A dose of controversy that stretches your tension, a tobacco patrol, the good health of the South Korean thriller and the transcendence of life between the paranormal and the fantastic.
“Speak no evil”
The other great controversy of the Festival comes with this Danish film directed by Christian Tafdrup, in which a Danish couple travels to Holland to spend a few days at the home of some strangers they met briefly on vacation. What seems to be an uncomfortable trip due to certain specific details, will end up being… well, even more uncomfortable.
And it is here where we find the mastery of this film and where it plays for practically the entire film. The film builds from the atmosphere itself, everyday situations in which a phrase, a gesture, a trivial action causes some discomfort in the Danish couple. It is always the Dutch couple that makes it uncomfortable, but it is always the Danish couple that allows it. The one that says nothing, the one that gets carried away by certain social conventions that seem to let accept an inherent respect for things that, well, make them uncomfortable for a while.
Tafdrup is very clever in maintaining that tension and knowing how to stretch it concretely, without the tension ever exploding and being lost. Because it is a film to shrink your heart, where violence is conspicuous by its absence until a climax that makes the film explode and that has made the Sitges Festival do so too.
There are people taking political narratives about the rise of the extreme right that escape me personally, and having reflected on it with several members of the festival, it is something that we do not understand, when the film makes it clear that the thesis is the social conventions of not knowing how to say no, to let an imaginary respect wash over you, something that Tafdrup perfectly encapsulates in a line of dialogue towards the end of the film.
It is very difficult to be uncomfortable without provoking, since at no time does it seem like a gratuitously provocative film to me, despite the fact that it is being sold as “the nastiest movie”because it really is, but in a very stylish and effective way.
“Smoking causes cough”
Facing a work by Quentin Dupieux for the first time is an amazing task, as was my case, and the fact is that the director himself has branded this film as being “something dumber”. And it is. Wow yes it is. And in the best of ways.
The film starts with a patrol of superheroes with tobacco powers (as it is read) that literally destroy a mutant turtle (?) and receive the news from their boss that he is a rat with a huge sexual appetite that they retire on spiritual vacations to get the group together. As read.
What follows will be stories told by them at a bonfire, and in which we see different misadventures, each one more bizarre than the previous one, in a humor that works perfectly in its 80-minute duration and that it really shows that they have added the stories because the history of these Power Rangers of tobacco did not give for more.
And still it doesn’t matter. Because the good time that it makes you have a good time, also in a Sitges session with the audience more than dedicated and applauding continuously, because it is a film that fits great between horrors and malefactors in this edition of the Festival.
The South Korean thriller has been one of the fundamental pillars of the new modern thriller not only internationally but also worldwide. Movies like “Old boy”, “Parasite” or “I found the devil” have revolutionized the history of cinema. “Declaration of emergency” would not enter so much in this type of South Korean cinema, but it opens more to the public in a cinema closer to “Train to Busan”, for example. A popular, mainstream, entertaining and conventional cinema but with all the touches that underpin and define the South Korean thriller.
Almost two and a half hours is how long this film lasts and it was clear to the filmmaker Han Jae-rim that the inclusion of all genres (this is already common, especially mixing comedy and drama) and possible elements was going to be the basis in the one that would base everything: action, tension, comedy, drama, emotion, chases, a spectacular sequence shot, a psychopathic villain, all supported by two interpretive legends such as Song Kang-ho and Lee Byung-hun who for the fan of the South Korean cinema it is quite a thrill to see them reunited again, even if it is for brief moments.
A whole lot of enjoyment with an almost 90s soul and it is that type of film in which you vibrate in the seat, you experience the tension and the drama like those victims on the plane, and you celebrate (and in Sitges, of course, you applaud) every moment in the one where the hero wins, even if it’s a small victory.
It seems to me to be one of the best South Korean thrillers (and movies, why lie to us) in recent years, a real emotion that hopefully can reach Spain due to the more than devoted public that grows more and more after successes like “Parasites” or the Netflix series “The Squid Game”.
“Something in the Dirt”
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have been two pillars of the new modern American indie sci-fi cinema, making films with very low budgets like “Spring” or “The Endless”, in which they even acted themselves. They made an important leap in 2019 with “Synchronic”, when two actors of the caliber of Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie could star in it, but above all the leap occurred when Marvel signed them to direct some of the chapters of the “Moon Knight” series and “Loki”.
With stardom already assured, the American tandem returns to its origins, I imagine that to balance the balance a little and in a field in which they will feel more than comfortable, with a film that is practically made in the same location, and in the that both act again giving absolute priority to dialogue, written by and for them.
Dialogues that talk about life, their relationships, their concerns between the paranormal and the fantastic, a kind of “mumblecore” genre that, it is true, never shines like other proposals like “Primer” but that, thanks to the use of its frenetic montage with archive images and continuous cuts, they make it a complete visual and narrative experience, where Benson and Moorhead have absolute freedom to extract everything they have in their heads, and to experiment in a risky, almost suicidal film that makes you question their purpose beyond one’s own constant navel gaze.
At no time does it reach any time of transcendence but I do not know if it intends to, beyond the fact that these two directors have made a film that interests them more than the viewer himself.
Iker Gonzalez Urresti