Neil Mitchell reports on Cine-City 2010.
Flowers of Evil (Fleurs du mal)
Flowers of Evil (2010), the debut of director and co-writer David Dusa, is a vibrant contemporary take on a boy-meets-girl narrative, blending fact and fiction in a touching love story with political, social and cultural overtones. Taking the 2009 Iranian election protests as its catalyst, Flowers of Evil sees a young Iranian, Anahita (Alice Belaïdi), sent to Paris by her parents to avoid the trouble engulfing her homeland. A troubled, tender and emotionally charged romance blossoms with hotel porter Rachid (Rachid Yousef), a free-spirited dancer who posts videos online under the alias ‘Gecko’. With Anahita checking YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for updates on the violence affecting her family and friends, Dosa’s film adroitly highlights how the power of the internet can both foster a sense of community and conversely allow for a passive abdication of responsibility.
Actual footage, mobile and video shots, hand-held camerawork and onscreen titles give Dosa’s film a docu-realism immediacy. The soundtrack, blending traditional Arabic music and European dance tunes with the recurring use of John Cage’s piano piece A Room, adds to the eclectic, fragmented nature of the film. Flowers of Evil is a timely, engaging and intelligent dissection of democracy, free speech and dispossession.
Former Magazine and Bad Seeds bass player Barry Adamson, who devoted his solo career to creating ‘soundtracks to imaginary films’ incorporating noir-ish jazz, ominous electronica and big band tunes, has finally made a foray into the world of filmmaking. With numerous soundtrack credits to his name, most notably for David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997) and Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers (1994), it’s no surprise that Adamson’s film is cine-literate, dark and artistically, as opposed to commercially, driven.
A dual narrative unfolds as a Polish woman, Monika (Iza Sawicka), searches for her twin sister while budding filmmaker Bigger (Ray Fearon), working on a script about disturbed twins, pays a confrontational and potentially deadly trip to his therapist (David Hayman). Are these separate events or are the two somehow mysteriously connected?
The overtly Lynchian and Hitchcockian narrative, with worlds within worlds, murderous intentions, dangerous blondes and nightmarish flashbacks, creates a disorienting atmosphere where reality and fantasy bleed into one another. The film is technically proficient and displays Adamson’s obvious love for cinema, but unfortunately Therapist (2010) is pastiche rather than homage. A predilection for audio trickery and a reliance on visual symbolism cannot mask a paucity of original ideas. If Adamson is to seriously consider filmmaking as the next step in his long career then his own identity will have to be stamped onto future projects.
Film is a Girl & a Gun (Film ist a Girl & a Gun)
Taking its title from the quote attributed to both Jean-Luc Godard and D.W. Griffith, that ‘all you need to make a film is a girl and a gun’, artist and filmmaker Gustav Deutsch’s latest found footage project is a remarkable collage of archive material and film clips assembled to form an exploration of history, memory, war and the ongoing battle of the sexes. The clips, taken from the silent era through to the 1940s, range from Victorian-era pornography, documentary and nature footage and fictional excerpts lifted from melodramas and comedy films, and are given new life and new context in Deutsch’s hands.
The film is structured in the shape of a Greek drama, with five distinct sections (Genesis, Paradisio, Eros, Thanatos and Symposion). A virtually wordless piece with a breathtaking score, taking in classical, minimalist and industrial music as well as hypnotic chanting and a cappella choir works, Film is a Girl & a Gun captivates and inspires with its experimental form and the inquisitive nature of its director. The effect is akin to Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (1982), in a fascinating ‘video essay’ that muses on the nature of birth/rebirth, femininity/masculinity, sex, violence and death.
Welsh director Marc Evans, whose eclectic output has taken in the horror film My Little Eye (2002), the crime thriller Resurrection Man (1998) and the romantic drama Snow Cake (2006), turns to the road movie genre for his latest film, Patagonia (2010). Coriat and Evans’s screenplay concerns two journeys, made independently of each other, whose parallel narratives converge to address issues surrounding history, memory and belonging as the characters face a combination of emotional trauma, failing health, crises of responsibility and oncoming maturity.
A romantically attached couple, Rhys (Matthew Gravelle) and Gwen (Nia Roberts), head to the panoramic plains and Welsh-speaking enclave of Patagonia, Argentina, while the elderly Cerys (Marta Lubos) and her neighbour’s teenage son Alejandro (Nahuel Perez Biscayart) head in the opposite direction to the green and rainy valleys of Wales. As one couple face a disintegrating relationship in the heat and distractions of unfamiliar territory the other, faced with similarly disorientating surroundings, gain succour, understanding and companionship. The striking, and strikingly different, landscapes complement the distinct narrative strands, while the film overall is touching, often very funny, and richly imbued with a sense of the dynamics of human relationships when placed under duress.