Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

Magnetic Pathways (2019) | **** IFFR Rotterdam 2019

Dir.: Edgar Pera; Cast: Dominique Pinon, Alba Baptista, Pauko Pires, Ney Matograsso, Albano Jeronimo; Brazil/Portugal 2018, 90 min.

Avant-garde Portuguese auteur Edgar Pera follows his weird and wonderful adaptations of Rio Turvo and O Barao with this mystery drama screening as part of a retrospective of his work here at Rotterdam International Film Festival.

Again he indulges in the creation of a Lynchian universe, where past and future amalgamate in an anarchic dance of loss and angst, all held together by the overwhelmingly monstrous images of DoP Jorge Quintela.

Elderly Raymond (Pinon) lives a nightmarish life without escape: he is either drowning in his dreams, or running helpless and disorientated through a dystopian Lisbon. His main obsession is his daughter Caterina (Baptista) who is getting married to Danio (Pires), one of the henchman of the autocratic regime, which runs on the lines of Orwellian surveillance, the TV anchor giving out the orders for the day. During his nightly sorties Raymond encounters the past and present Portugal, meeting among others General Spinola (Jeronimo), who was one of the Generals in the successful revolution of 1974, before he turned against the socialist government and joined Ex-president Caetano and his fellow generals in exile. Raymond is never quite sure if he is living through the period of post- or past revolution. Raymond falls under the spell of Andre Leviathan (Matograsso), a mixture of religious leader and revolutionary. But Raymond develops a jealous obsession with Caterina and Danio. When the couple have sex, Raymond kills Danio with a knife, only to wake up with a feeling of joy despite realising that Caterina would have never forgiven him. 

Whilst the couple are on a barge, Raymond jumps into the water, but is rescued. Fearing the worst, he is amazed not to land up in prison, but back home, which by now resembles a brothel.

Dissolves dominate this spectacular poem of male madness: Raymond is straight out of L’Age d’Or, and Lisbon is a rather drab background, the city’s modern architecture An emblem for the soul destroying world of the Regime. The religious fanaticism of the President echoes Bunuel; Raymond’s hallucinations are the reflection of male impotence. Some music by Manoel de Oliveira embellish this unique feature, directed by a masterful and uncompromising Pera. AS

SCREENING as part of the EDGAR PÊRA Retrospective | IFFR 23 January – 3 February 2019

Genova (2008)

Director Michael Winterbottom  Writers: Laurence Coriat/Michael Winterbottam

Starring Colin Firth, Catherine Keener, Hope Davis, Willa Holland, Perla Haney-Jardine

94 mins UK  Mystery/Drama

From documentary to porn, it’s always interesting to see what Michael Winterbottom has in store. Genova is no exception especially as it stars Colin Firth as Joe, a middle class English Daddy who takes his kids to Italy to recover from the tragic death of their mother in a car accident back in America.

Taking the opportunity to teach at the University, he settles the family into a flat in the old part of town and meets up with Barbara (Catherine Keener) a friend from his days at Harvard. A gentle routine develops: classes in the morning, beach in the afternoon. Pubescent Kelly (Willa Holland) discovers Italian boys. Mary, (Perla Haney-Jardine) the younger one, is sensitive and introspective and doesn’t cope at all. She really misses her mother in poignantly observed scenes.

From the outset there an uneasy feeling that this is no ordinary drama. Very much a ‘ghost’ story in the modern sense. But why Genova? The old town is just the place for this sinister tale. A hand-held camera pans the narrow medieval streets as shadowy figures loom out of the darkness and give a whiff of menace that’s reminiscent of  Roeg’s: Don’t Look Now. Prostitutes haunt the shady courtyards of the Port and birds fly out of dilapidated buildings in scenes that would be difficult to come by in a more modern city such as Chicago, the family’s US home.

One minute Kelly is disappearing on the beach or zipping precariously through the streets on the back of her boyfriend’s dodgy moped, the next Mary has gone missing in a Church, causing a frantic search. And all the time Colin Firth is holding things together with that nagging expression of impending doom he does so well. This is a narrative about a family falling apart, dislocated in time and space: the onslaught is geographical and personal.

Marcel Zyskind’s atmospheric location shots echo the wistful sadness of this tale of bereavement and individual reactions to it. Mary has a wild imagination and is the most candid in her expression of sadness. Her vivid nightmares start to feature her mother Marianne (Hope Davis). Kelly resents her younger sister’s angst and tries to appear cool, playing out in her waywardness, nevertheless.

But ultimately this is Colin Firth’s film. He is superb as a respectable 40-something guy who’s keeping things together for his children. Continually on the verge of tears he is by turns incredibly tender and caustically abrupt; and this is the refreshing part. His performance is subtle yet accessible, so English: there is no embarrassing breakdown – just a dignified portrayal of a man who’s making a very brave attempt to carry on and succeeding despite the interference of his friend (Catherine Keener) and of a nubile student, Rosa (Margherita Romeo). Both are desperate to ‘get it on’ with Joe, but end up just getting in the way.

Michael Winterbottom has given us realistic sex in 9 Songs: This is realistic grief and feels unsentimental yet utterly moving. MT

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