AFI Film Festival: Day Three (Sunday)

I am determined to get all these AFI films capsuled up, even if we are getting further and further away from the festival itself. Sunday would’ve been another five-film day like Saturday, except that I knew the Melancholia screening was going to be packed and decided to get in line super-early instead of seeing something in the slot just before it. That turned out to be the right decision, since being at the front of the pass-holder’s line only got us seats way over on the side. They turned away a whole bunch of people from that screening. But it was worth it. Great film, definitely one to see whether you’re a fan of von Trier or not, really.

The Dish and the Spoon

Greta Gerwig is an indie goddess for a reason, and this little film proves why. Taking a simple story of a woman angry at her husband’s infidelity and throwing in some adventures with a young unmoored British man, Gerwig finds a character arc and runs with it, alternating funny, awkward, raw, and quirky as needed. The film is something of a collaboration between director, writer, and stars, and though things like this can get loose and uncontrolled very quickly, that doesn’t happen here, and the film remains charming and cohesive. Reaction: LIKED. Full review on Row Three.
2011 USA. Director: Alison Bagnall. Starring: Greta Gerwig, Olly Alexander.

Cafe de Flore

Parallel stories seemingly connected only by the importance of the title song in each take place in 1969 Paris and present-day Montreal. In 1969, a mother devotes herself to her Downs Syndrome son, their close bond threatened only when the boy becomes attached to a Downs girl he meets a school. In present-day, a DJ leaves his wife of many years for a young beauty. Both stories are concerned with multiple loves, lost love, new love, and letting go, and they may be connected even closer than that. This film will sneak up on you with how good it is, rising to an amazingly edited and scored crescendo. There currently isn’t US distribution for it that I’m aware of, and that’s a crying shame. This is one of the best films of the year. Reaction: LOVED.
2011 Canada. Director: Jean-Marc Vallée. Starring: Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent, Hélène Florent, Evelyne Brochu.

Melancholia

It stands to reason that Lars von Trier would be a stellar director for a film with the end of the world as a metaphor for depression. It isn’t a particularly subtle film, but it’s nonetheless a perfect depiction of “melancholia” in both metaphorical and literal terms, as Kirsten Dunst gives an incredible performance as a woman struggling with depression, seemingly the only person who truly understands the import of the planet hurtling toward earth (dubbed “Melancholia”). Her sister, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, tries to help her through the depression, but when it becomes clear that Melancholia is not going to miss Earth as predicted, she falls apart – the shifting roles of the two sisters brings a dynamism to a film that can get downright stately (in a good way). No one but von Trier could make this film, but it is probably his most accessible in years. Reaction: LOVED.
2011 Denmark. Director: Lars von Trier. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgaard, Stellan Skarsgaard, Charlotte Rampling.

Headhunters

A downright fun thriller with a heavy dose of dark comedy, as a mousy headhunter who uses his contacts as a way to find potential targets for his side business as an art thief ends up embroiled in a scheme way over his head and has to overcome his many character weaknesses just to survive. The plotting is intricate, but rarely confusing, and the cast (including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, best known in the US for his villainous Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones) carries off all manner of ridiculous situations with believable aplomb. Reaction: LOVED.
2011 Norway. Director: Morten Tyldum. Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Aksel Hennie, Julie R. Ølgaard, Synnøve Macody Lund.

  • I like Gerwig but I don’t like the mumblecore style all that much, is that film more of the same?

    Cafe de Flore opens here next weekend, looking forward to seeing it.

    I also loved Melancholia, it’s so crushing and beautiful.  Currently my film of the year.

    Headhunters sounds like a lot of fun.  Don’t think I’ve seen Coster-Waldau in anything other than Game of Thrones before,I will have to keep an eye out for it.

    • The Dish and the Spoon definitely has some affinity with Mumblecore, but I liked it much more than I’ve liked the (few) Mumblecore films I’ve seen. It’s got some improvisational feel, and it’s clear the actors were closely involved in the script, but it does feel like there IS a script, and that there’s a definite trajectory for the story and the characters. A lot of it is based on in-the-moment interactions rather than plot-driven, but everything adds up in a way that a lot of Mumblecore-type films don’t, I think.

      Headhunters was pretty awesome. Coster-Waldau plays the villain here, too – he’s pretty good at it.