São Paulo Int’l Film Festival 2017

October is being a crazy month! We went to Rio de Janeiro to cover the Rio Film Festival, with movies such as Call Me Be Your Name, 120 Beats Per Second, God’s Own Country, and now we’re about to cover the São Paulo International Film Festival with movies like The Square, Happy End, Jupiter’s Moon and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Not mentioning the national releases of Redoutable, Good Time, Detroit and several other movies we plan to cover here. Stay tuned!

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Good Time (2017) by Benny and Josh Safdie

It’s interesting to think how a movie like Good Time ended up competing for the Palm d’Or at Cannes this year, since it has very independent roots. However, it’s exactly the style, the colors and mise en scene by the Safdie brothers that makes this little gem into one of the most interesting movies of the season. Robert Pattinson plays probably the best performance of his career by robbing a bank with his mentally handicapped brother. The money turns out backfiring on them by releasing a pink substance that makes the banknotes unusable. This pink color will follow these two characters throughout the movie in a brilliant way while the cops are looking for him, making them go through incredibly difficult situations. With references that come from Drive and video-games from the ’80s, Good Time is a creative, tense, raw and colorful odyssey that will make you on the edge of your seat. This film is not officially in the São Paulo Film Festival, but since it was at Rio de Janeiro Film Festival and now is in all cinemas across the country, I decided to share my opinion as part of the program.

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) by Martin McDonagh

A woman who wants revenge for her daughter’s murder puts on three signs demanding the police to do something about it – a local police that has already fame for its abuses against civilians. The three signs end up turning the lives of the population upside down, resulting in a drama full of sharp smart comedy moments in a script that I dare to say is probably the best of the year. This is definitely Oscar material and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actress and Original Screenplay, because that’s how good Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is. Francis McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, and Lucas Hedges are just some of the names that make this film so good and Martin McDonagh’s direction, pace and editing transform this piece into pure cinema.

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Jupiter’s Moon (2017) by Kornél Mundruczó

There is a review on Variety about Jupiter’s Moon that says “You’ll believe a man can fly in Kornél Mundruczó’s stunningly shot supernatural migrant thriller, but you might not know what it means”. I couldn’t agree more with that since there are so many things going on in Jupiter’s Moon that you may feel like you missed something at the end, or at least, the director did. The movie is obviously too ambitious for Mundruczó and even though it has its problems, we can’t deny the effort of what the Hungarian director is trying to do here, with a camera work and special effects that are probably the most stunning from all movies released this year – and yes, I saw Blade Runner 2049.

A Syrian immigrant is shot during a border police raid and gains supernatural powers of levitation. When helped by a corrupt doctor, he sees the immigrant not only as a kind of angel but also an opportunity to make amends for something that happened to him in the past. Even though there are several tropes and metaphors on the movie, like the refugee’s crises in Europe and the loss of faith in the modern world, Jupiter’s Moon is never a movie that you feel like taking your eyes off of the screen, with its incredibly long and beautiful shots. You might not know what it all means, but the effort is pretty good.

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The Square (2017) by Ruben Ostlund

How do we talk about a movie like The Square? Let’s start with the concept of The Square itself, an installation located at the Stockholm museum in the movie, which concept says “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.” With that, Ruben Ostlund creates an anti-odyssey that plays with the concept of modern art while he criticizes it at the same time. In the beginning of the movie, the main character of the film, Christian, explains the behavior of people towards modern art and questions its essence by asking a reporter if he put her purse on the gallery floor, would it be considered as art?

Ruben uses this concept to create an extremely bizarre, funny and somewhat surrealistic tale where art and real life are mixed together, resulting in strange and awkward situations like an interview who is currently being interrupted by a guy who has Tourette syndrome or the presence of a monkey next door while Christian has sex with a woman. Ruben Ostlund also uses the concept of The Square installation to talk about ethics in society and sometimes even criticizing bourgeois customs, like the fact that people are always thinking of other others but never pay attention to the people in need around us, like homeless and immigrants, who are showed throughout the entire film.

The Square is also a movie about shame and the consequences of our acts, and how this square, which represents the “sanctuary of trust and caring” is constantly being tested by the absurd of our everyday lives through civilization, technology and capitalism. The film is so ambitious that sometimes you feel like there are too many things to be explored and rediscovered, and I look forward to watching it again, even though the ending is a little disappointing. Nevertheless, The Square is definitely one of the most interesting movies of the year and without a doubt, a true example of modern cinema.

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Winter Brothers (2017) by Hlynur Palmason 

Every year, some random country like Ukraine, Russia or Hungary releases a film that it’s not very well-known outside the festival circuit worldwide, but are in my opinion, the most interesting and important films of the decade. I write this thinking of movies such as The Tribe, Leviathan, The Student, Son of Saul or even maybe 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. There are some similarities of style between them and I dare to say Winter Brothers joins the list for being the most impressive, creative and interesting movie of the year. Winter Brothers is a kind of cinema I wish to see more out there instead of going to a Film Festival to watch it and never hear about it again.

The story, if we can actually say there is one, it’s about two brothers working on a mine somewhere in Denmark. One of the brothers, however, isolated from the community as his co-workers, seem to live in a world created by himself while he steals chemicals from the mine to produce liquor and sell it among his co-workers. When one of the co-workers becomes ill, everybody starts to think it was his booze to blame and hell is released upon him.

The way Hlynur Palmason presents his film goes beyond terms like mise en scene. It’s about style, vision, and perspective. Maria von Hausswolff’s cinematography is a show on its own that seems to blend with the brother’s non-diegetic feelings towards the situation he faces, like the beautiful comparison of the TV Sargent from the TV and his boss. Elliot Crosset Hove gives an outstanding performance and isn’t afraid to pose full frontal in several incredible scenes, including a homoerotic fight with his brother. The way that the factory and natural elements such as dust, snow, and water are part of the film, is something to evoke feelings from movies by Andrei Tarkovsky as these elements are also part of the narrative, along with the machines and darkness of the factory. The natural lighting, the sounds and the way Hlynur Palmason shows this strange world of men, machines and dust, makes Winter Brothers one of the best films of 2017.

Happy End (2017) by Michael Haneke

Michael Haneke is that kind of filmmaker that you would never get even close to mentioning him in a conversation about genre films. However, it’s impossible to deny that Happy End is in its own way, a comedy – which is probably why it’s so great. I was prepared to face something raw and heavy as the only thing we’ve heard from the film was that it is a story focused on a rich family with the immigration crisis on the background.

These, however, are concerns barely mentioned in the film and the more you watch it the more you realize you’re actually following the lives of a very problematic family who owns a powerful company ruled by the character of Isabelle Huppert. She also seems to be the only person who has some sense, as she has to take care of her crazy alcoholic son, her father with suicide tendencies, her brother who is a doctor full of secrets and her niece that is staying at her house since her mother is at the hospital. With that, Michael Haneke shapes his characters in a very strange and interesting way that the more you watch, the more problematic they become. And everything is showed in a very brutal and honest way, almost like the humor of the teenagers from Funny Games as everything is ironically so colorful while horrible things are happening to these characters.

There’s also the subject of screens in our modern world, as the niece is always filming things from her cellphone and we follow the private conversations of a character through Facebook and how these actions affect people around us. Seeing this coming from Michael Haneke is a marvelous surprise and somehow a different perspective to what we’re used from the director, resulting in my opinion, a better movie than his latest two.

 

Movies in order of preference:

01. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
02. Winter Brothers
03. Happy End
04. The Square
05. Good Time
06. Jupiter’s Moon