Papiro & Mint is back from Rio after covering the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival for six days and watching eleven movies! The city is suffering from a wave of violence and bankruptcy but it didn’t stop the annual festival from bringing more than 200 films to the most famous city of Brazil. Among the features from 60 countries, names such as Roman Polanski, Kathryn Bigelow, John Cameron Mitchell, Bruno Dumont, Luca Guadagnino, Guillermo Del Toro and Woody Allen were part of the film selection that happened from October 5 to the 15th. Since I live in São Paulo, I couldn’t participate in the whole festival, which brought me to the city for a modest stay of 5 days in the Botafogo neighborhood. Check out our opinion of all the movies we watched below!
A Gentle Creature (2017) by Sergey Loznitsa
Recognized Ukrainian director who competed for the Palme d’Or in Cannes this year, A Gentle Creature is not a movie for everyone. Famous for telling stories of the hero’s misadventures, Loznitsa delivers an ultra-realistic film that serves as a punch in the stomach for those who are watching by creating a metaphor for the current situation in Russia, where according to the director, is a place where prisons go beyond bars, uniforms do not separate the police from the innocent and men are extremely misogynist.
Here, no one is a saint – quite the opposite. Vasilinia Makovtseva plays the “gentle creature,” a woman who suffers in the hand of everyone around her when she tries to find out why the order she is sending to her husband in prison are returning. People use her, make her undress, she is abused by police officers and humiliated by public service employers. When people ask why has her husband been arrested, she responds that he simply “was”, and the others respond that things usually happen that way. I would have liked to know more about the current political scenario in Russia, as we are certainly not absorbing all the references the movie gives. Still, Loznitsa delivers a difficult movie to watch, not only for the long duration but for the strong images and the humiliation that we are shown on the screen.
The Florida Project (2017) by Sean Baker
Being one of the most well-recognized films of the year, The Florida Project is a beautiful, touching and colorful story about children living in a low-budget hotel in Florida named Magic Kingdom. More than that, it is a movie about children taking care of other children, from the smartest Moone, who guides his friends to spit on the cars of other residents; to her mother Halley, who smokes marijuana in front of her daughter and scam tourists to get money out of them.
The story is told from the perspective of Moone, who along with the other children, provoke chaos in the hotel, having several problems with manager Bobby, played by William Dafoe. At the same time, it creates an interesting and different approach, since children do not understand what is happening when the police start knocking on their parents’ door. Despite being a cheerful and entertaining movie full of extremely saturated colors, The Florida Project is a realistic drama that mixes dream-like elements with a brutal reality that many in the United States go through. The way Sean Baker captures this on-screen is brilliant, making this a beautiful 2017 movie.
In the Fade (2017) by Faith Akin
Hate is not only a theme that has been haunting us in recent years but is also the subject of the new film by Turkish director Faith Akin, who not only competed for the Palme d’Or this year in Cannes, but also received the prize of Best Actress to Diane Kruger. The hatred that makes extremists to provoke violence, the hatred that we feel when we see injustice happening and the hatred that turns us into terrible people. More than that, In the Fade is also a film about how this word always seems to incriminate Islamic countries, no matter if they’re innocent or guilty.
In an era where Trump is the president of the United States and Europe suffers from terrorist attacks by the Islamic State, Faith Akin comes up with an interesting reflection by questioning the concepts of democracy, justice, and most importantly, xenophobia. Although in the last scene the character of Diane Kruger chooses a not worthy path for her trajectory, In the Fade is an urgent film, that needs debates and reflections in a time as delicate as today, where hatred is a subject in our everyday lives.
Werewolf (2016) by Ashley Mckenzie
This independent Canadian production reminded me a little bit of the film The Child from the Dardenne brothers. Instead of the film dealing with a homeless couple with a child, Werewolf talks about two addicts facing a methadone treatment. The werewolf in this film is the relationship of the couple Blaise and Vanessa, who face the treatment together while trying to cut grass of people’s gardens to get some money. Their personalities seem to be colliding all the time, as if they are constantly changing, testing their differences, difficulties, and morals.
The most interesting thing about the movie, however, is the mise en scene of Ashley Mckenzie, who, when creating a movie about people trying to recover, creates a direction full of close-ups where the focus of the shots are only parts of their faces, hands, the shaking of their arms and how their eyes look around. They are people who are not complete. You think of suicide, the doctor asks. Blaise says yes. Do you have the means to kill yourself? Yes, he replies. The result is a minimalist but extremely beautiful and interesting work of an auteur, turning Werewolf into a great movie.
Hannah (2017) by Andrea Pallaoro
In 1975, Chantal Akerman directed a three-hour film called Jeanne Dielman, a chronicle of the monotonous trajectory of a frustrated housewife, where we watch her making coffee, getting dressed and bathing for long takes. More than a challenging film, Akerman used the time of her movie as a cinematographic tool to represent the frustrations and existential emptiness of her character. Michelangelo Antonioni was the best-known director in this regard, when he invented a new kind of cinema to represent emptiness, incommunicability, and boredom. I am exaggerating to name these two directors alongside this horrible Andrea Pallaoro movie, which for reasons I still do not understand, honored the wonderful Charlotte Rampling for Best Actress in Venice for one of the most boring roles in her career.
