ENJOY THE MOVIES
Every generation deserves its own fresh new take on the romantic comedy. The problem is that nowadays this genre has become marginalized and neglected for romanticizing abusive relationships and encouraging destructive behavioral patterns. So young directors have decided to disguise their new romcoms as movies about searching for oneself and making sense of oneself before they can feel comfortable in a relationship. Spanish filmmaker Andrea Bagney's feature debut Ramona, which premiered at the 2022 Karlovy Vary Film Festival, is no exception to this rule. The film explores this intricate struggle to understand what's next in the life of a young woman. It's filmed in old fashioned black & white inspired by classic French cinema.
What kind of character are you in society? Are you a main character, or just a supporting character? Maybe you haven't even been cast in any role yet? Where do you fit in? What even is your "role" and can you change it? These are just of few of the questions that might come to mind when watching this funky, clever, strange, intriguing German film titled The Ordinaries (also known as simply Subtext for its release in Europe). The film had its world premiere at the 2022 Karlovy Vary Film Festival in Czechia, a perfect place for for this quirky, one-of-a-kind film to premiere, as it's not the kind of film most mainstream audiences will have any interest in. Only those that love cinema, and love stories about cinema (and how it all works), and love films that make you think and figure them out, will appreciate this. That said, I still think it's an ingenious and captivating film about breaking out of your "role" in society and becoming whoever it is you want to be.
God is everywhere. God is in the land, God is in the rain, God is in the snow, God is in the air. But is God in men? I'm not so sure, considering how despicable men can be… Godland is a Danish / Icelandic film that initially premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. Many critics who saw it then were saying it deserved to be in the Main Competition in Cannes, not in the Un Certain Regard section. Now that I've caught up with the film at the 2022 Karlovy Vary Film Festival, I couldn't agree more. Not only is the film truly spectacular enough to play in competition, it probably would have won an award because it deserves all the acclaim and more; acclaim from critics and hopefully from other festivals it shows up at later this year. It's going to be in my Top 10 this year, and it'll probably be in the Criterion Collection soon enough. I'm glad I waited to watch this on a big screen, it is a MUST for this movie. Cinematography of the year in this disarming masterwork.
In the growing subgenre of climate change-related science fiction cinema, filmmakers are trying to get more and more creative with ideas addressing the disastrous future Earth is headed towards (much sooner than later). One of the latest creations is Vesper, an indie post-apocalyptic sci-fi creation from Lithuania, also known as Vesper Chronicles or Vesper Seeds. The film premiered at the 2022 Karlovy Vary Film Festival in Czechia this summer after years of production & post-production work during the pandemic. The best part about Vesper is all that they pull off on a small scale, with limited resources, as it feels much bigger than it is and all of the practical FX and prosthetics are impressive. As for the film itself, it's a somewhat compelling story of a smart young woman surviving in the woods all the while trying to develop and germinate special seeds that will help humanity escape & recover from oppressive forces that control the remaining survivors.
Everyone is familiar with the concept of Schrödinger's cat, right? Is there a cat in the box, or not? Here's the formal definition: "In quantum mechanics, Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment that illustrates a paradox of quantum superposition… a hypothetical cat may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of its fate being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur." How can this apply to a horror script? Well, you have to watch and find out. Zalava is a horror film from Iran that completely rocked me at a midnight screening at the 2022 Karlovy Vary Film Festival. I am just catching up with it now after it first premiered at the 2021 Venice & Toronto Film Festivals last fall. Holy hell I'm glad I didn't read anything about this before, because it's a thrilling experience to discover exactly how they have crafted a brilliant Schrödinger's cat horror about a demonic force threatening a remote village in Kurdistan.
We're in a fascinating era of modern science fiction where a majority of all science fiction movies right now are about climate change and/or ecological disaster. Rightfully so, because it's an unquestionably important topic and something that all sci-fi filmmaker & storytellers are always thinking about. It's also good material for sci-fi stories because looking out into the future means there will be something to deal with regarding humanity's survival, whether it be developing ways to survive and fix the climate/environment, or how to deal with the aftermath/fall out, or how people will respond when the shit really hits the fan. Rubikon is another one of these sci-fi movies directly addressing climate change, with an intriguing original concept. What if three scientists on a space station witness an apocalyptic event on Earth, leaving them as the only humans left alive? What do they do next, how do they respond? Should they go down and try to help, or not?
