There are always movies that you enjoy, that surprise and that move. Movies that manage to leave that feeling that it is a job well done and that exceed expectations. This year I thought I wouldn’t have the opportunity to watch movies like that, but as the festival progressed, I realized that there would be … in fact, I must say that almost all the last movies I saw are more than just good. But you have to know how to differentiate between the good ones and those that leave something else. These are the jewels that Sitges 2019 left us:
Dogs don’t wear Pants (J-P Valkeapää, 2019):
I’ve always had the feeling that Nordic movies tend to have a distant atmosphere, as if the cold crystallizes between the screen and the viewer. This Finnish film gives us sufficient reasons to think that his characters simply do not know how to face and release their emotions or, in other words (and under my South American gaze, full of references of almost exaggerated expressions of emotion) they do not know how to love; but, in turn, he gives us another vision of love and resilience full of contained and very moving emotion.
Dogs don’t wear pants tells the story of Juha, a man with a teenage daughter, who deals with his emotions as he can after a traumatic event, this until he crosses his path Mona, a dominatrix that will open a new universe and a new addiction to suffocation, which leads him through a delirious, wild and liberating spiral. With a great last scene, this is a drama dyed in a lot of black humor, which catches and entertains; It also shows us the world of BDSM in a very naturalized way, because it is simply not the main issue, but the excuse to tell us that there is no infallible recipe for overcoming trauma and finding peace of mind, and that, finally, there are so many different paths as people on this planet to find happiness.
Suicide Tourist (Jonas Alexander Arnby, 2019):
This is another Nordic movie, which comes from Denmark. The sensation of cold penetrates the screen again and gives us a love story that unfolds in a scene as majestic as impenetrable. Max is an insurance salesman who deals with a deadly tumor and the need to face certain death. In an investigation of his work, he discovers the Hotel Aurora, a place that specializes in fulfilling his guests’ last wish: to die. Between the bewilderment, to assume his next death and the almost impulsive decision to take away what is left of his life so as not to be a burden for his beloved wife; Our protagonist decides to be a guest in this hotel, where we are seeing throughout the film how his emotions, fears, desires and memories happen in his last hours of life.
A confusing ending, perhaps open to personal interpretations, makes the film stay in the retina beyond its final credits. A good interpretation of Nicolaj Coster-Wandau helps to empathize with the character and feel with him the despair when he sees the inevitable. Perhaps there is a point of thriller that fades a bit, but I think it helps to involve the viewer in the sensation of danger that is in the air, as well as the inevitable survival instinct.
The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019):
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about this film is that it is a wonderful aesthetic exercise, as well as being a kind of excuse to enjoy the acting ability of its two protagonists. This is the story of the almost hopeless routine of a lighthouse keeper and his assistant who have to endure each other on a remote island in England at the end of the 19th century, in a 4-week shift of unstoppable, almost hypnotic, routine that turns into a nightmare when something causes everything to get out of order.
The black and white image is powerful, presented in a format that helps the sensation of claustrophobia and which, together with the development of the characters, makes it a film that is appreciated, but hardly want to see again.
Lux Aeterna (Gaspar Noé, 2019):
Gaspar Noé films or you like them or you hate them. It’s that easy. And this medium length film, to my point of view, is a fantastic questioning exercise about what the film production process is and how ruthless it can be when the ego, the contempt for your peer and the objectification of the subject, leads you to Transform a play into hell. When Gaspar Noé presents this movie (in a speech as crazy and scattered as he can only do) he tells us: cinema is hell, work with friends, like a family, because it can be torture.
At the end of the credits worthy of an epileptic attack, some were able to talk with the director, who was sitting watching his own movie; and others left the room happy, because yes, we like to see this madness reflected on the big screen since we know perfectly well what Gaspar Noé tells us in his film may be true.
Nimic (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2019):
It’s amazing what Yorgos Lanthimos can do in 12 minutes. A precise short film, aesthetically very well achieved and with fantastic performances. Very in the tone of his feature films, we return to the sense of strangeness he gave us with The Killing of the Sacred Deer y The Lobster.
Words are not necessary and the game of mime is as perverse as it is beautiful. A critique of mass and impersonal life disguised as conceptual terror. When you know how to tell an idea, it is not necessary to extend the point. Too bad there is no room for short films in movie theaters. This is a work that deserves to be seen.
