By Roger Costa
Every year the writing team at Film Comment Magazine picks a few undiscovered gems and screen them during the Film Comment Selects Festival held at Film Society of Lincoln Center, kicking off 2018’s first season of highly-praised new films. In its 18th edition, the festival runs February 23-27 with a phenomenal line-up, which in some cases, depict human struggles for basic needs and natural desires in the era of persistent economical crisis. Here are the highlights.
Intimate and utterly spontaneous, Rok Biček’s docu-drama, exposes a Slovenian family’s personal dysfunctions with truthful originality, tracking its subjects as they battle their own special-needs dilemmas in search of settlement. Through revelatory and inclusive testimonies, the film unmercifully scoops out a decade in their lives: the oldest son and his troubled wife (we watch her giving birth to their baby), later the uncertainty with their respective current partners, the miscommunication between young son and father, focusing on the clash of generations, how lonely the young seems to be, and how unresponsive the old gets, and the endurance of the mother who consents to everything. Brilliantly raw and captivating, Biček gives personal shapes to Neo-realism unveiling aspects of the human condition with gut-wrenching results.
LIFE AND NOTHING MORE
After the beautiful Aquí y Allá: Here and There, award-winning director Antonio Méndez Esparza returns with a poignant, honest portrait of a poor African-American family struggling to survive prejudice, financial and emotional despair, and the temptation of crime. Winner of the AFI Fest’s Audience Award, it tells the story of a single mother trying hard to make a living and keep her children out of trouble, but her teen one is constantly flirting with the risks. Through a very sensitive, intimate and realistic insight of their bond and expectations, and capturing the convincingly humane reactions of people around them, the film paints a strong mosaic about the power of love, forgiveness and the attempts to make it right, pointing to topics of social issues with accuracy and no boundaries.
Writer-director Govinda Van Maele’s first feature is an absorbing erotic thriller, where a mysterious foreigner arrives at a remote farmer community affecting the lives of everyone, especially the women. One of them is the waitress portrayed by Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps, with whom he develops an intense, complex and sexually-charged relationship. Structured as a neo-noir, the director demonstrates total control of the material, proving he’s one to watch: the cast coordination, the suffocating suspense carrying along what’s been haunting the protagonist and why he is hiding there, the delicate and hot sexual content, and the craft of contemplative images over the landscape and on puzzled facial expressions. An enigmatic labyrinth of seduction, blending crime investigation, identity drama and elements of horror, Van Maele scored a promising directorial debut.
In a surreal, comically bizarre atmosphere, a boy-almost-girl is sexually attacked by a gang of rebellious youngsters, taking advantage of their capital status. Caught by a captain, they travel the oceans in order to respond for their brutal crime. In a hilarious twist, all these kids are played by female actors. First time director Bertrand Mandico’s inventive, absurdist Gothic comedy depicts violence, adolescence and uncontrollable desires with transcendental effects: its use of B&W and saturated colors, creates an amazingly terrifying sense of morbid, and the blend of kitsch adventure and feminism results in a lust, visually enhanced, magical cinematic experience.