Day #8 had me seeing 4 more films.
ROMA, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, was my first film of the day. “Alfonso Cuarón’s cogent and nuanced semi-autobiographical feature chronicles one year in the life of a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City.” This black-and-white feature film is simply sublime. With themes of class and position in society as well as government/societal upheaval, this film is full of visual metaphors and is incredibly sophisticated. One might think “not much happens in this film”…but ultimately – EVERYTHING happens. This film should 100% be viewed on a big screen. Though Netflix has it set to premiere on their channel, this film deserves a theatrical release. In a word, it’s Incredible!
HIGH LIFE, directed by Claire Denis, was up next. “Master French filmmaker Claire Denis’s long-anticipated English-language debut and provocative sci-fi drama stars Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, and André Benjamin as a group of criminals sent into deep space.” This is perhaps one of Denis’ most accessible films (as far as “I’m following what’s happening”) – but it’s also still quite avant garde…and I can imagine customers saying “what the hell?” for most of the film. The mini description fails to explain that the spaceship (which looks somewhat like a floating hard drive) is essentially being used as a laboratory in which Binoche’s character does sexual experiments on its “recycled scum” inhabitants. Complete with rape scenes and other bloody violence, this film is a challenging film that will likely have many searching for its rosetta stone.
I attended the next film based on its description. I had no idea that it was a big studio picture. THE HATE U GIVE, directed by George Tillman, Jr, simply sounded like an important film that I wanted to support. “A timely commentary in the Black Lives Matter era, George Tillman, Jr.’s adaptation of the novel by Angie Thomas follows Starr, a promising student and cherished daughter whose life is upended, then galvanized, when a friend is senselessly shot dead by police.” This film is targeted at a young adult audience, and it’s so refreshing that it’s not about vampires or a fish-out-of-water comedy. This is an urgent tale about a young black student who consciously alters her persona between her school self (which is in a private school full of affluent white kids) and her at home self. I hope this film finds a wide, diverse audience – but I’m afraid it might only end up preaching to the choir. The plot takes some unexpected turns and covers a lot of bases, but it’s ultimately a strong film that needs to be seen by a lot of people.
RED JOAN, directed by Trevor Nunn, was my last film before an incredible dinner of Japanese tapas (but that’s a different story). “Academy Award winner Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson take on the complex persona and legacy of Joan Stanley, the seemingly demure physicist who was also a long-serving British spy for the KGB.” This film is based on a novel…that is very loosely based on a real woman named Melita Norwood. The film uses the framing device of Dench’s character being arrested and interrogated while flashing back to WWII era material where she may have been conspiring with the Russians. Handsomely shot with strong performances, this film will certainly go over well at THE NEON if it finds a US distributor. It contains both great dramatic moments and sequences with wonderful, thrilling tension. The fact that “nuclear bombs and who has them” continues to be a fear in today’s climate shows how little things have changed.
Things are winding down here at the festival. Many big players have gone home, and the lines for movies are easier to navigate. I have one more full day of films and then one Saturday morning screening before flying home.
Thanks for checking in.