Archive for the ‘Raindance’ Category

Marcel! (2022)

Dir.: Jasmine Trinca; Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Maavane Conti, Giovanna Ralli, Umberto Orsini, Valentina Cervi, Valeria Golino; Italy 202, 93 min.

Cruelty to animals and their tragic deaths features in many indie and arthouse films underlining our important bond with these vulnerable creatures. This year dogs and donkeys bare the brunt of man’s callous behaviour and MARCEL! is not exception.

Actress turned director Jasmine Trinca;s debut feature is an absurd, surrealistic comedy in the style of Fellini, but with, literally, much more bite. The titular Marcel is a canine, obsessively loved by street performer Alba Rorwacher, much to the chagrin of her daughter Maavante Conti, who just wants to be loved by her mum, and not always parked with grandparents Giovanna Ralli and Umberto Orsini.

Told in ten chapters, the story of this dysfunctional family is grim as well as fascinating. As far as mothers go, Rohrwacher is a nightmare: not only does she neglect her daughter, but she lets her pet dog Marcel sit at the dinner table, feeding him carrots. She is also a fan of divination, throwing coins around with great gusto – and to add to her talents she acts as a medium. An elderly admirer brings her flowers, and attends all her performances in the town square. Her daughter is forced to watch, but not allowed to play her saxophone, which would certainly enhance her mother’s amateurish performance.

Marcel soon goes missing, And no prizes for guessing the outcome or culprit involved in his disappearance. Later, mother and daughter drive to a county fair, were the child has to act Marcel’s part, before discovering the the macabre reality. Not having had much success with their act, the two then travel to visit family; a cousin (Cervi) is well aware of Rohrwacher’s shortcoming as a performer. Proceedings are livened with one family member fancying themselves as a hunter with the whole living room full of stuffed animals, a wild boar being next prey on the agenda.

Rohrwacher is a wonderful eccentric, Trinca calling her a “Buster Keaton disguised as a panther”. But the main reason why this often unstructured script comes together is Maavane Conti, who can be wonderfully expressionless and unfazed by the most turbulent of circumstances. Her limpid blue eyes seem to be cast out of marble, and she manages to remain obdurate in deflecting the guilt her mother accusingly projects on her with grandfather claiming:”it was your father’s dog”. Said father is absent, presumed dead, having left some dark drawings which make the flat even more gloomy.

DoP Daria d’Antonia creates the right ambience for this madcap trip, the colours being as crass as the action. Director Trinca is already planning ahead, hoping that Conti will be her “Antoine Doinel”. At least she rely on the actors baling her out, because MARCEL! has even at just 93 minutes offers too little substance. Quirky it certainly is, but if only the episodically nature could be replaced by more cohesion. Still, a stunning ending shows that Trinca is not short of of ideas. AS

RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

Little Axel (2021) Raindance Film Festival 2022

Dir.: Fabien Greenberg, Bard Kjøge Rønning; Documentary with Axel Joachim Jensen, Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen, Nick Broomfield, Axel B. Jensen; Norway 2021, 57′

A new and heart-breaking documentary about Axel Joachim Jensen (*1960), who has spent more than forty years in Oslo’s Gaustadt Psychiatric Hospital, being treated with anti-psychotic drugs. Best known for being the son of Norwegian writer Axel Buchardt Jensen (1932-2003), aka the Norwegian Jack Keouac, and Marianne Ihlen, muse of Leonard Cohen, who both died a few months apart in 2016, his life has been tragic, to say the least.

In the 1960s, the Greek island of Hydra was a paradise for sex, alcohol and drugs and haven where artists and would-be artists had the time of their lives. When Marianne Ihlen and her new-born son Axel Joachim Jensen arrived on the island, Marianne presumed that Axel sr would be there to raise his son. But the author had already left with another female admirer leaving Marianne and Axel in the lurch. Enter Canadian writer and poet Leonard Cohen, who would for over twenty years be Axel’s more or less caring father. Cohen paid Alex’s eduction at the anti-authoritarian Summerhill in Suffolk, and later in a much stricter Swiss boarding school.

But Axel, like many children in the artist colony, roamed free from an early age. Kids were present at the parties, and the partner changes, and Axel started smoking when he was seven. Later he turned to hashish and, when he met his biological father Axel sr for the first and last time as a young teenager, Axel sr then introduced him to LSD, profoundly affecting his emotional development.

When Axel jr was nine, he and a friend of his – just three years older – travelled 260 km around Greece without any supervision. India was his next traumatic playground, at the tender age of fifteen. By his late teens he was institutionalised in Gaustadt after spending time with Cohen in New York where the international star spent the nights at the famous Chelsea Hotel. His relationship with Ihlen had ended after eight years, but the two remained friends ’til the end of their lives.

Filmmaker Nick Broomfield, who directed Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love, is one of many witnesses interpreting the environment where Axel jr and other children grew up. But the main reason why Axel went off the rails was his father, author Axel. B Jensen, whose comments on marriage and child-rearing are bizarre to say the least. He was a patient of the anti-establishment psychiatrist David Cooper, who rated his mental state as borderline.

