To my eyes, Medea was quickly not credible anymore, neither in a naturalist nor mythological standpoint , and I perceived her as merely a vehicle by which to depict a society of blind selfishness – a moralist thread by Zeldovich?
However, the Russian director has certainly taken much pleasure in making of her Medea a champion in destroying any kind of value - be it familiar, religious, or aesthetical and even sexual – in the sacred name of love (of course) and in virtue of her alleged clairvoyance. This could have been a nice Nietzschean move, if only a proper deconstruction of values would have left room for some kind of nihilist sublimation, but Medea is not a super-woman (Übermensch) in this film. Rather she is a miserable figure of self-inflicted sorrow that capriciously destroys instead of deconstructing. Is this tragic or just sad?
What remains is Alexander Ilkhovskiy’s superb cinematography at the service of a bunch of Russian oligarchs touring between Russia and Israel in a world of ostentatious luxury. The potentially critical elements in this picture of human degradation are definitely too subdued, and one should ask oneself rather whether, in the end, Zeldovich’s film is actually celebrating the oligarchs themselves in making them worth of embodying some noble mythological stuff. In this case, would Medea be an underhand form of propaganda for authoritarian governments in search of cultural legitimation? In any way, when the Russian Medea goes satisfying her sexual needs with a deranged Israeli soldier in the tent of Palestinian Bedouins, I have the impression that the border line of “artistic” political incorrectness is definitely crossed. The motive of the destruction of values so becomes an occasion for conveying vulgarity and offense. Do we really need this bombastic pamphlet about abjection, this dubious apology of disdain?
Medea | Film | Alexander Zeldovich | RUS 2021 | 139’ | Locarno Film Festival 2021
One has not necessarily to refer to authors such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul or to Asian dream cinema in order to stress the importance, in cinema, of rendering tangible ghosts, spirits, and other imaginative presences. And this practice does not only concern cinema; at least since Goethe’s Erlkönig, literature (mainly romantic) has also explored the many aspects of this materialisation of imagination, and has been an important wellspring for cinema. Here, with Niu Xiaoyu’s first feature, we sink into a world – the one of the young Yezi – where characters from the past and other spirits saturate the space of her room, her apartment, the garden she usually goes to. Do these spaces simply become her psychic agora, a sort of theatre of the soul? Through the delicate relationship with her grandmother, who starts suffering from dementia, we even lose reliable references in time. Memories, the past and the present melt together, largely thanks to the “presence” of her grandfather, who recently (?) passed away.
The film insists almost obsessively on putting Yezi’s internal forum forward, a radicalisation that could appear redundant, but which serves a specific dramaturgic role. Yezi confesses that she does not want to leave her childhood and become an adult: this is probably the fundamental key to reading the obsessive materialisation of imagination, not just as a symbolic fantasy but as a form of resistance against the outer world, the world of the adults, a world that goes beyond the comfortable bubble of family.
There is more than this motive of a difficult coming of age in Niu Xiaoyu’s film though, for she is able to create a distance from Yezi’s closed universe. She directly talks, as director, to the grandmother, who appears to be her own grandmother, in the flat that is her own flat. This puzzling gesture reveals the documentary layer of Virgin Blue, that thereby assume the form of auto-fiction, putting Yezi into the role of a fictional alter ego of the filmmaker herself. In this way, we can feel the separation from Yezi, and therefore from her dominating interiority. We are not just in her world, but look at her world – assuming the perspective of the filmmaker. The heterogeneity of formal elements and settings, also including real children choreography and comic drawings (by Niu Xiaoyu herself), reinforces this effect of detachment from Yezi’s exploration of her inner world.
Through this film therefore we both live and observe a universe in which childhood memories and demented perception coalesce. Through this film we experience and observe a kind of imaginative autism, which speaks perfectly for childhood, probably dementia, and certainly the specificity of cinema world – and finally the intriguing continuity between childhood, dementia, and cinema… That is why we could say that Yezi is also the spokeswoman for the interiority of cinematic perception, and Niu Xiaoyu its witness, both involved and distant.
