Films & Feni: Winding Down

Posted on December 4, 2009


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DEC 4, 2009 – IT’S THE PENULTIMATE DAY of the festival, there’s a weariness in the air, and not even the promise of the closing film – Almodovár’s Broken Embraces, on the big screen – is enough to deliver a frisson of excitement. Perhaps it’s because, save for the media, most others have left to do what they otherwise do while not watching three (or four, or five) films a day. Perhaps it’s just the general tiredness, the glazed eyes and the overworked brains. Or perhaps it’s that all the must-see films have been seen, and there are only repeats (for the most part) on screens now. This, however, is useful to movie-gluttons like me, who can now get to catch up on the less pressing pleasures of the festival – like Patrice Chéreau’s 2003 feature, Son Frère.

SON FRÈRE (HIS BROTHER) IS PART OF A special section screening films from France – and it was easy to account for the handful of people in the theatre. Even discounting the film’s age, there’s the theme of two estranged brothers brought together when one of them falls ill. Chéreau isn’t one to shy away from close-ups – both literally (you can practically do a thread count on the fabric of a shirt draping a shoulder) and figuratively. His focus isn’t the story but the characters, the brothers – one gay, one straight; one literally unwell, the other’s ill-health being the result of years of suppressed emotions – and if there are no new revelations (you can see the end coming long before it does), it’s still a powerfully acted drama that shows why, however much you try, you can never really break away from family.

THE THAI ENTRY, JAN DARA part of a retrospective devoted to Nonzee Nimibutr – saw a much better attendance, thanks in no small part to the programme booklet revealing, in a synopsis, that the protagonist “is a boy growing up in 1930s Siam in a wealthy, dysfunctional family where sex has a huge impact on everyone’s lives.” That’s no understatement. Just about everyone in the family fornicates with everyone else – servant boys and servant girls, aunts and nephews, husbands and mistresses – and all this carnality is shot in amber hues more suited to a soft-core film than a supposedly hard-nosed examination of how our passions can slay us, and how sons are doomed to repeat the mistakes of fathers. The laughable melodrama plays like something written by a Tennessee Williams of the tropics, and that’s no compliment.

AND THE AWARD FOR THE BEST TITLE of the festival goes to… Vitus Zeplichal’s Zapping-Alien@Mozart-Balls, which drew footfalls surely due to the desire to see if the film had anything to do with E.T. making a lunge for the family jewels of the composer of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The German feature charts the adventures of a geek who signs a pact with someone named, uh, Mrs. Devil to develop a computer game which will subliminally enhance the consumption of drugs. Characters dressed up like Harpo Marx and the Blues Brothers appear for no apparent reason other than to make this surreal mix of the virtual and the real more of a mindfuck than it already is. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Mozart-Balls are little round chocolates designed for tourists. Who saw that coming?

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