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NMFF: Day 4

The programming of the NMFF was very interesting in the first few days of the press screenings before the festival. Perhaps they put all the good films at the beginning to impress journalists. It worked, for a few days. Now as a quasi-morbid ambiance can be felt at the festival headquarters where the press office is located, the festival continue to agonize as the remaining few days of the festival slowly draining down.

I wouldn’t want to be the press relation person who has the job of putting all the press clippings on the Spectra ‘Billboard of Shame’. There isn’t a single day during which a devastating article isn’t published about Spectra’s management of the festival (or the lack thereof). Fellow journalists who cover the festival for printed newspapers have a limited number of words every day. Due to the festival’s problems, they spend 90% of their word count criticizing the festival and a few 100 word long reviews are included at the end of the article. It’s the same in the two major Montreal newspapers LeDevoir and LaPresse.

Maybe overdosed with films, journalists seem to have a rather keen interest on writing about how Spectra sucks rather than on the films themselves.

Scrap Heaven
Despite the numerous bad films that somewhat made their way in the 2005 edition of the festival, there are many good ones and Scrap Heaven by director Sang-il Lee in one of them. Japan, for some reason, is very good at making rebellious teen films. In the likes of Karaoke Terror or Blue Spring, Scrap Heaven follows 2 young men as they elaborate on a scheme in which people are invited to propose candidates whose wrongdoings are suitable for retribution and they make people pay for their mistakes. Quickly this scheme grows out of proportion, and unfortunately, so does the film. The last 20 minutes of the film are far from perfect, but still, the film and it’s darkish ambiance and cinematography are still very enjoyable, in addition to tackling very nice way several delicate issues of modern societies. Check out the trailer here.

Little Brother (a.k.a. Ahnnyeong Hyeong-An)
Little Brother is another of those few very good films at the festivals. Korean films can be extremely violent and they can sometimes be extremely touching and human. What is nice about many Korean films that are about difficult issues is that they are filled with magic. It was the case for the marvelous dance sequences in Oasis (Chang-dong Lee, 2002) and many scenes in Little Brother have the same lyricism. The flying sequence in the forest is amazing and is worth alone the admission price of the film. This emotionally charged drama based on a real story is very touching and it’s nothing less than a spectacular debut feature for filmmaker IM TaiHyung.

The Perfume of the Lady in Black (Le Parfum de la dame en noir)

The French have a thing for making quirky and hilarious black comedies about surreal and very unlikely plots. Ruiz is a master at the genre and 2 similar films are at the FIFM; Deville’s Un Fil à la Patte (review here) and Podalydès’ The Perfume of the Lady in Black. L’Aventura meets Ruiz meets Agatha Christie’s The Ten Niggers. The film takes a while to start as the beginning is more confusing than anything else—the first half is very so-so—but in the latter part in which all the elements of the puzzle are finally put together, the script becomes outrageously witty and funny.

Hormigas en la boca
This dark thriller set in the 1950s in Spain is visually a pure gem. The cinematography and the very nice 50s-ish sets and cars are gorgeous. However, the story of the film would need some work. While the very stylish film has a few very sleek moments here and there, the plot of the film has many flaws and it doesn’t quite succeed at holding one’s interest over the course of 2 hours. This is too bad because Barroso’s directorial skills are undeniable. He knows his stuff and he does a very nice job at rendering the story on the screen in a rather magnificent and ingenious way. Unfortunately the nice story that could have made of this film a masterpiece isn’t there …

Quo Vadis, Baby?
For some reasons, many films made in 2005 are about investigations surrounding the death of a lost one. Frozen (UK), Tattooed (Argentine) and Quo Vadis, Baby? are all about people who want to learn more about the death of a member of their family and who will start investigations of their own. Quo Vadis, Baby? by renowned director Gabriele Salvatores is a film that tries to combine everything : a dark drama/thriller, a film about family relationships and a film about self discoveries. Regrettably, all those elements could have made a very interesting film. However, all mixed together none of these aspects is really strong enough to hold the film together and it just seems to go all over the places at times. The film has its strong elements but not enough to make this film a viable contender for “Golden Iris” of the best film.

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