The TIFF culture (III)

The main laureate of the 13th edition, the Spanish film `Stockholm` (directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen), is a representative product for the ‘TIFF culture.’ A romantic tragedy about the crisis of the couple, with valences of parable. Two young people charm each other: he has a stubborn solicitude, a permanent humour, a surprising ludic availability: she has the pretentions of the solitary, a balanced vulnerability, the taste of a subtle complicity. Seduction is a concentrated road-movie, a nocturnal adventure through an apparent maze of streets. The drama itself is concentrated in two strokes that succeed each other rapidly: the enchantment and respectively the disenchantment. Morning brings a brutal change of registry – he chases her, but she refuses. And the crescendo of the love consent from the previous night makes way to that of a desperate refusal.

The otherwise story of a facile love without future is as ingenious as the final is tragic: an unexpected suicide of the girl, depressively returned to the darkness of disappointment. Suggesting a dilemma to the spectator: what is truly painful in such versatile loves? More than the affective asymmetry specific to many couple relations, at stake there is a strange paradox. Aware of the perishability of the erotic sentiment, many are unable to cope with this relativism otherwise than by excessively investing in the strategies of seduction, in order to cultivate disproportionate expectations in relation with the foreseeable failure. In other words, without the narcosis of a large-scale affective projection there cannot begin a history that is at the same time almost inevitably without future. This is a subtle vicious circle of conscience.
Perhaps the jury would have proven more courage by preferring, instead of the Spanish, the Bulgarian film `Viktoria` by young Maya Vitkova, rewarded only with a special prize. Much more innovative, with a subtle humour of metaphors, with refined surrealistic nuances, with the metaphysical taste of satire, boldly alternating the style registries, the film also proposes a unique perspective of the communist epoch. At the antipode of realism with grotesque touches already commonplace to such retrospective approaches, which we also encounter in `Quod erat demonstrandum`, the Romanian film of Andrei Gruzsniczki about the hounding by the Securitate of a frustrated mathematician. A rather strident black-white image – suitable for the grey of the epoch, but also to the operant polarisations in the dynamic of consciences, able speculated by the goons of the regime – as well as the somehow dedramatised rhythm of the screenplay, moving between the atypical image of the Securitate office with psychological refinement and the surprising moral versatility of one of his victims, they succeed in suggesting the density of ambiguity, but a certain dose of artificiousness discreetly undermines the expressive effect.
A minimalistic approach of communism is also present in the award-winning ‘The second game’ by Corneliu Porumboiu, a parable of the political immobility specific to the dusk (and not only) of communism, suggested through a football match played in bad weather, which ended in a 0-0 draw. A simple video record of the era, commented at home by the voices of the director and his father, the former referee of the match. It has also been remarked the cinema debut of Tudor Cristian Jurgiu, `The Japanese Dog`, an intimate film about the illusion of roots: a villager whose house had just been damaged by a flash-flood, although old, unexpectedly chooses to leave the place where he had lived all his life and follow his son to the remote Japan. Neither the land retroceded by the state, nor the grave of his wife, the rural familiar imaginary or the affection of locals can stop him from making peace with the ‘prodigal son’, even at the price of a senile uprooting. A special mention of the jury was granted to the minimalist Iranian film `The Dog` [Paat], directed by Amir Toodehroosta. A German shepherd strolls through Tehran after the unexpected killing of his master. The occasion for intersecting several dramatic stories: a sweetheart constrained to make an abortion, a kidney donation by a mother wishing to raise the money for the surgery of her child, a desperate hunt for money of a drug addict, a prostitution attempt by his mother. A metaphor of the kaleidoscope of the society, of course, illustrated through a succession of pictures, largely static, sign of both the captivity of characters in their own drama and of the human show seen with the relaxed attitude of ‘foreign’ eyes (symbolised by the household pet, an empathic, but powerless comrade).
The FIPRESCI award went to the Irish film ‘Calvary,’ a remarkable dramatic comedy about the paedophilia of Catholic priests. A former victim takes vengeance against a local priest, a honest and modest person, with humour and a real vocation. An example of pastoral care, free in relation to the rigid moralism of the Catholic tradition, while also capable to reject the false arguments of conscience brought by the others, flexible and empathic, also ironic if needed, the priest however has another rare quality: he is extremely lucid regarding the limits of his activity and not by modesty, but from a profound sensitiveness toward the mystery of human attitudes, often unpredictable and with complicate motivations. Without the usual pathetic attitude, the film succeeds in telling the tale, with the ingredients of the language comedy, an intricacy of small/big dramas in accordion rhythm (inflating from muffled suggestion to explicit horror).
The same perspective of a good shepherd taking care of his lost sheep is present in a unique idea of scenario, in `Still Life`, directed by Uberto Pasolini. A strange and solitary clerk sometimes proves a surprising solicitude in his work: finding the relatives or friends of the dead who are not redeemed by anybody and risk being buried without witnesses. The musical rhythm of silences, the succession of pictures with a concentrated expressiveness, the admirable acting of Eddie Marsan, the metaphor of an often neglected care – all these could have turned this film into a small jewel, if the over-demonstrative final did not compromise it. Nevertheless it received the award of the public, as a proof of delicate humanism.

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