This type of movie where nothing happens is usually seen a lot of films that people like to call “modern cinema”, but most of them often end up being more of a makeup cover of movies that do not have much to say. And about that, Hannah has nothing to say. By narrating a story of denial, the director decides to ignore her own film and gives us Charlotte Rampling cleaning windows, watering flowers and sitting down doing nothing. There is a scene or two which are interesting, like the theater group she attends or the son of her boss that she has to take care of, but everything are just images that mean nothing. There is some event involving her husband, her son, and photos of children but nothing is justified, not affecting the character or the movie. Instead, we look at Charlotte Rampling’s blank face for 80 minutes. There is also a whale at the end of the film to give some poetic tone or try to make the viewer seek some hidden and intimate meaning in what we have just seen, but all I saw was a disappointment.
Thelma (2017) by Joachim Trier
How to talk about a movie like Thelma? Is it a movie about religion? A supernatural thriller? A movie about sexual discovery? Or would it be the combination of all that? One thing is certain. As much as Thelma is an interesting work, it definitely has many problems. I do not usually say that movies are strange, and as much as I like that adjective when used, I felt quite uncomfortable while watching Thelma since the director leaves several points unresolved – which is not usually a bad thing, but something went wrong in this one.
Thelma is a teenager-girl raised by fervent Christian parents that when she starts to involve herself in a relationship with a girl, she develops epileptic seizures that cause supernatural events. Joachim Trier mixes fantasy, religion and LGBTQ themes in an interesting but a little messy thriller, which refers to a strange mix of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Black Swan, and Phenomena if that’s even possible. It’s half genre film, half author film, making Thelma a creative attempt on desire and superpowers that still has some religious critique in the mix on the script. Maybe the director tried to put too much in one single film? One way or the other, Thelma is an original work from an interesting director that is worth being watched.
God’s Own Country (2017) by Francis Lee
Being one of my favorite films from the festival, God’s Own Country is the beautiful directing debut of Francis Lee that tells the story of Johnny Saxby, a young boy who falls in love with a Romanian immigrant who comes to work on his family’s farm. More than a romance between two boys, God’s Own Country is a beautiful film about affection. It’s Johnny’s father who is always asking for more than what his son can offer and keeps complaining about his drinking habits. It’s the way Johnny relates to the boys around him, grossly and without affection. It’s the way he treats the farm animals, which is exactly what Johnny is: a displaced and helpless animal, forced to do what life around him provides. The arrival of the Romanian Gheorgue serves to teach him how to be domesticated. How to let himself be touched and loved. More importantly, God’s Own Country lacks melodramatic elements that we see in most LGBT films, such as the secret of the parents not knowing about their sexuality and other things. Francis Lee embraces his story as a romance like any other, which accompanies a beautiful photograph by showing the icy wetlands of England’s countryside.
There are a few comments among critics comparing this movie to Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, but I think the latter is a tight, shy and confusing film, making God’s Own Country infinitely superior. Let’s start with the male frontal nude, an urgent element that happily manifests itself in a beautiful, natural and necessary way. Films like this usually show us intense sex scenes but deny us the phallic images that drawn the characters together. Francis Lee replaces sex for love, and gives us more touching scenes like Johnny and Guerguei discussing how words are spoken in Romanian.
All of these details make God’s Own Country a wonderful film, one that does not have the urgency to prove its relevance in the genre, something that I believe to be the biggest issues of LGBT movies nowadays. This is simply a beautiful movie about two guys falling in love, and one of them trying to deal with their problems in the world. And what a performance by Josh O’Conner who cries, vomits, fights, kisses and feels comfortable in all situations as if the camera wasn’t there. Of course this is every actor’s job, but in times when I have never seen so many people not understanding the proposals of so many films, I feel relieved to see an acting and a movie so special as this one.
Light Thereafter (2017) by Konstantin Bojanov
Even though Light Thereafter is not a bad movie, I wonder why it exists. Telling a story backwards, we follow the journey of Pavel, a sixteen-year-old boy who crosses three countries to reach the home of his greatest idol: a painter. The problem already begins at the beginning of the film, when we discover the result of his journey, which takes us back to the moment when he left home without telling his parents in a retrograde timeline that is nothing more than pure tick from the director. Because of that, his journey becomes the main theme of the film, which analyzes his eccentric and weird personality.
Barry Keoghan plays this character in an incredible way, where he exposes his greatest passion that is misunderstood by his attitudes, like going to a brothel and asking the prostitute to pose for him. Despite being an interesting film, Konstantin does not explore his character enough or the themes that appear throughout the movie, like the mother who still acts like she was 15 and the nude in the art. Despite having its moments, Light Thereafter is an odd film that kind of has no message or dialogue between what is shown with those who are watching.
