Locarno 74

Quest‘anno vi scrivo in italiano… ma no!

As Locarno is a film festival of European importance I will write this in English.

I arrived yesterday (Friday 6th of August) and started with some short films from Southeast Asia. The first one, a Vietnamese production, I had seen at the Venice Film Festival last year. It’s called May nhung khong mua and is a very metaphorical piece on today’s Hanoï with a young protagonist struggling to make a living until he transforms himself in a horse. The best short in the block for me was from the Philippines: Excuse Me, Miss, Miss. It tells the story of a simple clothing store employee who yawns and eats during her shift and gets fired by her terrible boss. The film is full of strange moments and imagination with musical elements in several scenes.

Then, I won’t recommend Friday’s Piazza Grande film called Hinterland, an Austrian thriller set in between WWI and WWII in Vienna with the star of Babylon Berlin: Liv Lisa Fries. Instead I will recommend Soul of a Beast by Swiss filmmaker Lorenz Merz starring the very beautiful Ella Rumpf. The story is set in a dystopian Zürich where police controls the curfew times and violent street demonstrations take place. Gabriel, a young father and his son Jamie live in a messy apartment. Jamie’s mom is a rich kid from the Gold Coast of Lake Zürich played by European Shooting Star Luna Wedler – the title is given to upcoming young actors/actresses at the Berlinale.

As she can’t handle her son, Jamie lives with his dad, who is a passionate skater. Whilst hanging out with his buddy Joël and his girlfriend Corey (Ella Rumpf) Gabriel falls for her. Corey is about to leave for a year in Guatemala and offers Gabriel to come with her. Of course the boys get into a fight and the end is tragic. Merz has made an incredibly aesthetic film in a square format and full of shots that make you shiver.

After a disappointing short film block – I fell asleep and left the theatre, I was ready for an interesting and most entertaining Saturday evening in Locarno. And let’s say, I wasn’t disappointed!

After Blue by Betrand Mandico, french enfant terrible from Tolouse was absolute post-apocalyptical Kitsch. The film is set on a planet called “After Blue”, as the humans, more specifically the women have left the blue planet Earth for ecological reasons and now they procreate with insemination of “good sperm from Earth”. Roxy, a blond girl with FuKuHiLa hair from the 80ies is called Toxic by her peers in the village. Whilst she spends some fun times at the undulated Coast she discovers the head of a girl who’s body is buried in the beach. The girl tells her she will realize her three biggest wishes and Roxy, not listening to her disapproving friends, unburies the girl, who is none less than the dangerous and looked for extra-terrestrial Outlaw Katinshka Bushovski aka KATE BUSH. This scene sets the start of a two hour chase after Kate Bush, who after her release by Roxy, immediately shoots her three friends.

If the film is admittedly too long, it is full of incredibly absurd scenes and sets. The women of After Blue have hair growing on their necks and as Roxy’s mother is hair dresser and make up Artist we assist to several laser shavings of women’s neck hair. Roxy’s mother is a crucial character as she will become burdened with the task of killing Kate Bush by her community, who seeks revenge for the killed girls. On their way Roxy and her mother encounter Sternberg, a rich artist who lives with an Android man resembling a Lord of the Rings elf. Roxy has weird sex with this male who’s sex has the shape of tentacles. Meanwhile her mother spends some sexy time with Sternberg in a hot tub in the woods. I have told you most of the story but not enough about the special effects. The women all carry weapons with fancy labels like Gucci or Chanel. They ride horses with illuminated harnesses and have themselves luminescent make up on. This fantasy world reveals to be a bit too much with time but the soundtrack kept me from falling asleep or worse quitting the movie theatre. In retrospect, this Dark Crystal infatuated Science-Fiction is somehow a lesbian/feminist/male-made fantasy that is worth being seen as it is as repulsing as intriguing.

To end this little Locarno weekend nothing better than Monte Verità on the Piazza Grande. This period piece on the residents of the Ticino located Monte Verità during the first half of the 20th Century is a bit cheesy but nevertheless full of touching characters starting with the protagonist, who flees Vienna and the corseted society of her rich husband for a therapy at Dr. Gross’s institution on the said mountain top. There she befriends Lotte (Hanna Herzsprung), a Berlin mayor’s daughter who suffers from severe depression. She starts making photographs of the residents and their revolutionary wood fire dances, naked gardening and last but not least pioneer vegetarianism. The star of this film the new-comer Maresi Riegner – the viennese photographer – who is assisted by the Swiss top shot actors Max Hubacher – as Dr. Gross – and Joel Bassman in the role of famous german writer Hermann Hesse. The film was co-financed by a famous Zurich based vegetarian restaurant and is inherently tied to the region of Locarno and thus its 74 year old Film Festival.

Awards

The Pardo d’Oro, highest price of the Locarno festival, went to Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash by Edwin, see the full list of awarded films and filmmakers here.

Two of the above discussed films were awarded: Of course it had to be the one I didn’t recommend namely Hinterland awarded with the Prix du Public and Soul of a Beast got a special mention by the Jury.

In the meantime I had time to watch a film by Michael Mann in the renovated GranRex. The film was called Insider (US 1999) and tells the story of Jeffrey Wigand (Russel Crowe), a former Tobacco Industry chemist “who knew too much”. He comes under personal and professional attack when he decides to appear in a 60 Minutes exposé on Big Tobacco made by CBS producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino). The film is full of suspense and the two male protagonists make an interesting duo. On one side the choleric and driven Bergman and on the other side the tormented family father and whistleblower Wigand played by Russel Crowe who seems to have developed some elements of the scientist he will later play in “A beautiful mind”. The film was screened as part of Locarno’s “Histoire(s) du cinéma” section.

Thanks for reading and come back for some cinema and festival news!

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