By Roger Costa
In its 17th year the Film Comment Selects festival held at Film Society of Lincoln Center February, 17-23 will showcase Premieres and sneak-peeks of some of the most anticipated films of the year, films from emerging new talents from around the world, bold and authentic cinematic visions, and unpredictable discoveries. Here are some highlights:
Bogdan Mirica’s directorial debut is a sharp dark comedy with the influences of the Romanian New Wave, demonstrating incredible control of the material, a brilliantly crafted and detailed narrative, insightful analysis of characters, unexpected twists, the blend of naturalism and absurdism, as well as coherent measures of sarcasm, horror and political references. Mirica reaches positive results with this small masterpiece, putting him on the list of promising directors, following the trend of fantastic storytellers coming from Romania. The film follows Roman, a handsome young man who arrives at a small rural community to claim the lands he inherited from his grandfather. There he learns the villagers aren’t quite agreeable to his decision of selling the enormous property, and he will have to deal with a series of mysterious obstacles and distractions. The tumultuous incidents are pre-announced by Police, the property’s dog, constantly barking. They are apparently a quiet, humble community, with intense value for their land, and unified connections. But they are gradually leaving evidences of aggravation by Roman’s presence. When a chopped foot is found by the pound, a crime investigation is developed, and it may surface hidden secrets, revealing a darken side of some villagers. Gorgeously shot and structured with intensity, Mirica scores with his sophisticated filmmaking style, a highly intelligent example of mastery in creating intriguing suspense, building up tensions before each revealing fact: the detective’s examination of the foot, the long close-ups of Roman’s uneasiness, the comprehensive conversations among the men, the peaceful, contemplative landscape in contrast with the mysterious late night hunts and the disappearance of a local. There are also some philosophical advice provided by the wise dialogues of the land’s keeper who assists Roman, such as ‘humans bite, let alone dogs’ when Roman is confronted by Police’s angry manners, and later as he compares the disorderly conducts around to ‘the small ones must deal with the big one’s demands in order not to get smashed’. Dragos Bucur, the star of “Police, Adjective”, gives a fascinating performance, convincingly naive and honest as Roman, a man disturbed by the calmly atmosphere of the countryside and the net of corruption and madness he finds on the edge of his fences. DOGS is a revealing directorial breakthrough.
With his latest flick, HARMONIUM, a profound study on a family crisis, Japanese director Kôji Fukada continues to build a solid and authentic career, previously seen in the smart gems “Hospitalite” and “Sayonara”. Fukada creates an impressive and intense drama as he depicts the consequences a man and his family will have to face, as he shelters an old friend, recently released from prison, carrying with him dark secrets and mixed feelings. The stranger becomes useful, working for the family at their small factory, developing an influence over the protestant wife, and a tender connection to the little daughter, a student preparing a piano concert for a special celebration. As conflicts surge and their relations intensify, an unpredictable incident turns their lives upside down, and the film moves forward a few years ahead where the family is struggling to maintain themselves together. It’s a delicate, moving and superbly performed piece of art that easily puts it on the list of the most notorious films of the year.
A striking and devastating documentary that traces the lives of struggling laborers in over-populated China. Director Wang Bing follows two sisters as they travel a journey of long days until they reach the destination where they found work, living under restricted, precarious conditions, and flirting with corruption. Bing captures painfully disturbing real situations, beatings, arguments, longings, and humiliations, exposing a truthful account on social and laborer exploration of the underprivileged.
A suspenseful, complex and violent western set in Colombia, Iván D. Gaona’s stylish film narrates the rivalry between two men with sophistication and naturalism. The men are disputing the love of Mariana, at the same time they and some of the men in the rural community, are involved in a crime where a bag full of money remains unclaimed. Dark and sinister, the director develops a creative aesthetic using silent sequences of hunting, driving and vulnerable observations with the influences of Sergio Leone and Tarantino.
(All films will screen at Film Comment Selects. For schedule and tickets go to: http://www.filmlinc.org/festivals/film-comment-selects/ )