Swallow (Carlo Mirabella-Davis, 2019):
Swallow is one of those films that attract your attention, because it seems to have an aesthetic that looks for something more than a good look. I arrived basically because of the photo in the catalog, but I was impressed, because it is a story that is well told and is developing its protagonist in a very accurate way. She is what we can call an “ideal woman”: beautiful, docile, worried about her partner, her future son and her new house, a girl who does not speak beyond what is necessary, who is apparently always happy and, of course, is always looking to please … With a million-dollar political family, an father-in-law who manages absolutely everything (including the life of his son), Hunter has everything solved, except a small problem: her uncontrollable need to swallow diverse objects. First a glass ball, then a screw, a needle and so, a kind of collectibles, increasingly bizarre.
This kind of hobby becomes the trigger for an evolution of the character that is very well achieved both at the level of acting by Halley Benett, as well as the script, direction and art direction. It is a relatively simple plot, but a very complex character is presented, full of small subtle nuances. The director in his presentation has dedicated the film to his grandmother, who has been his inspiration. Finally, we can say that it is a tribute in modern key and “fancy” to female empowerment.
Le daim (Quentin Dupieux, 2019):
Quentin Dupieux has a history in Sitges, and every time he presents something here it is a full room, because we already know his style and we know that we will find something strange, fun and that it will be a safe bet. Last year he showed us “au poste”, a black comedy, absurd, hilarious and disconcerting, that plays even with the genre itself.
This year he brought us this feature film, where he tells us the adventure of a guy who, after separating, goes to Canada to buy a reindeer jacket that will become his obsession, which will lead him to leave everything and start a crusade of violence with only one purpose: to make a film. Thus, he makes the best (and only) film of his life, with the help of his editor and a jacket as the protagonist. A very black comedy, on the verge of madness, very well written and super entertaining. It is very refreshing to find stories told from a novel point of view, which makes time fly and leave the room with a big smile on the face.
Adoration (Fabrice du Welz, 2020):
This is a French movie (yes, another one) with the same idyllic tone that we can find in its impressionists painting the countryside. The theme? The story of a teenage boy, son of a woman who works in a psychiatric clinic lost in the woods. He lives with the nature that surrounds him, going almost unnoticed, until a girl who needs to escape appears in his space, convinced that she has been admitted to the asylum more for hate and money than for a real mental illness… He, sweet and with the beauty of his great naivety, gives his heart and his life without even realizing it: it helps him escape.
From here, the scape becomes a trip to the most brutal that a human being can live: the cruelty of mental illness, violence and dependence. Because first love, when is sick, can be a beautiful nightmare that you don’t want to wake up from.
Photography and breathtaking scenery, Paul (Thomas Gioria) holds the film with a contained and very credible interpretation. Gloria (Fantine Harduin) grazes the exaggeration in moments, but it works.
I think it is no coincidence that there are so many French films that show an adolescent point of view. In a world like this right now, it is not rare that people look the moment in life when our conscious self-interpretation and our relationship with our environment begins, without any intermediaries in between.
Les Particules (Blaise Harrison, 2019):
Of all the movies I saw in this version of Sitges, this I think has been the one that touched me the most. In one of these row conversations, previous to enter a function, I heard from a group of people (with my astonishment hidden) that this had been the worst movie they had seen; in fact, a girl who was next to me said convinced and loudly: “Somebody explain it to me, please” followed by “Who could have liked this crap”, to which I replied -basically because I did not endure my surprise for the almost offense I had just heard- “Oh, I loved it”, receiving back a few astonished glances and a sepulchral silence. “Of course,” I told them, “there are movies here for all tastes”, in order to close a discussion I didn’t want to have with strangers, being me the outsider who had enjoyed something they had detested …
And there is not much more to say: this “Let someone explain it to me” reflects the basis of the difference in tastes, and it is not that I am a film intellectual and that I find meaning in everything I see; but it is that this film does not have a clear purpose or a dramatic development that can be read simply as the beginning of the problem, development, and outcome. This film is a question that develops with a subtlety and beauty that gives all the value it has. The question is: What can happen in a place as small as this one, where the most complex and dangerous experiment in the world is being carried out miles towards the bottom of the earth: particle acceleration? Attempts to answer the question not truths, but with possibilities, as tiny as particles which are accelerated; In addition to being told from the point of view of a group of teenagers who feel oblivious to their surroundings (like every teenager) and who, again like these particles, are in friction with each other and are transformed into something else.
Shot on the Franco-Swiss border, this is definitely an author’s film that uses the resource of the fantastic as a tool to tell something else. Perhaps that is why it did not enter the head of people who are specifically looking for a world that does not exist in reality and that escapes absolutely from everyday life. But these types of movies that move in that fine line between credibility and fantasy, are precisely the ones that steal my head and enthusiasm. If you are like me, it is more than recommended.
The jewels are those that you know they will give what to talk about and that move you. My favorites of this version.
There is something there
Come on, it can’t be all gems, but these are worth it, and very much:
They are those movies in which when you finish them, you think: what did I just see?