Virgin Blue – Bu yao zai jian a, Yu hua tanga | Film | Niu Xiaoyu | CHN 2021 | 100’ | Locarno Film Festival 2021, Cineasti del presente
Some Kind of Intimacy by Toby Bull | Khan's Flesh by Krystsina Savutsina
Some Kind of Intimacy
Toby Bull directs his camera toward the sheep, he speaks on the phone with his brother, while he insists on shooting, almost searching for (something in) the sheep. For five minutes, no more than that, and yet, this minimalist film is huge, for it seizes a just intuition, a sort of vision: the brothers’ parents are buried there, where the sheep graze, as if they knew… The camera searching becomes so a clumsy then right way to grieve. With different approaches, the brothers’ longing for the parents seems to find an answer, possibly a presence. Besides the medium of the phone and through the medium of the camera, Bull makes of the animals a visible medium. In this way the animal’s lively silence becomes an unexpected bridge to the beloved that have departed, and we seem to rediscover an ancient truth, in the flesh of the real.
Daily life in Belarus, when observed with Western eyes, could sound crazy, but Krystsina Savutsina is not seeking for exoticism in her coming back to her roots. Skilled editing enhances the cutting gesture and often de-contextualised scenes of work, of leisure, of celebration. The sometime humorous, sometime puzzling result is a kaleidoscope of sketches describing a multiple stories structure. However, Khan’s Flesh is something more than a diversion, for at the end of the almost hour of film, and thanks to its peculiar structure, the integration of people in the gears of procedural life emerges as the main theme: a meaningful and critical theme for Belarus.
Some Kind of Intimacy | Short | Toby Bull | UK 2021 | 5’ | Visions du Réel Nyon 2021
Khan's Flesh | Short | Krystsina Savutsina | BLR-DE 2021 | 57’ | Visions du Réel Nyon 2021
Dear Future Children
They want to change the course of History, but they probably should start changing the mind of their neighbour first. In a nutshell, this is the essence of my impression of Dear Future Children, and this is the reason why I would not like to be the future children of two of the three activists in focus here, because I will play with harder fascism their romantic game of playing the global hero, the anarchist, the victim, the rebel. I mean, playing the disastrous game of confronting police can be a necessity in countries where the opinion of the majority has no meaning anymore, but in weak democracies such as in Chile or Hong-Kong, one should use one’s own education to find more efficacious strategies, first of all addressing oneself directly to the conformist masses that, against their interests, tend to accept liberticide and authoritarian regimes.
The case of the Ugandan story is different, insofar as its young hero is more involved in campaigning than in violent struggles, and yet she also appears frustrated by her own speaking, asking for more action. Action however, dear activists, is a Sisyphus’ job when it is not coupled with strong collective consciousness and motivation, exactly as command or prohibition are. One should never cease to use words instead of stones. Therefore, the constructive example of the Ugandan girl is a moment of hope in a film that otherwise conveys a desperate message, for it constitutes the portrait of an educated and informed young generation that acts out of despair and neglects intelligence – no more David against Goliath, but little Goliaths against the Leviathan…
Dear Future Children tells the sad story of some well-intentioned but anachronistic beautiful souls, of a generation that is (already) as old-fashioned as Bakunin or the Che (and Böhm himself, his young age notwithstanding, actually uses the quite conservative filmic language of mass journalism and its cliched emotions). This is a sad reality that one would like to forget, hoping for a future where humanism and democracy will be a matter of intelligence. The film also tells the story of other young people around the world, that work to concretely defend the well-being of the planet: as the almost isolated Ugandan girl is the representative of another category of people that founds communities, creates parties, proposes solutions, speaks with the political rivals, connects with real people and gives the example. Through what I see as an essential distinction, the idea itself of “activism” should be sharply redefined, so as to avoid the catastrophic misunderstanding according to which changes should come from rioting in the streets.
