The five rules of success
While it's doubtful anyone would really want their favorite film festival to go virtual, Montreal's annual Fantasia Marathon this year (and maybe more), with almost everything going online, is one that you'd expect that he suffers most from the transition. But from the other side of a screen 1,500 miles away, the festival seemed to be doing the difficult job of getting everything working. No late-night Irish bar, no traditional chants for the crowd, no takeover of the utilitarian Concordia University urban campus and its built environment by horror fans for three weeks of dormitory gimmicks. Instead, live streams and a YouTube channel – now crammed with videos from zoomed panels and Q&A – and a geoblocked list of 104 international features (and nearly 200 short films) running through the genre option's VU meter, where the indicator arrow cracks like a whiplash. It may not have been the "real thing", but the Fantasia crew did it better than most in translating the spirit of their festival into the digital realm. And there was no lack of a few surprises in the expansive mix.
The Five Rules of Success is the third feature of Orson Oblowitz (Trespassers, The Queen of Hollywood Boulevard), a straight-time twist in which a young ex-con man, incarcerated for a mysterious childhood incident, goes to the outside world with a mission. Santiago Segura, known only as X, offers a compelling portrayal of a man gripped by single-minded ambition and whose drive hardly surpasses the damaged spirits within. Between a twisted, ethically challenged probation officer who desires him as a forced submissive, and his hyperactive BFF – the Kokskopf, the little thug son of his Greek restaurant chef – X doesn't seem to have much of a chance of making it. Or maybe he found a way to play a system that will only want to destroy him by giving in to the criminal vortex that seems to be his only option. The tension and fear are artfully heightened by surreal design choices and hallucinatory tremors. X & # 39; worn room, a cross between Travis Bickle's tenement house and a reliquary for tortured Catholics, becomes less a haven than a recreation of the prison in the mind of its inmate. (The name Oblowitz should be familiar to fans of No Wave cinema: Michael Oblowitz, Orson's father, ran King Blank in 1983, and the younger director's mother, actress Rosemary Hochshild, plays a small role in Five Rules.)
The crazy outsider vibe lingers in Ben Howie's PVT chat, where well-known indie writer-director-actor Peter Vack appears as a sex and gambling obsessed perv who uses his credit card in online blackjack sessions and advanced digital tête -à-Têtes blows up with a camgirl / dominatrix (Julia Fox, Uncut Gems' breakout discovery who co-starred with the excitement you'd hope for). The story invented by writer and director Hozie (of Brooklyn art rock band Bodega) seems to predict a potential calamity. Vacks Jack poses as a software inventor, although the worn apartment he is about to be kicked out of could give it away as a fake. Fox & # 39; Scarlett is picked up, her mean girlish stance is also a kind of pose that goes off the clock with Jack as two gangs and he flatters her artistic endeavors and dangles the offer of a Parisian getaway. He's also become a stalker, believing that Scarlet, who says she's in San Francisco, actually lives nearby, a New Yorker like him. Just when things look most predictable, the character's perspective turns and shakes expectations (which are turned around again in the final act). The casting is first class, as the leads dive headlong into the kinking zone of the characters with emotional vulnerability and joy. The film balances despair and loneliness on one side of the scale with the gonzo bravery that the Internet offers strangers who seek reckless intimacy on the other. It could be the current festival film that best reflects the pandemic dynamics and watches on a laptop as actors play characters played together who watch each other on a laptop. The atmosphere adjacent to Safdie – Jack and Scarlett are both hustlers floating on each other in a New York nightscape of dirt and glitter – includes an unforgettable appearance by Buddy Duress (Heaven knows what, good time) and a subplot in which a bold Gambling scheme, but Vack and Fox guarantee the film its own profitable, peculiar orbit.
One of the most unique and eye-catching feature film debuts of the year is Sabrina Mertens & # 39; Time of Moulting, which was shot while studying director in Ludwigsburg, and a world premiere at this year's Rotterdam International Film Festival. Not to go back to the topic of the pandemic, but it also picks up on something sinister at this moment, this story about a little girl who is never allowed to leave the house that she shares with her mentally disturbed mother (and a distant, discontented father) . It's one of the most disturbing films I've seen in a while, in a creepy mood with what I call the “Austrian basement aesthetic,” in which a sustained static observation of what appears to be nothing much gradually evokes deep fear and something that is emerging, palpable Awareness that something really, really shitty is going on. Is it the box of butcher's knives that the child Stephanie (Zelda Espenscheid) pulls into the cellar, or these other scary-looking artifacts that are kept in the dust and in the mess? Is it just the infallible silence of the camera staring at the dreary German household tablets of the 1970s until lifeless household items begin to silently scream their secrets? Mertens skilfully pulls everyone into the rabbit hole.
The dark family psychodrama is also part of Wildland, a brooding gig in which a suddenly orphaned teenager named Ida (Sandra Guldberg Kampp) is picked up by an aunt she's never heard good things from and soon enough finds out why, her young one Life takes another drastic detour via the tragic turn it is still working on. Sidse Babett Knudsen (from the Danish political series Borgen) is impressively present in a household of three grown sons who are all employed by their mother. Ida soon learns that the family business is knocking money off unhappy debtors in their seemingly quiet town. It's a profession where anything that can go wrong will eventually happen, especially when mom punishes the boys for not making enough money. Director Jeanette Nordahl, whose film bowed at the Berlinale in February, orchestrates the slow tension with a flowing sense of the pressure cooker that interiors can become, contrasting intimate tensions and suffocating options with the perhaps illusory freedom that can be found in the pink Sky above the sky is painted vast northern landscape. Kampp is a real find, her subdued performance gives great ambiguity to the thoughts of her character, these perceptions, increasingly jumbled after an aggressive collection visit, jumble and her loyalty to a family of which she hardly belongs is called into question. A coming-of-age tale runs through all of this, in which Ida is attracted to a pregnant friend (Carla Philip Røder) of one of her cousins (a fragile drug addict played by the phenomenal Winter Brothers star Elliott Crosset Hove) Contours of a very subordinate role). The film ends on an abrupt note of radical emotions, unresolved character trajectories and its ever-present feeling of discomfort that still floats. If Wildland were a streaming series, I'd be ready to binge.