Patti Cake$ (2017) by Geremy Jasper
Patti Cake$ starts with a video clip of Killa P, a 23-year-old American girl who is introduced by a supposedly famous rapper she idolizes. The video clip, however, is all part of a dream, and soon she wakes up like as Patricia, a regular girl leading a life of humiliating jobs and a mother in a midlife crisis drowning herself in debt.
Geremy Jasper reflects the American dream that became “gas station pop culture,” a theme already explored in video clips by Lana Del Rey and Rhianna, and the recent American Honey by Andrea Arnold. While Andrea’s film deals more with themes like freedom in this kitschy scenario, Jasper’s film unfortunately proves to be more shy and tries to compensate in a script full of slangs and girl power, which even though is funny, we see that the film could have been explored far beyond what is shown on the screen. It focuses a lot on family drama and the character’s arc of living a life they don’t accept while trying to pursue her dreams, like 8 Mile or Dream Girls, which becomes repetitive and uninteresting since this has already been shown in other films. Danielle Mcdonald is amazing as Patricia, who by forming the band PBNJ along with an Indian, a metalhead who calls himself the “antichrist” and her grandmother in a wheelchair, makes the movie Patti Cake$ a fun one to watch. Unfortunately, it does not go beyond that.
Call Me By Your Name (2017) by Luca Guadagnino
I tried to stay away from the reviews before watching this movie, and now that I have and I started reading about it, I see how difficult this task is, especially for those who haven’t seen it. There’s a scene near the end of Call Me By Your Name where Elio’s father talks to his son about everything that happened to him during the movie, which I believe it serves as a milestone to represent what Luca Guadagnino’s new movie is about.
And speaking of stones, how not to assimilate the male nude bodies sculpted in the sculptures that are discussed in the film with those that come alive in the bodies of the characters that take over the screen for two hours and twenty minutes of duration? Call Me By Your Name is the darling movie of the year, which has been enchanting festivals around the world since its release. By watching it, you will understand why. It is not easy to put into words what happens in Luca Guadagnino’s new film. Yes, it is beautiful, touching and romantic. Wonderful cinematography and soundtrack. More than that, it’s a movie about bodies, which like the pictures of the sculptures in the credits, the characters pose for us almost as if they know we’re watching. It’s a film that obviously has its roots on Erich Rhomer and André Techine as La Collectionneuse, Claire’s Knee and Wild Seeds as it also portrays the various faces of intimate relationships with different people in an European countryside set on summer. It’s a free movie, which ignores the traditional importance of the plot and cares about what happens on the screen. Which is also something that has its problems, such as the relationship between Elio and Oliver that sometimes seems a little unbalanced in a way that seems more accidental than purposeful.
But as I said at the beginning of the text, what struck me most about Call Me By Your Name was its ending, which thanks to the best performance of the year made by the incredible Timothée Chalamet, it touches a deep wound that I believe everyone carries: memory. The memory of what happened and how we will carry it forward. The memory of the experience, of the sensations and how we have to learn to deal with it for the rest of our life.
Luca Guadagnino says Call Me By Your Name serves as the conclusion of his trilogy that began with I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, both great movies about bodies, movement, sex, and desire. Call Me By Your Name is all this, but it seems that the director feels more comfortable the latter, resulting in his best film so far. He also says that it is a film in honor of his father and his cinematograph parents, and it is exactly this figure played by the incredible Michael Stuhlbarg who struck me the most in the film, and his unforgettable monologue at the end with Elio talking about our first broken heart and the importance of being young and experiencing different sensations. Watching Elio crying for minutes as the credits pass, has never been so brutal and so beautiful. This picture will stay with you long after the movie is over.
120 Beats Per Minute (2017) by Robin Campillo
Grand Prix winner at Cannes Film Festival this year, 120 Beats Per Minute was the film that touched me the most after Call Me By Your Name. It was also the only film from the eleven I watched at the festival that people clapped at the end. From the same director of Eastern Boys, 120 Beats Per Minute is a frenetic movie about a group of activists representing the HIV community in a time where the disease was ignored by the public, the government, or seen as a disease exclusively from homosexuals.
Everything happens from the perspective of Nathan, a supportive of the cause who joins the group and start to take parts in protests and discussion about what is happening in France during the 90s. Despite the incredible performances of Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, 120 Beats Per Minute is a political movie that feels like a riot. It’s constantly being cut from people talking and discussing to protests, nightclubs and sex scenes. It’s also a drama by following the health state of HIV victims, which even though it can be a little over-dramatic sometimes, it is still strong, beautiful and incredibly moving. Definitely a movie that will stay in your mind after you watch it, 120 Beats Per Minute is one of the best movies of 2017.
List of movies in order of preference:
01. Call Me Be Your Name / God’s Own Country
02. 120 Beats Per Minute
03. The Florida Project
04. In the Fade
06. A Gentle Creature
08. Light Thereafter
09. Patti Cake$