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MWFF: Day 8

The Day That Shook the (Montreal) World (Film Festival)

When I posted my previous capsule reviews, I grouped some of them in thematic groups (depressing movies, problems of the youth, death). These groupings weren’t planned per se – it just happened that the 3-4 films I saw on a given day had strong thematic links. Today it was running—or cycling in the case of the first film. Satoru Fourteen (a.k.a. Shonen to Hoshi to Jitensha), Marathon (obviously!!) and Hawaii, Oslo are all films related to the physical act of bodies in motion. Running as a personal goal, running away from reality or running away from their pasts or troubling events, each of the characters in the films have different reason to run.

The first film Satoru Fourteen is about a young boy who loses his brother in a car accident. His heart is literally broken when his brother dies and he has troubles to recover from the death, especially since he thinks that his parents would rather have lost him than his perfect brother. His brother was good at everything and he was training for the upcoming Olympics. After his brother’s death, rather than becoming a cyclist like his brother, he’ll decide to run away from reality by joining a traveling entertainer. He will befriend the performer and together they’ll travel from town to town that will lead them to the exact location of the tragic accident. The young boy and the performer set off on an expedition that will bring out the star that is shinning within him. His goal is not to win the Olympics but the contest in his own heart. The story and the approach is very classical and has been used in many films before—just think about Kitano’s Kikujiro. While it’s probably not the most original film of the festival, the intricate characters of this film make it worth watching.

In Marathon, Cho-won is a lovely autistic person whose got a certain fascination with zebras and the African Serengeti. When his mother discovers he likes to run, she begins training him. Twenty years later, Cho-won’s intelligence is still that of a 5-year-old. He farts everywhere, bows to his younger brother, and dances to music wherever he hears it. Then, his very protective mother who spies on him all day long decides to enroll him in a…you guessed it, a marathon. The film focuses on possibilities and hope rather than on accomplishments. The most important aspect of the film isn’t his result at the marathon but rather the fact he tears himself away from his mom to run in the race. Faced with a tough decision at the marathon, she hesitates to let go of her son’s hand, but her son shakes off her hand. In the last moments of the marathon, the final sprint, the main character imagines himself doing the final sprint in all the places he’s been at during the film (a grocery store, a pool, and subway station). This clearly shows that the marathon is a metaphor for the world and that as he begins the last sprint of the marathon, his just began his race of a lifetime. Marathon is very touching and it’s definitely one of the best films of the festival.

“The film is like a diary written by a mom raising her son. It’s been 20 years, but there seems to be no end to this diary. His body is fully grown up, but his intelligence is only that of a five year old. As a mother of an autistic child, she wants to find the meaning of life for her son. And what she’s chosen is a marathon. She believes her son looks different when he runs. All she hopes is for her son to have willpower and a sense of accomplishment through running. But is it what her son wants as well? Or is she just doing that to make herself feel better? This movie gives an answer to those questions. Every mother wants their children to be independent, but that isn’t always easy. The mother and son in this movie represent all mothers and sons. It’s not just a story of a handicapped son and his mother looking after him, but how far maternal love can go.” (CHUNG Yoon-chul, director)

Finally, Hawaii,Oslo concluded perfectly the night. This is why I gave this subtitle to my entry—it’s the first 5/5 films I’ve seen at the festival so far. Amen. At this point of the festival, I literally need toothpicks to keep my eyes open. For the last few days of the festival – I have a strict 6-hour long sleep to watch a healthy diet of the most films possible. This has proven to be very tiring so far – who knew watching films could be exhausting. Also Hawaii, Oslo was a late screening. All the elements were there for me to fall asleep in the film. However, the film turned out to be a pure gem. In my introductory piece for the festival I said that all the suffering during the 10 days of the festival was worth it if it permitted to find even only one gem in the festival. Hawaii, Oslo is clearly one of them.

The film is one of those strangers-whose-paths-cross films (Crash, Love Actually, etc.). This is a genre I usually like, and I was looking forward to seeing the film. A male nurse who foresees a car accident, a paramedics, a former pop signer who attempts a suicide, 2 lovers who will finally meet again at a local bar after many years of separation (our runner in this film is one of them), a prisoner who escapes to go to Hawaii, her 2 children she hasn’t seen for more than 10 years and a couple who needs to find $90,000 in a day to save their newly born baby (see above)are the strangers in this film.

One of the very first lines of the film is the male nurse who has foreseen the accident who ask the paramedic “have you seen this person, he’s supposed to get run over tonight”! Along with many elements in the film like the 4 guys dressed with the exact same shirt, the male nurse (an angel—or so his patient thinks) opens the way for a certain lyricism in the film. Although it’s as emotionally charged as Crash, this lyricism adds a very touching and comforting layer to this rather crude tale. In constant opposition to this beautiful lyricism the film’s rather bleak and obscure cinematography constantly remind us that things aren’t as beautiful as we’d like them to be … but, could they be after all ?

“One of the best Norwegian films made in many years, Hawaii, Oslo proves it’s still possible to do exciting work in the sub-genre created by such exceptional pictures as Short Cuts and Magnolia.” — Gunnar Rehlin (Variety)

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