The trajectory of a film festival depends on the ideals portrayed within it but also what the movie going public adapts to. The great thing about SxSW Film in a continuing fashion is its ability to have a cross section of texture for all kinds of cinemagoers. While interviews for Fest Track consisted of different films like Villains and Tone Deaf, there was also elements of film going as well as a Quick Look segment to engage the possibilities. However for the 3 films viewed at the festival, genre reflected well.
Body At Brighton Rock With the advent of Captain Marvel, the engagement of female directed and acted films, particularly in American film, definitely was on display at this year’s festival. This entry written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin and starring Karina Fontes as Wendy tracks a girl who is a part of the forestry service who sets out to track and update trails but along the way gets lost and discovers a body. The progression is one of perception, both in Wendy’s own mind, the fears that she is facing but also a possible murderer in her mist. The narrative tries to engage the primal with the advent of emotion and logic although many times the diametric it tries to show doesn’t quite gel in the aspect of the structure. The interjection at the beginning of pop music gives the texture a slightly 80s feel while still feeling modern and using the landscape like “Deliverance” to its best possibility.
The Mountain Almost a Kubrick-esque psychological tone poem, this film floats between the essence of a black comedy and a dystopian vision of love lost through indentured psychic warfare. All the actors functioning in it are top rate yet weirdly off-kilter in the form of their required characters, most assuredly in the form of Denis Levant, who stole the show in “Holy Motors” some years ago. His father character breaking down into a sense of the primal and with similarly weird constructs usually in a static shot is bewildering and strangely fascinating to behold though it adds a schizophrenic texture to what the film is about. Tye Sheridan plays Andy, who is a savant of sorts who is basic in his interactions but seemingly wanting to explore more. It is a very different experiment from say “Ready Player One” which premiered at SxSW last year. Jeff Goldblum adds his undeniable charm but morally ambiguous twist to Dr. Fiennes who conducts lobotomies (it seems to be the 1950s) as a form of comfort that might be doing more harm than good. Hannah Gross is distinctive but disconcerting as the daughter of Levant’s character who seemingly is rebelling against her father but nonetheless takes the procedure without breaking form while building a sense of connection with Andy simply almost for spite. The didactic tone continues with an interesting arpeggio that simply breaks down the bounds of what being normal is.
7 Reasons To Run Away (From Society) This black comedy utilizing an anthology method ranging somewhere between Bunuel, Twilight Zone and parts of “Amazon Women On The Moon” definitely has its surrealist structure in true form without having to resort to obvious visual gags. The essence of a family member that must be purged to the selling of an apartment with an obvious dead body inside to the aspects of numbers that go no higher than 6 when there is a 7th floor on a building show the leaps in logic. But the style is beautiful without being indulgent, the acting just aware enough to be reflexive while still creating an essence of consistency throughout. The 7 reasons could have reflections in the 7 deadly sins but instead mirroring on society’s perception of who and what we should be and how we should act. The film distinctly does not place judgment on those portrayed…simply that they are.
By Tim Wassberg
Located two hours outside of Chicago right over the border in Wisconsin, Beloit is a small little town with a bustling and cool artisan scene with some local bars but also some great little eateries (Bushel & Pecks and their Bloody Marys deserve mention). In the latter half of February, just as a balance of snow and cold hits the town, the Beloit International Film Festival offers its wares in select venues across town. Other films such as Lake Michigan Monster, Olympia and Ape Girl were selected for interviews but here also is a selection of other films screened.
Eternal Winter Set against the work camps set up by the Soviets for the Germans during the latter half of World War II using men and women to mine for fuel as the war raged on, this film is both lush and harrowing at times. The lead character Iren, as played by Marina Gera, shows a dexterity of will, moral structure but also an essence of survival as her journey through the bleak winter gets more and more bleak. The icy surroundings as well as almost Siberian (if not actual) isolation moves the story as the idea of what is real and what is not plays on her mind. Like “Prayer Before Dawn” and “Papillon”, what might have seemed extraordinary turns normal. Iren’s one essence of redemption is Rajmund, played by Sandor Csanyi, who teaches her the rules of survival and cigarette making among other things. The eventual resolution is expected in certain ways but shows that all notions are fair in love and war.
Deany Bean Is Dead This blend of black and romantic comedy follows Deany Bean who is stuck in a dead end job with a vicious boss. This mild mannered woman takes her anger and rage out once she is fired and she sees that her fiancé returned from vacation with a new fiancée. While the slapstick works well especially with the brother of her former fiancé in a closed space, the comedy strains credibility because the dinner guests are too trusting to seem any more than plot points. Alison Marie Volk brings a likability and an earnestness to Deany but also a desperation of sorts that becomes almost unlikable and yet understandable at same time. The essence of therapy and new age resolution almost seems ironic if it wasn’t played so earnestly.
Family This undeniable story of both repression, revenge and almost at times nihilism is a stylish foray into family dysfunction although one told by a woman within Tel Aviv. That structure alone is unique but Veronica Kedar, who wrote, directed and stars in the film as Lily, brings a macabre spectacle reflected in an non linear structure that shows an unraveling of a mind but also the path that led her to this point. Kedar gives a matter-of-fact normality to Lily even as her tale (related afterwards at her therapist’s home to said doctor’s interested daughter) spins more out of control. Lily’s father is domineering but oblivious, her mother consumed by tradition, her sister by expectation and her brother by all kinds of other demons. It is the interaction with Avi as played by Ishai Golan that is the most unnerving and well played simply because of the odd dynamic that they bring to it. Like “The Killing Of The Sacred Deer” it uses a whirlpool of emotion and irony to spin the story further and further. Avi’s final resolution is both heartbreaking and reprehensible especially a scene where he sings a song on a piano surrounded by the nightmare that has been created.
By Tim Wassberg