Dear Future Children | Film | Franz Böhm | DE-UK-AT 2021 | 89’ | FIFDH Genève 2021
Sin señas particulares
Screenings in Swiss cinema theatres
ONLINE STREAMING (Switzerland) on Filmexplorer’s Choice by filmingo.ch
«World Cinema Dramatic» Audience Award and Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay at Sundance Festival 2020, then Golden Eye for the Best Film at the Zurich Film Festival 2020. Yes, Fernanda Valadez knows how to make a film – even if this is only her feature debut. Minimal and direct in the plot, Sin señas particulares speaks through wonderful photography and framing: a skilled balance of landscapes, short depth of focus close-ups, clever play between background and foreground motives. Through these formal elements, the young filmmaker manages to express the struggle of the individual within a constantly threatening environment, which is underlined by a monotonous and dramatic soundtrack. This is the struggle of a mother, Magdalena, in search of the truth concerning her missing child. More stubborn than heroic, she succeeds in breaking the “protective” and corrupt silence around missing people in Mexico, actually would-be or rejected migrants. Her road trip will lead us at the border with the States, a territory of anarchy and violence, which the film accurately depicts without giving us any clear geographical reference points. This land without landmarks painfully coalesces with the often ungrounded and brutal violence that lies at the centre of the film, like an inexplicable dark magnet.
Inexplicable or simply unexplained? Is violence in Mexico really a transcendent matter, powerful like a diabolic divinity (as it is presented in the film)? What is behind the horror of brutality? How can so many people go through such a dehumanization? Sin señas particulares aligns itself to a flourishing Mexican cinema that is devoted entirely to exploring the “phenomenon” of violence – certainly a perfect cinematic subject. The anecdotic description of violence and its tragic consequences is often the focus of cinematic attention, one that seems predominantly oriented to claiming or compassion. Elements of understanding the “habit” of violence like fatalism, romantism or heroism, and of course corruption and class division, surface less frequently. Is this a cinematic opportunism that ends up being an indirect celebration of violence? A difficult question. Fernanda Valadez’ disquieting end of the film, however, brings a relatively new contribution to this question in highlighting, not without a general documentary tonality, how evil can even affect the unsuspecting “normal” people…
Sin señas particulares | Film | Fernanda Valadez | MEX-ES 2020 | 95’ | Zurich Film Festival 2020
Golden Eye for the Best Film at the Zurich Film Festival 2020
Online streaming at the Solothurner Filmtage 2021
Vlady Oszkiel’s film is a convincing start for this new section of the Solothurner Filmtage, Opera prima. An old setting – the deconstruction of superficial friendship in the huis clos of a vacation villa – but with fresh ideas – the insertion of expressive scenes within a theatrical Kammerspiel – makes of Lieblingsmenschen an enjoyable diversion. A subtle analysis of relationships that plays with gender clichés, thanks to the fine performance of the young actors, Oszkiel obtains an intelligent balance between drama und irony.
Lieblingsmenschen | Film | Vlady Oszkiel | CH 2020 | 65’ | Solothurner Filmtage | Opera prima | World premiere
Le quattro volte
Online streaming at the Solothurner Filmtage 2021
Il carbone scalda l’uomo, che pascola le capre, che si riparano sotto gli alberi, che fanno il carbone. Il film è del 2010, ma allo stesso tempo è senza tempo, perché ci immerge nel ciclo della vita procurandoci un’esperienza ormai rara, ma pur sempre vera, almeno quanto lo è la nostra carne. Le quattro volte – in cui nascere e morire: umani, animali, vegetali, minerali – è anche uno studio etnografico su di un equilibrio arcano tra uomo e natura, come lo si può ancora (per quanto?) scoprire in un paesino calabrese nel massiccio del Pollino. Ma al tenore chiaramente documentario si sovrappone un discorso tutto cinematografico, che esalta la telecamera, il racconto visivo, fino a farci riscoprire i suoni del paesaggio – con un attento lavoro di sound design. Nella lentezza ipnotica dei cicli naturali pure si sviluppano delle linee drammaturgiche. Per quattro volte, appunto: gli ultimi giorni di un anziano pastore, i primi giorni di un capretto bianco, gli ultimi giorni di un pino maestoso, i primi giorni del carbone appena creato. Quattro storie individuali intervallate da momenti corali, ovvero cerimonie religiose e pagane: il tutto come fosse completamente astratto dai nostri tempi. Per questo si potrebbe criticare il film di ricercare anacronisticamente la poesia di un tempo inesistente. No, ai miei occhi è solo lo sforzo rigoroso di avvicinarsi all’essenza naturale dell’uomo, al tempo della natura stessa. In questo il film di Michelangelo Frammartino è pienamente riuscito: un’esperienza unica che solo il grande schermo può rendere così efficace.
