A group of German workers is hired to work at a remote site in the Bulgarian countryside. Unwelcome by the villagers, tensions quickly rise between the locals and the invaders. Headed by the brutish and rude Vincent (Reinhardt Wetrek), the German workers make a bad impression on locals, but the stoic Meinhard (Meinhard Neumann) integrates himself into the town while alienating his fellow countrymen.
Not much happens in Western, but you can cut through the tension with a knife. The political animosity between Germany and Bulgaria create a baseline distrust, as the poor and uneducated German workers are hired at high salaries to do work the Bulgarians feel should be done themselves. From the onset, there is this idea of an invasion – German barbarians taking what they need from the land and the people, with no regard for their humanity or culture.
Meinhard offers a foil to this image of Germany: he is quiet, respectful and curious. He finds a white horse in the woods and takes on a young villager to teach him to ride bareback, ingraining himself deeply into the families and cultures of his new locale. Meinhard may be quiet, but he never fails to be a compelling character whose intentions are often mysterious and his morality scrupulous. Western has a hard-boiled feel of a thriller, though the tensions are political and cultural. While set in the modern day, the film has an air of being beyond time – a portrait of a frontier that does not want to be conquered. Without a doubt, this is one of the year’s best – an inspiring vision from Valeska Grisebach, who captures the subtlety of human interactions formed by prejudice and experience. (Justine Smith)
Western screens today, October 10th, at 2:30 p.m. at Quartier Latin.
Few films will divide audiences this year quite as much as Joaquim Trier’s newest film, Thelma. Part romance, part supernatural thriller, Thelma defies easy classification. Ostensibly about a young college student, Thelma (Eili Harboe), from a strict religious household leaving home for the first time, she begins to have seizures shortly after arriving at her new school. These epileptic episodes coincide with her meeting a young woman (Kaya Wilkins) who sparks lustful desires that Thelma finds confusing and upsetting.
Thelma has a charged atmosphere of anticipation and shame, but somehow, never feels too heavy. The film’s strangeness, which includes supernatural influences bugs and insects, terrifying natural events and generally inexplicable phenomena. The movie has the atmosphere of a Bunuel film deeply embedded in a more feminine psyche: the film not only questions the nature of religion but the fabric of our reality. The movie challenges preconceptions about free will and love and your own baggage will determine whether you walk away from the film feeling hopeful or horrified about the human condition.
Few films in film history have captured the ethos of dreams as poetically as Thelma. Trier creates tableaux of images rooted deeply in a troubled psyche that draws on familiar mythical imagery in fresh and often shocking new ways. It is a rare film that offers images and ideas that are fresh and innovative, living up to the festival’s pursuit of new cinema. The movie’s challenging tone and sometimes obscured intentions will frustrate many viewers, but not all great cinema has to please everyone. Thelma is one of the festival’s must-sees, an inventive and shocking film that defies expectations and genre. (JS)
Thelma screens Wednesday, October 11th at 2:45 p.m. at Quartier Latin.
I was surprised to see that there was no movie from Khavn – the prolific Filipino iconoclastic auteur of carnage and grotesqueness – on the slate at FNC this year. The real reason is that Khavn hasn’t made a movie in 2017 – but you could also argue that Le Binh Giang’s insane KFC more or less fills that slot this year. Although more deliberately paced and considered than Khavn’s methed-out madness, KFC trades in a similar love of the grotesque, the disgusting and the over-the-top. What little plot is discernible centers on a Vietnamese ambulance driver and doctor who picks up patients but takes them home, butchers them, eats their flesh and then has their way with the corpse before feeding the rest of it to his friends and family.
Pretty incoherent from a narrative point of view even though it barely clocks in over an hour, KFC (so titled because it revolves around a KFC restaurant – though miraculously nothing particularly gross happens to chicken) is the kind of movie that purports to exist to call out the cyclical nature of violence while also fully indulging in it. No one is spared; a dog eats a severed dick, vomit is quaffed by an overweight child, teeth are pulled out, intestines slurped like noodles. Like the films of the aforementioned Khavn, the onslaught of gore and nastiness proves to be more puerile than shocking, though I have to admit that Giang’s relatively laid-back direction and forthrightness (again, this movie is 60-some minutes long) go a long way to making its dubious distinctions admirable – in some kind of way.
KFC screens today, October 10th, at Cinéma du Parc at 9:10 p.m.
Hard to imagine a film more of its time than Cory Bowles’ Halifax-shot Black Cop, a satire about the particular position that black policemen find themselves in these days (and presumably all days). Ronnie Rowe Jr. stars as the titular black cop, a hard-ass, hard-line guy who has a change of heart when he has an altercation with white cops while out of uniform. Something in him snaps, and he begins to treat white perps with the same kind of abuse usually reserved for unarmed black men, with all of his actions captured on his body-cam.
It’s an incredibly astute and thematically rich concept, and it doesn’t take long before the film begins to operate its queasy, provocative “magic”. Unfortunately, Black Cop stalls narratively about an hour in – its political and satirical points remain intact, but the film treads water in its last act. It seems somewhat unavoidable, since the film is as much a manifesto as it is a narrative feature, but it still feels as if there’s room within the story to go bolder and brasher still. I don’t think Bowles is pulling back, necessarily – but it also doesn’t feel like the film is as angry as Bowles is. ■
Black Cop screens today, October 10th, at Cinéma du Parc at 5 p.m. and again on October 11th at Cinéma du Parc at 8 p.m.