Norwegian writer-director Bent Hamer’s 1001 Grams is a low-key but likeable romantic comedy, built around an endearing central premise. The protagonist Marie (Ane Dahl Torp) works for her father Ernst (Stein Winge) at the Norwegian Institute of Weights and Measures, performing calibrations on equipment ranging from petrol pumps to weighing scales. When he suddenly dies of a heart attack, Marie is required to attend an annual conference at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris, where she must safely take the national prototype – the Norwegian kilo – to be verified against the global standard.
Glasgow Film Festival
Set on the Japanese tropical island Amami, Still the Water is a Zen-infused coming of age drama, exploring the personal revelations that come with life, death and love. Directed by the Caméra d’Or winner Naomi Kawase and selected to compete for last year’s Palme, it is a serene, contemplative film that comes alive in moments of harmony and rupture. Shot using primarily handheld cameras, Kawase casts a documentarian’s gaze over what develops into a quietly forceful narrative, allowing the exquisite setting to provide much of the visual flair.
Echoes of Rudyard Kipling adventure yarns and Hollywood’s more pessimistic classic Westerns permeate Theeb, the directorial debut of Jordan-based filmmaker Naji Abu Nowar, whose film was also shot in that region and features non-professional actors from one of Jordan’s last nomadic Bedouin tribes to settle down.
From What is Before, the latest epic from Filipino slow-cinema auteur Lav Diaz, examines a major fault line in his country’s history. Chronicling the terminal decline of a remote coastal barrio, which has become unknowingly embroiled in the ensuing apocalypse sweeping across the Philippines, it culminates in Ferdinand Marcos’s 1972 declaration of martial law and the beginning of his brutal kleptocracy. A voiceover in the film’s closing lines describes the preceding five-and-a-half hours as “the memory of a cataclysm”, marking a significant break with even the most recent past. From What is Before might not have the sheer force of Diaz’s last outing, the Crime and Punishment-inspired Norte: The End of History, but it is a more accomplished film overall, utilising every inch of its formidable length to construct a haunting elegy for times past.
The final part in Roy Andersson’s “trilogy about a being a human being”, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is a droll but despairing inquiry into the human condition. Its thirty-nine distinct vignettes, each infused with recurring characters and repeated jokes, consolidate into a rumination on the absurdity of life and potential consequences of human dispassion. The eponymous pigeon, the least impressive exhibit in a dreary museum, appears in the opening scene, studied by a man whose wife is waiting resignedly in the corner. Like all the characters in the film, they are in stasis, trapped by their inexplicable attachments, habits and routines, mere artifacts in the wunderkammer that is life.
Batin Ghobadi’s debut feature is an elusive crime drama that unfolds in the mountainous borderland of Iraqi Kurdistan. The younger brother of Bahman Ghobadi, best known for A Time for Drunken Horses, the writer-director was born in the region, albeit on the Iranian side of the border, and its troubled history resonates obliquely throughout the film. It is suggested that the region is engaged in a period of modernisation, through major construction projects and crackdowns on corruption, but its landscape remains rugged and primal, its men desolate and wracked with guilt.
Dogs rise up against their human masters in Kornél Mundruczó’s White God, a film that is part-political allegory and part-bloody genre piece. The opening sequence shows a girl riding her bicycle through the sunny but deserted streets of Budapest, looking anxiously around her as she passes abandoned cars and empty buildings. Suddenly, from around the corner, hundreds of dogs appear, running with purpose, chasing and overtaking her. At this point, it feels like an apocalyptic dream, but, when White God returns to the scene later on, it has been contextualised in a narrative of oppression and justified revolt.
The Little Death is an Australian comedy concerning five hetero couples (or potential couple in one case), whose relationships become defined by their fetishes. Though the lives of some of these characters intertwine through the setup of them living in the same neighbourhood, the film is more anthology feature than network narrative in that the stories basically act as shorts that we jump in and out of for 95 minutes – and one of them runs uninterrupted for the final 20. Writer-director Josh Lawson even introduces each plot thread with a title card akin to what you might find in a more traditional anthology feature. This isn’t so much The ABCs of Sex, but the title of recent Argentinean anthology Wild Tales wouldn’t be out of place if re-applied to The Little Death.
Set in the once pristine West Yorkshire Moors, Catch Me Daddy is a nightmarish thriller about cultural tension, depravation and violence in modern day Britain. It takes as its starting point the Ted Hughes poem ‘Heptonstall Old Church’, in which creation myth gives way to apocalyptic vision. The great bird which brings life to the region dies and afterwards: ‘Its giant bones / Blackened and became a mystery / The crystal in men’s heads / Blackened and fell to pieces / The valleys went out / The moorland broke loose.’ Recited coarsely in a young man’s voice, over bleak, contemporary landscapes, the poem is a discomforting prelude for what is to come.
The full line-up has been announced for this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, which runs from Wednesday 18th February to Sunday 1st March, and it features over 100 UK, Scottish or European premieres, as well as multiple rep screenings and special events.