I'm going going, back back, to Czechia Czechia. I've been coming to the Karlovy Vary Film Festival for years, but with the COVID-19 pandemic I took a break during 2020 and 2021. The last time I was here was in 2019 and honestly, it's great to be back again. This wonderful festival takes place in a tiny resort town located on the west side of Czechia, close to the German border. Having come here for years, and with the festival now celebrating its 56th year, I would argue that Karlovy Vary is an A-list festival, one of the most important and exciting festivals in Europe that takes place right after Cannes. Half the reason I go to KVIFF (as it's known for short) is to catch up with more of the Cannes films I missed. And perhaps even see a few of my favorites again - they're showing Park Chan-wook's Decision to Leave and Lukas Dhont's Close, and I'm considering grabbing tickets for these two which were my #1 + #2 favorites from the Cannes 2022. More than anything, I'm mainly here to watch more films. Always be watching - as I've written in the past.
With everyone complaining about films being so long these days (anything over two hours instantly becomes a discussion), why not go the opposite direction and just make a short film? Traveling to film festivals all over the world is a wonderful and exciting experience - not just because I hope to discover some gems (like Lara and The August Virgin) but because I get to watch all kinds of films. Big and small, good and bad. And inbetween all these screenings, there's plenty of time to think. To think about what you just saw, and how it could be better, or how perfect it is, how much you want others to see these films. Wrapping up my visit to the Karlovy Vary Film Festival this year, one thought that came to mind often (specifically about a few of the films) is: this would be better as a short film. So why not just make a short? It could be even better.
What if there really was a wolfboy? That's the concept for this film, The True Adventures of Wolfboy, a coming-of-age drama about a kid with a rare condition that makes him grow hair everywhere on his body. This film cannot really be compared with, say, Teen Wolf, instead it's much closer to The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot – an unexpected genre mashup that is actually more of a dramatic character study than anything else. The title may be a bit deceptive, but that's the point, because his "true adventures" are the experiences he has when he runs away from home, in search of his mother, and discovers the real world – and all its ugliness. One could say, perhaps, that it is uglier than he is. But then again he's not ugly, and the film is all about accepting who we are and learning to love ourselves no matter how we look or feel.
Most coming-of-age films are about teenagers, or younger kids, maybe even someone just starting their 20s. But it's rare we see a coming-of-age film about someone in their 30s, struggling with the realities of being an adult and growing up and how life changes right before your eyes. Before you know it, your hard-partying ways are over and many of your friends are gone and you're feeling lonely. What comes next? How do we figure out what matters? Who are we really? How do we proceed? These are just a few of the questions that The August Virgin attempts to confront, not with any definitive answers, but with a real intelligence and maturity that few films (of any genre) have. Originally titled La virgen de agosto, this Spanish film follows a woman in her early 30s as she drifts around Madrid during blazing hot summer weeks at the start of August.
He's finally back with another film! German filmmaker Jan Ole Gerster earned himself a modest following with his first feature debut, a B&W film from 2012 titled A Coffee in Berlin (also known as Oh Boy). The film is a cult classic because it's known as pretty much the definitive film about life in modern Berlin today, what it's like and how it feels and everything. Jan Ole Gerster is finally back on the scene with his second feature film, titled Lara, which is premiering back-to-back at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival then the Munich Film Festival this summer. It's another outstanding film from Gerster, and another outstanding character study, a portrait of a mother dealing with her thoughts and emotions and feelings on her 60th birthday. I just hope we don't have to wait seven more years for Gerster's next film, because he's a seriously talented filmmaker.
Seen at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Who doesn't love The Beatles? Wait – don't answer that question. But seriously - The Beatles are the best and their music will live on forever because it's so brilliant. Danny Boyle's latest film Yesterday, featuring a screenplay written by Richard Curtis (of Love Actually, Pirate Radio, About Time), presents a crazy concept: what if suddenly The Beatles didn't exist, no one know who they were, except for one guy. And that guy then played all their songs like they were his own and became famous because they're still brilliant songs. That's the setup for Yesterday, except, this is a Richard Curtis film – which means that, not only is it actually more of a sweet love story, but it's really all about life itself and focusing on what matters rather than giving it up chasing fame and fortune and glory. Just not worth it.