Movie Diary 11/18/2018

I spent eight days in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on the FIPRESCI jury for the Ljubljana Film Festival, and fell behind in posting. I shall try to catch up over the next few days!

Styx (Wolfgang Fischer, 2018). Our jury gave its prize to this gripping film, featuring a tour-de-force performance by Susanne Wolff as a doctor alone on her sailboat who encounters a migrant vessel. What follows is a genuinely complex challenge for viewers, and a very physical piece of filmmaking.

The Heiresses (Marcelo Martinessi, 2018). Paraguayan film about two longtime companions (Ana Brun, Margarita Irun) who face financial ruin in a crumbling mansion at the same time the more practical of the two is sent to jail for minor infractions. Droll and atmospheric – like a lightweight version of a Lucrecia Martel film – and the performances are splendid.

Hannah (Andrea Pallaoro, 2017). Charlotte Rampling is front and center in another story about a woman facing life when her spouse (André Wilms) is imprisoned. You can see what Pallaoro is going for here, but the reliance on a slooooww dribble of information comes a little close to hewing to arthouse conventions.

Secret Ingredient (Gjorce Stavreski, 2018). From Macedonia, a crowd-pleasing tale of a mechanic (Blagoj Veselinov, a Balkan Everyman) who stumbles across a hidden stash of drugs and feeds his father marijuana cake – thus becoming a local healer with secret powers. It’s a formula picture but cleanly executed, with the expected layer of social criticism (why is the health care system so messed up?) included.

The Guilty (Gustav Möller, 2018). The gimmick is that an entire kidnapping drama is played out by focusing on a call-taker at the emergency hotline office – we never leave his desk. What gives the premise grit is that the man (Jakob Cedergren) has his own screwed-up, not very admirable drama going on; he’s a detective who’s been busted down to desk duty during an investigation into his own behavior. An ingenious stunt, with a couple of terrific “gotcha” moments.

The Load (Ognjen Glavonic, 2018). During the Balkan war in 1999, a truck driver takes a no-questions-asked contract to transport a load from Kosovo to Belgrade; it doesn’t take long to guess that the cargo is probably human. In some ways this film is miserabilistic to a fault, but its style eventually justifies the grim subject. It’s like a Kiarostami take on The Wages of Fear, carried by Leon Lucev’s grungy lead performance.

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