The festival opens with the UK premiere of While We’re Young, Noah Baumbach’s comedy follow-up to Frances Ha, starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried and Charles Grodin. The closing night gala on 1st March will be the UK premiere of Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s already much-vaunted darkly comic relationship drama Force Majeure.
Set in a small border village over the course of World War II, Hungarian curio The Notebook is unlike any war film you’ve ever seen. Its central characters are twin boys, named only in the credits as One (András Gyémánt) and Other (László Gyémánt), who think and act as a single person. At the beginning of the film, their parents take them away from their luxurious city apartment, fearing that identical twins would be too conspicuous in wartime. They are sent to live with their mean-spirited Grandmother (Piroska Molnár), despite the fact that she has unequivocally fallen out with their mother and is suspected of murdering her husband. The only instructions given to them are to keep up with their studies and record everything that happens in a notebook. It doesn’t matter how they write it down, as long as it’s the truth.
Shot with remarkable assurance on 35mm film, Tetsuichirô Tsuta’s second feature The Tale of Iya instantly has the feel of a classic. It opens with a scene of serene and organic beauty, starting with a flurry of snow falling from the half-lit sky. A man in traditional rural dress walks out of a humble wooden shrine and stumbles through the drifts, simultaneously battling with and assimilating the hostile conditions. He comes across a car accident; the driver is flung through the windscreen and both passengers are obviously dead. Moving on, he notices a flash of pink on the frozen river, a baby girl in a snowsuit crawling on the ice. He watches her for a moment, then walks over and picks her up, as the snow continues to fall around them.
Though writer Pat Rushin scripted and conceived the story of The Zero Theorem, one can be forgiven for assuming Terry Gilliam came up with the narrative himself, being that it comes across as the work of someone who either saw every film Gilliam’s ever made or just happened to direct them. Indeed, The Zero Theorem sees Gilliam very much in his storytelling and thematic comfort zones, though sadly to diminishing returns. It openly scrounges scraps from earlier efforts, especially Brazil, but has little idea how to develop its ever so slightly different ideas beyond thin sketches.
UK-based filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski returns to the country of his birth with a film that explores the persistence of the war in 1960s Poland. Shot in Academy ratio and soft black and white, the cinematography by Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal is beautiful, capturing the stark landscapes and emotional weight of the historical period. The setting and subject matter seem to give Pawlikowski renewed impetus at an important stage in his career and the result is a measured, sombre film that succeeds in evoking the intricate world of its central figures.
Adapted from Boris Vian’s cult novel, commonly translated as Froth on the Daydream, Michel Gondry’s latest film is a riotous, whimsical journey with a lot more to say than initially meets the eye. The opening sequence threatens to drown you in a cavalcade of offbeat animation and special effects, including a stop motion eel, an insect-like doorbell, a TV chef who passes ingredients through the screen and a miniature man dressed up like a mouse. Gondry’s indulgence throws down the gauntlet right away – either you’re in or you’re out. Mood Indigo can be bewildering, exasperating, infuriating, but, then again, it can be utterly transportive.
One of cinema’s great mythmakers, Alejandro Jodorowsky returned to his home town of Tocopilla to make The Dance of Reality, his first film in almost a quarter of a century. It presents a typically surreal account of his childhood and his father’s exploits in the turbulent political landscape of 1930s Chile, but it has particular resonance as it sheds light on the genesis of the ideas that shaped his career in film. The mythology that runs through El Topo, The Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre is on display here, but, rather than forming part of a wholly fictional narrative, it is explicitly presented as Jodorowsky’s conceptualisation of his own ancestral past.
Directing duo Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s debut feature Amer explored a young woman’s sexual awakening using traditional giallo tropes. An exercise in formalism, it treated giallo as pure aesthetic: a cinematic language with the potential to go beyond its usual generic applications. The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, reportedly 11 years in the making, represents another stage in the development of this idea. More familiar yet more oblique, it plunges us into a surreal world where giallo is the only code of understanding, eschewing narrative in favour of startling images, symbols and style.
More than perhaps any other director, the work of Ernst Lubitsch has been the most noticeable influence on Wes Anderson’s style. Though the great German-American writer-director, most prolific in the 1930s and 1940s, was never quite so aesthetically bold in the look of his sets, he too was preoccupied with meticulous staging for comedy within his chosen locales, be they the titular Shop Around the Corner or the Parisian hotel of Ninotchka; The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in a fictional European country, the Republic of Zubrowka, another Lubitsch trait from works like The Merry Widow and The Love Parade, though The Shop Around the Corner happens to be set in the city Anderson’s mountaintop lodging house takes its name from. He garnered the descriptor of ‘the Lubitsch touch’ thanks to the moving sincerity that always made itself evident within even his more broad comedic premises, and Anderson’s own best work is that in which a recognisable humanism always makes itself known and potent even within the stylised stiltedness through which most of his characters are written and performed.