Film Days like the ones in Solothurn are a valuable experience these days. After the pandemic, we realize how much these occasions of coming together and watching a film collectively are worth. With the new director of this Swiss Showcase of the audiovisual production, Niccolò Castelli, a fresh wind from Ticino has reached the shores of the Aare.
DAY 1, 19th of January 2023
I started my festival with a reception of the Locarno Film Festival and the announcement of this year’s retrospective on Mexican Film. After that I got my “delayed accreditation” for the blog you are currently reading and went to watch the Swiss-Italian co-production «Papaya 69». The Palace cinema was almost sold out and most of the film crew and cast was present. The filmmakers duo Francesca Reverdito and Riccardo Bernasconi said a couple of things before the film with their main actress and participated in a Q&A after the screening.
The film is set somewhere in North Italy and tells the story of Eva, former prostitute who is running away from a man. By sheer coincidence she lands in the car of children star Papaya alias “Rainbow”, who now works as “cam girl”, meaning she makes money by twerking and turning on men in video-chats. When she finds Eva in the back of her car she yells and is first frightened before she welcomes her in her apartment with her five dogs, first assuming Eva to be an African refugee.
To be honest, the film was very cheesy and more a feel-good-movie. Which is fine every now and then. Not comparable with «La Ligne» by Ursula Meier with its psychological and physical violence. Nevertheless, I felt like people around me appreciated the film and the questions asked by the audience were quite positive.
I made it in the sold out «99 Moons» by Jan Gassmann, a film about a toxic relationship between nerdy catastrophe-animal-warning researcher Bigna and the slightly older partygoer-hedonist Frank. Love, sex and relationsships are a recurring topic in Gassmann’s film, we recall his documentary «Europe, She Loves» about the diversity of human relationships and ways of being in love on the European periphery (Greece, Romania I think and other countries). This time the feature film set in Zurich smells of sterile and cold ETH-labs and dried-out-beer and sweat from heavy partying in some underground party location entered through the fridge of a Thai restaurant.
«99 moons» is the title of the film and marks the duration of the attraction between Bigna and Frank, who live different cycles, starting with staged rape-setting during which she is assaulted by a masked guy. From this kink they move on to a somewhat “normal” relationship-approach, which circles more around sex though. The film is cold as f*ck, cold as Zurich or “Zureich” as the sticker in Frank’s kitchen says (those who lived there will remember). Even in the little bubble Frank has built for himself and his partying friends, the financial pressure can be felt. So it happens that Frank is in waiter-outfit when the second cycle of Bigna and Frank starts. She’s attending a wedding with her research professor and now husband when she bumps into Frank, who is serving wine etc. to the guests.
A kind of real rape later we find the couple in a remote forest hut, where they waiter tables and live secluded from society until Bigna finds out she’s pregnant. Without wanting to reveal all the plot twists and wether there is a happy end I have to say that the film reminds me of “Soul of a Beast” by Lorenz Merz. Zurich seems to have a thriving underground culture I personally never saw in real life. Because of this resistance against an all too clean and “too rich” Swiss economical capital, I recommend you watch the film, less for its main approach on Love/Sex, or the distinction between “amour physique” and relationship, as the very eloquent and perfectly francophone director said himself during the ensuing Q&A,
DAY 2, 20th of January 2023
For starters I visited the very stylish Café Soleure and saw that there was a panel by “Migros Kulturprozent” at 11 am in the Cinema im Uferbau, next door. So I went in and coincidentally sat down next to a fellow fimmaker I’ve been following and writing to over Instagram: Marin Raguz. After ther first 15 min of the Migros panel we went out and started chatting about our latest film projects and see if we can help each other out. We attended the “brunch mimosa” held by Visions du Réel from Nyon VD, the main documentary film festival in Switzerland. For me it was interesting to see how popular this festival seems to be (judging by the number of people present at the brunch!) and I admit: I’ve never been there but will try to go next April.
As documentary film is still one of the “genres” Swiss filmmakers excel in, we attended a screening of «Douglas Sirk – Hope as in Despair». The film was made by German filmmaker Roman Hüben (1990) and is very well done with interviews of Todd Haynes («Carol», «Dark Waters» etc.), British historian Jon Halliday, Hanna Schygulla and other expert of Douglas Sirk, born Detflef Sierk. Locarno’s 2022 retrospective was dedicated to him and I wrote about two films I had the chance to see last summer: «Shockproof» and «Zu neuen Ufern».
Hüben’s film lives of the precious documents he found in archives – a lot was in the Cinémathèque Suisse in Penthaz VD, as Sirk lived the last years of his life in Lugano, Switzerland. Especially diaries by Sirk’s wife Hildegard give us intimate insights into the daily life of a creative mind and the struggles he had after he was forced to leave his son Klaus behind in Germany, who then died as a soldier on the Russian front. As explained in the documentary «A Time to Love and a Time to Die» (1958) by Sirk is inspired by the life and death of his own son.
And that’s how I ended my visit of this year’s Solothurner Filmtage. Before leaving I went to a cute toy store and bought my son a little game Marin recommended to me. Thanks for that! 🙂