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MWFF: Day 4

The depressing films galore continued at the MWFF with many new addition to the list. In The Dying Gaul, a studio executive points out to a inexperienced writer that people don’t want to see complex films or depressing films. They want to be entertained without having to ‘think’. When we look at the very large number of masterpieces released by Hollywood this summer (sarcasm is intended here), we clearly see he is right. Perhaps the catastrophic summer for Hollywood cinema, although it’s partly due by the screenwriters strike a few years ago (now we have to pay for it!!), will change the way studio executives think about commercial movies. I know it’s unlikely, but I like to be utopic …

Film festivals don’t fear complex and depressing movies however. The MWFF had its share of those films. Perhaps the most depressing is Self Medicated (pictured above). Unlike other films like The Dying Gaul or Unique Love, Self Medicated’s aesthetic has a certain rawness which the other films don’t have. The sad events portrayed on the screen aren’t mediated through a complex and beautiful aesthetic. Your mind can’t escape the intensity of the situation by looking at a beautiful landscape or a beautiful sunset on the horizon; you’re forced to look at the events themselves. This is why I liked the film so much; the simple (yet perfect) darkish aesthetic puts you right there in the action—exactly where you don’t want to be.

Having never come to terms with the death of his father, Andrew Eriksen lapses from honor roll student to party animal on the fast track to self-destruction. No longer able to handle the Las Vegas teenager’s violent outbursts and increasingly unpredictable behavior, Andrew’s mother takes drastic measures and has him snatched right out of his bed in the middle of the night by attendants from a lock-down treatment facility. But the questionable, if not downright abusive, reform tactics fail to have the desired effect on Andrew, who stages a bold escape from the de facto prison and, after a few false starts, finds his way on his own path to rehabilitation.

Its aesthetics work, the script is very intense and Monty Lapica’s performance as the young drug addict is outstanding. Adding to the drama, the film is based the director’s own experience following the death of his father and he chose to play the main role himself. Watching the film is like watching a fictionalized version of Tarnation. Definitely one of the must-sees of the festival.

The Dying Gaul is also centered on the loss of a close relative. Quite funnily, the character in the film decides to make a script out of it too! As he loses his boyfriend to AIDS, Jeffrey writes a script based on the life together and his boyfriend’s death. He sells it to a rich and greedy Hollywood executive who falls in love with him à la Far From Heaven. Unfortunately, the executive’s wife does too and the love triangle will take rather dramatic proportions has the wife learns the executive and his recruit had an affair. The woman will seek revenge and will play a game with the gay screenwriter, a game that will bring all the memories of his boyfriend’s death. Philadelphia Story meets Business of Stranger. The film isn’t flawless by any means, but it’s a nice adaptation of the eponymous play.

Unique Love, yet another depressing film, is about a unique love between a deaf and mute cook who falls in love with a blind woman. Put it shortly, they won’t have it easy! You thought Dancer in the Dark was overtly melodramatic; wait till you see this film. Everything bad that could happen to them, happens. The film is rather ambiguous—for a North American audience at least. For example, the first part of the film seems like a period drama set a few decades ago. Then we see a discotheque playing modern music and we see … a McDonald! The film isn’t bad but the script would need many improvements as events are repetitive and exaggerated but it’s an interesting watch, following the release of the excellent Oasis a few years ago.

The last film I’ll talk about isn’t a depressing film per se, but it’s a film with a rather antagonistic portrait of society. In A World Without Thieves, two clans of thieves are on a train and they encounter a naive young carpenter traveling home with his life savings. The storyline is that of an ordinary train suspense, however, a rather pessimistic message about society was included in the film and its set to constantly remind us of our crappy dystopian society. The young naive carpenter thinks everything around him is good but it clearly isn’t. The world without thieves only exists in his mind unfortunately. Don’t let the fact it’s a Chinese commercial film fool you; unlike many recent commercial films, A World Without Thieves has a lot of substance and successfully provokes thoughts on our modern society and lifestyle.

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