SIFF 2014: Week Three Wrap-Up

Sunday, June 1

Me, Myself, and Mum (Guillaume Gallienne, 95 mins, Belgium/France/Spain 2013)

(Photo courtesy of SIFF)

Guillaume Gallienne as his mother and as himself, at the dinner table with his father (Photo courtesy of SIFF)

Guillaume Gallienne plays both himself and his mother in this film about his upbringing…as a girl.  When he finds out he has to be gay to like boys, he sets out to discover whether he is gay or straight.  The film switches between a one-man show he’s doing and the film.  While very funny, the movie is a little too light and fluffy, and doesn’t have a big emotional payoff.  SIFF wanted to bring Gallienne to the festival, but his star is rapidly rising.  Currently, he’s in the play Lucrèce Borgia….playing Lucrèce Borgia.

The Little House (Yoji Yamada, 136 mins, Japan 2014)

(Photo courtesy of SIFF)

Takeshi and his great-aunt, Taki (Photo courtesy of SIFF)

In Yoji Yamada’s long career as a director, this is his first romantic drama.  The movie starts with the death of Taki Nunomiya (Chieko Baisho).  Through flashbacks, we see her grand-nephew Takeshi (Satoshi Tsumabuki) encouraging her to write her autobiography, as well as the time she is writing about.

(Photo courtesy of SIFF)

Mrs. Hirai with Taki (Photo courtesy of SIFF)

In the 1930s, Taki (now played by Haru Kuroki) is sent from the countryside to Tokyo to work at a famous writer’s house.  Through him, she meets the Hirais, whom she ends up working for.  One day, a coworker of Mr. Hirai’s comes to their New Year’s Party.  He is Shoji Itakura (Hidetaka Yoshioka), and as war between China and Japan heats up, so does the relationship between Mrs. Hirai (Takako Matsu) and Itakura.

Shoji Itakura and Tokiko Hirai (Photo courtesy of SIFF)

Shoji Itakura and Tokiko Hirai (Photo courtesy of SIFF)

While the emotions are kept in check, this is a beautifully shot, well-acted, well-scripted movie. It doesn’t go for an overwhelming emotional payoff, but rather for quiet moments when decisions are made that have unforseen consequences.

Monday, June 2

Our Sunhi (Hong Sang-soo, 88 mins, South Korea 2013)

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Donghyun and Sunhi (Photo courtesy of SIFF)

I enjoyed this movie slightly less than Sang-soo’s last film, the inventive In Another World.  Our Sunhi is about three men who fall for Sunhi (Jung Yu-mi) on her quest to get a recommendation letter from her professor: her ex-boyfriend Munsu (Lee Sun-kyun), the director Jaehak (Jung Jae-young), and the professor himself, Choi Donghyun (Kim Sang-joong).  The dialog is circular, which means that certain things said by one character to another character will be repeated by the second character to a third character, until all of them are saying the same thing.  This is most evident in how the three men describe Sunhi: she has artistic sense, she is reserved, and she’s smart.  What’s funny is not just the repetition of the dialog, but the fact that each man says it as if it’s an original thought.  But it’s not just the dialog that repeats.  At some point, each of the characters ends up meeting another character at the same bar, where the same song plays, and the same chicken order is placed at the same great chicken restaurant.

**Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, and Thursday’s events were written about separately.**

Friday, June 6

Life Feels Good (Maciej Pieprzyca, 107 mins, Poland 2013)

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Mateusz (Dawid Ogrodnik) (Photo courtesy of SIFF)

While this film topped the FOOLs Ballot this year, I found it to be good, but not great. This based-on-a-true-story movie follows Mateusz (Dawid Ogrodnik, who is truly great in this role), a man born with cerebral palsy, who everyone believes is also mentally retarded, as he is unable to communicate with anyone (Kamil Tkacz is equally good as a young Mateusz).  The film is broken up into chapters (Proof, Wizard, Boyfriend, Everything’s Fine, Smile, Words, Human Being, and Life Feels Good) and is narrated in voiceover by Mateusz.  Predictability in the plot at the beginning and female characters who don’t stick around long enough for us to really know them gives way to two powerful scenes in this film: one in which Mateusz finally communicates with his mother (it will make you cry), the other in which he slams his fist on the table.  Even better, the end credits includes footage of Ogrodnik, who doesn’t have cerebral palsy, interacting with the real Mateusz.  If I hadn’t come into it with such high expectations, I may have liked it even more.

Saturday, June 7

**Dan Ireland’s “Hate from a Distance” and The Whole Wide World were written about separately.**

The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 94 mins, Australia 2014)

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Amelia (Essie Davis) reads Samuel (Noah Wiseman) a bedtime story.  (Photo courtesy of SIFF)

A mysterious book appears on Samuel’s bookshelf one day.  After his mother Amelia reads it to him, there’s no getting rid of the Babadook.  Creepy, psychological, and fairly gore-free, the real shock is that people still know how to make classic horror films in this day and age, and one with layers of meaning.

NOTE: I was originally going to see Calvary and Black Coal, Thin Ice on Saturday, but The Whole Wide World ended too late for me to see Calvary, and I was discouraged from seeing Black Coal, Thin Ice by passholders who had seen it during press screenings.  Instead, I ate dinner and watched The Babadook.  If I had seen Calvary and Black Coal, Thin Ice, however, I would’ve needed the press tickets I acquired, as both were on standby (Calvary in the big house!).  For Life Feels Good, my staff badge was sufficient.

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