Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 6

Four more movies on the halfway point through the festival. This schedule of partying all day, working all night is getting brutal.

First up, a brilliant Hungarian crime thriller/comedy (at least I found it funny), The Investigator. For about 5 hours, this was my favorite film of the festival (yeah, today was a good day). Tibor Malkáv is an assistant pathologist, used to looking at death and not blinking. In fact, he's unfazed by anything, although he does have a little facial tic that gives him away. When the woman at the local diner flirts with him, he brushes it off, but is willing to go to the movies with her. He's just that kind of "nothing affects me" kind of guy. However, he needs money for his mother, who's dying of cancer unless she gets into a special clinic in Sweden. It just so happens a mysterious one-eyed man who calls himself Cyclops has an offer for plenty of money--he just has to kill a guy. Easy, he's used to death, this guy must have done something wrong, and since he has no connection to the guy, he'll never be a suspect. He doesn't agonize over the decision, he just does what he has to do. Problem is, he's immediately a suspect, because there is a connection between them that he didn't know about. He established an alibi, but suddenly he has to investigate who set him up. This is something that his personality is perfect for--cool, passionless, but meticulous with keen observation skills. I won't spoil the plot, but I'll just say he's way too fuckin' cool for words, and his performance (for which he's won awards at other festivals) is one for the ages.

Next up was the other Hungarian film in the festival, and a completely different experience. Esther's Inheritance is the story of a woman and the man who robbed her many times throughout her life. 20 years ago Lajos married Esther's sister even though he was really in love with her. He's charismatic, but also a horrible, amoral thief and liar. He returns for a one day visit, and you just know he's there to steal something. Turns out, he's there to steal everything, simply be igniting lost passions. He doesn't come alone, bringing an array of people, most notably a daughter who is after her inheritance--a family ring. This was well acted and beautifully shot, but I couldn't help thinking it was just very, very melodramatic and there was no good reason for Esther to be making the decisions she did--decisions she knew were stupid at the time. I guess I just didn't find Lajos as charming as he was supposed to be, and that's just something you have to take on faith.

Next up was the Serbian comedy, The Tour. Regular readers will know that I have a fondness for Serbian comedies (or really, any Balkan comedies) and they'll also know that Cinequest is the only festival I know of that plays them on a regular basis. Balkan comedies are characterized by absurd, dark, slapstick humor. In this case, it's a comedy set during the war in 1993 (because nobody knows how to throw a hilarious war like the Serbs). A theater troupe in Belgrade is mostly isolated from the war. They put on their costumes and do their plays and the bombs fall nowhere near them. But on their off day they take a paying gig of a one day performance for the soldiers near the front. Turns out it's very, very near the front, and the soldiers don't care about their stupid antics. They get stuck there much longer than intended, and at various times end up captured by Croats and Muslims. It's political, comedic, tragic all in one, walking the fine line with grace and guts. It's a movie that can make you laugh one moment then feel bad about laughing the next. I suppose it's not for everyone, but this is exactly the kind of movie that makes me love Balkan comedy movies.

And finally, Truffe is the movie so weird that it knocked The Investigator out of my #1 ranking in Cinequest (so far). A French film from Montreal, shot in black and white (and my only complaint is that many of the subtitles were white on white--very hard to read) it takes place in the near future when global warming has caused a tone of truffles to grow right in the middle of Montreal. This was great for a year, but the glut on the market has caused prices to crash. Charles is by far the best truffle hunter, with a nose of superhuman sensitivity that makes him a local celebrity. It's so good that he's attracted the attention of some weird people who run a fur scarf company. Their scarves have a nasty habit of coming to life and biting/choking people, but for some reason they're also in the truffle business, selling canned Mr Truffle brand truffles in from men with refrigerators strapped to their backs. Yeah...well, they make him an offer and he needs the money, so he goes to work for them. I don't know if it's an allegory on selling your individuality to the corporate world, or if it's just a bunch of weird stuff that happens. A sci-fi horror comedy unlike anything I've ever seen.

I see it's not playing again at Cinequest, but it's out on DVD in Canada already. Congratulations Truffe, you're the first film at Cinequest I immediately found and bought the DVD of.

And...that's it. That's Monday at Cinequest, and I'm all caught up with my reviews. I think I'll go sleep now.
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