As for Axel Jensen’s legal guardian, who encouraged his ‘participation’ in the documentary, one can only guess for motives: Axel comes across as a shell of a person, after being prescribed forty years (and counting) of mind-altering drugs. His mother was the only person who regularly visited him in Graustadt, but she too had a new family to look after.

Little Axel’s childhood may have had an enviable childhood but his personality was simply too sensitive to withstand the abrupt changes his life took. This is one of most depressing documentaries for a long time exploring unintentional childhood neglect leading to lifelong psychiatric care. Poor Axel was well-nourished and provided for materially but deprived of the stable and unconditional love he deserved. AS

RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2022

Pamfir (2022) Raindance Film Festival

Wri/Dir.: Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk; Cast: Oleksandre Yatsentyuk, Stanislaw Potiak, Solomiia Kyrylova, Yelena Khoknahlatkina, Miroslav Makoviychuk, Ivan Sharan, Oleksandr Yarema; Ukraine/France/Poland/Chile/ Germany/Luxembourg 2022, 102 min.

Pamfir may look like the typical gangster movie, but it turns out to be quite different from any other genre outing: a noirish fairytale Western where the Indians have been replaced by wild beasts from the past. It all unfolds during the folkloric Malanka festival in the wild and inhospitable western part of Ukraine’s Romanian borderlands around where the director grew up, .

Leonid (Yatsentyuk), also known as Pamfir – which means stone returns home to his village after a stint in Poland. His wife Olena (Kyrylova) and teenage son Nazar (Potiak) have really missed him and their re-union is emotional. But not so with his father Pamfir’s (Makoviychuk), who lost an eye after a fight with his son. Victor’s grandmother (Khoknahlatkina) tries, with the help of her younger son Victor (Sharan), to bring the feuding men together, but the feud continues.

It soon turns out the whole family have been involved in smuggling contraband to Romania, with Pamfir as the ringleader, earning the nickname of “Godfather”. He now wants to go straight but his attempt to reintegrate into mainstream society are scuppered when his son Nazar burns down the local church, destroying not only Pamfir’s documents bit making his father liable to pay compensation. Working with his sidekick , “The Rat”, he continues his illegal trading with Romania unnaware of being watched by another gangster who goes by the name of Oletsa (Yarema) and his men. Oletsa not only runs the smuggling operations, but also the church. Oletsa’s men attack Pamfir, asking the crimelord to do “one last run” to pay back his debts. But, as usual, there is a snag: the tunnel, leading to Romania is narrow, and only Nazar will be able to get through.

The focus then turns to Olena whose back-breaking job at her father in law’s factory, keeping the family afloat, also contributed to the loss of her first child. She now becomes more and more instrumental in ending Pamfir’s smuggling career once and for all.

DoP Nikita Kuzmenko’s heightens the atmosphere of terror that propels Pamfir in primal almost poetic journey. The camera is constantly on the prowl in long tracking shots through foggy woods encompassing vast widescreen landscapes and ancient forests that belong in a fairytale. And this is exactly what the director is aiming for: the villagers’ straw costumes during the carnival celebrations; their wooden masks, garishly painted, bring to mind the ghastly ritual of pagan festivals and the fear generated by The Wicker Man. The ghastly brutality of this atavistic festival resurges through Pamfir’s effort to liberate himself from the violence of the modern day. Gorgeous to watch, full of twisty revelations, PAMFIR is a stunning feature debut. AS

SCREENING DURING RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2022

Winners (2022) Raindance Film Festival 2022

Dir/Wri: Hassan Nazer. UK. 2022. 85 mins.

Cinema Paradiso comes to mind and is actually mentioned in this sunny tribute to cinema and the Iranian directors past and present from award-winning filmmaker Hassan Nazer. It follows the adventures of a young film fan who comes across a shiny Oscar like statuette in the dusty wasteland surrounding his village in the remote desert of Kavir, and decides to trace its owner. The film also stars Mohammad Naji from Majid Majidi’s 2007 Song of Sparrows another delightful drama that also charmed the birds off the trees.

Iranians love their cinema so much so that there are no less than three newspapers dedicated entirely to the subject. And this delicate lyrical fable echoes with the spirit of Iranian cinema and filmmakers such as Abbas Kiarostami Asghar Farhadi , Majid Majidi and many who still languish in prison. Hassan Nazer made the film in Scotland where he arrived in as a refugee two decades ago.

It opens when keen cineaste and Afghan refugee Yahya (Parsa Maghami) watching Jafar Panahi’s 2015 Golden Bear-winning Taxi while his widowed mother is imploring him to go to bed. During the day he works for Nasser Khan (Naji hiding from the authorities) on one of Tehran’s scrapyards for a minimum wage. In the dusty rubble he then discovers the statuette which has already had a colourful history of its own, that started in the back of a taxi and finished in the middle of the road via the local post office. Nazer packs a great deal into his charismatic feature and the joie de vivre it generates makes it a success. MT

RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL | 26 OCTOBER – 5 NOVEMBER 2022

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