With a largely Eurocentric selection, as evidence of creative energies from different parts of the old continent, and in particular from the northern countries, the 24. International Film Critics Week (SIC) offers a variegated panorama of proposals, characterized, as usual, by the discovery of authorial talents and tendency lines. Beginning from the opening film and the linked special event (organized in collaboration with Giornate degli Autori – Venice Days), it is possible to recognize signs of anxiety, expressions of existential, social and political malaise, echoes from a not-so-far future that warn about a pre-apocalyptic present. In a global society governed by the worship of the image, and narcotized by the myths of money and success, sunk in the culture of the social control, and degraded by the representatives in power themselves, a subway links immense territories and the television promotes the purchase of a shampoo with dangerous effects.
This is Metropia, the brilliant debut feature by the Swedish Tarik Saleh that this year opens the SIC. For different reasons, this title is linked to Videocracy by the Italo-swedish director Erik Gandini. You bet this movies will take the attention of the press and the media, and of the audience too, for its ambition to understand the state of our democracy facing the over-power of the TV images. Here is the future, no need to hide it, and we Italians should know it well: Orwell’s prophecies are already the present, it is sufficient to connect Taleh’s fantasies – with the voices of Vincent Gallo and Juliette Lewis – with the apparently expressionless eye of Gandini on the Italian TV bestiary and our culture of appearing (Big brother, would-be showgirls “veline”, Lele Mora and Fabrizio Corona), trying to depict the birth of a political and mediatical scenario that has our Prime Minister as its centre, telling of events that seem to be already old at the same time when we are studying their consequences.
There is a theme that goes through the debut films selection of this year (all in world premiere). It is the theme of illusion, that shows itself both in the European countries and the Far Eastern countries, also in the most hot territories of the fundamentalist Islam, those one of the uprising Iran (to which we dedicates a double, shocking regard). The illusion of a personal, existential and political change, in a wounded and suffering world, but ready for a redemption, like in the beautiful debut feature by Claudio Noce. In his film Good Morning Aman the director shows Italy and a multi-ethnic Rome shaking his camera and his eyes all around the inescapable encounter of two lost souls, a Somaly boy who dreams of changing his life, and an ex boxer hurted by life that use the boy in order to redeem his own existence. A precious debut that shows the presence of lively energies in our cinema, even if in a state of permanent crisis.
This condition of being lost in the city is the mirror image of Alzbeta, the young protagonist of Lištičky (Foxes), a Slovakian girl who hides his deep need and illusion of re-establishing a relation with her sister, with her anxious movements in a not-so-hospitable Ireland.
Trajectories that seems to be always the same, but that in reality are just dominated by an order that is only apparent and hides the chaos of existential drifts. In Domaine by the French Patric Chiha, a charming Béatrice Dalle, a middle-aged mathematician, determines the desires, the still indefinite choices and the sexuality of her 17 years old nephew, deceitfully involving herself and the boy until the inevitable separation, with the help of the alcoholism and the progressive acceptance of the passage of time.
Time of the life that is difficult to accept, bodies that grow older, but that don’t give up looking for desire and the consequent, illusory, but rational attempts to harmonize the chaos of feelings. In the other Swedish film, this one in competition, Det enda rationella (A Rational Solution) by Jörgen Bergmark, we assist at a post-Bergmanian scene with more marriages, and the sexual confidence and the irony of the scripwriter of Kitchen Stories, here at his debut feature as director.
It’s hard to find a solution in the social and political chaos of the contemporary Teheran, never depicted with such an intensity and violence like in the film directed by Nader T. Homayoun, Tehroun: we are in front of one of the first vision of the hell from a city that in these days is uprising, showing its dissent. It is a provocative film for its courage and its unusual representation of criminal undergrowth and social decay composed by beggars recruited by a criminal organization dealing with a traffic of newborn babies, thieves who burst into the houses of the young riches, prostitutes in public parks with the traditional veil, and religious authorities who behaves like the worst bank institutes, instead of helping people in trouble. A punch to the stomach, in short.
From Iran to the contemporary Russia the step is short: also here there are corrupted civil servants, a society going faster than its History consents. In Kakraki (Crowfish Like), a middle-aged rich and apparently happy politician (that seems Alberto Sordi in one of the Italian style comedies of the ‘60s) is in the dumps and dreams of a change in his life, not only by harmonizing his powerlessness in front of the modernity all around him (studying Chinese, learning to swim), but also – why not? – languidly, more and more helplessly falling in love with a wonderful girl. In a crescendo of dramatic Gogolian situation leading him first to prison and then to death, with no hope at all. A comedy that becomes a love story, and then a drama. A revelation, for sure.
Love and the illusion of recognizing our own paths in one of the most surprising film of this selection, Café Noir, debut feature by the former Korean film critic Jung Sung-il. A little more than three hours are requested, with the promise of fulfilment for heart, soul and mind. This movie is inspired by two literature masterpieces, The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe and White Nights by Dostoevskij, and displays an elegant game of seductions and film quotes, involved in a overall design that links two distinct parts in a single symphony of feelings. A love at the first sight, for us selectors.
In the end, a return to Iran with a film that seems to come directly from the lesson of Kiarostami, but even surpassing it in a direction that use the metaphor as a way to understand the reality: in Chaleh (The Pothole) – the closing film of the SIC 2009, out of competition – there is all the contrast between the old and the new, fundamentalisms and aspiration to modernity, in the story of an old mechanic that bears all the cynicism of his own poverty.