Le quattro volte | Film | Michelangelo Frammartino | IT 2010 | 88’ | Cinémathèque suisse Lausanne, Solothurner Filmtage 2021
Screenings in August 2021 at the Festival Cinémas d'Afrique Lausanne 2021
Côte d’Ivoire, Libye, Turin, Paris. Voilà les étapes de la migration de Inza Junior, surnommé « Bourgeois ». Mais dans les récits et dans l’expression des visages à l’écran il y a aussi le désert, la Méditerranée, les Alpes. Traverser ne puise pas dans les avantages narratifs du road movie, car il photographie plutôt une situation, celle des migrants, dont la réalité quotidienne peu racontée au cinéma est faite (aussi) d’attente, de rétention — au sens littéral et figuré —, d’inertie, de patience. L’espoir et l’endurance, ici, l’emportent sur l’aventure et la découverte, la violence étant une menace constante, qui peut s’imposer de l’extérieur comme surgir de l’intérieur, à travers les innombrables occasions de déviance auxquelles les jeunes migrants sont naturellement exposés.
Après Vivre riche (2017) et sa photographie d’une jeunesse ivoirienne souvent bien scolarisée mais à la recherche désespérée d’une fortune instantanée, dépourvue de futur ou de plans de vie, avec Traverser Joël Akafou nous restitue la photographie d’une jeunesse à la recherche d’un plan de vie, bien informée sur la migration, sans illusions naïves, mais décidée à réagir aux injustices sociales de son pays d’origine. Dans la suspension forcée et indéterminée de la bureaucratie italienne, la caméra d’Akafou suit toujours de près son protagoniste absolu. Celui-ci, indépendamment de sa « performance » bien consciente devant la caméra, représente efficacement toute une partie de migrants qui quittent non pas la violence de la guerre, mais la violence de la corruption et de l’autoritarisme — l’autre et le plus universel visage du colonialisme globalisé. En cela Traverser sait dépasser la spécificité africaine, car Bourgeois — et le surnom ici est très parlant — devient également le porte-parole indirect aussi d’une bonne partie des migrants internes en Europe, provenant souvent du Sud ou de l’Est. Et notamment du sud de l’Italie, celui que peuvent exprimer les appartements tristounets de la périphérie de Turin.
Il n’y a pas de choix cinématographiques particulièrement intéressants dans Traverser — il faut le dire. Son style reportage, par contre, rend bien, surtout à Turin, la désolation des longues périodes de limbes qui constituent le pain quotidien du voyage des migrants. Et — ici il y a un autre élément d’originalité du film — nous découvrons comment dans l’indifférence et l’hostilité ambiantes, il est possible de rester debout dans ces limbes non seulement par les fragiles initiatives des volontaires, mais surtout par la solide endurance des femmes, qu’elles soient dans le pays d’origine, dans le pays de premier accueil ou dans le pays de destination. Leur travail silencieux et l’énorme quantité d’argent qu’elles sont capables de mobiliser non seulement rendent ces traversées encore plus absurdes, mais révèlent aussi une plus grande illusion par rapport à celle de l’Eldorado européen : l’illusion produite par l’image de supériorité et de salut projetée sur leurs hommes. Comme le disait Chris Marker en filmant le visage d’une femme en Guinée-Bissau : « Toutes les femmes détiennent une petite racine d’indestructibilité. Et le travail des hommes a été toujours de faire en sorte qu’elles en s’aperçoivent le plus tard possible ».
Traverser | Film | Joël Richmond Mathieu Akafou | FR-BFA-BE 2020 | 77’ | Visions du Réel 2020, Black Movie Genève 2021, Festival Cinémas d'Afrique Lausanne 2021