Tuesday, 29 September

Today, July 21, the festival is coming to its end. In the last day, two important programs have finished: Festival of Festivals and Retrospective Naomi Kawase also there was a premiere of the closing film – “The trouble with you”. In terms of tonality and format, both of them are very different works, the OIFF finale, let’s say, turned out to be contrasting.

“An Elephant sitting still”, Hu Bo, China, 2018

Shot from the film “An Elephant sitting still”

This is a movie with a legend. Its author, 29-year-old director and writer Hu Bo, committed a suicide before the final cut was complete.

Such stories undoubtedly impose an imprint on the perception of the film. However, “An Elephant sitting still” is still that kind of movie, the credibility of which does not require such fatal proofs.

This is a story of 4 characters in one day in a small town in the north of China. The teenager, while protecting his friend, pushed the school hooligan from the stairs, after that he dies. Brother of the deceased is a local influential bandit. Now he has to get even with the culprit. Beloved of the latter gets into a fat scandal with vice-dean of the same school. An elderly man that also gets involved in these events, doesn’t want to be in the nursing home, where his son dreams to put him.

The fate of these very different people is gradually interwoven in slow, melancholic stories, a four-hour timing of which you just don’t notice. All of them are united by one dream: To see in a remote Manchurian town an elephant that is sitting motionless, refusing to eat or sleep – just like a Buddhist monk during the meditation.

Sometimes it’s even hard to believe that it was filmed by a 29-year-old author. Exquisite minimalism of the image, possession of the depth of the frame appeals to the best European traditions. The volume of actors’ work takes your breath away. Hu Bo could have become a great master.

But this movie is enough for immortality.

“Suzaku” Naomi Kawase / Japan / 1997

Shot from the film “Suzaku”

The action unfolds in a small village where the author of the film was growing up. We observe the life of one family for 15 years since the first decades after the Second World War. The head of the family Tahara Kozo lives with his mother Sachiko, wife Yasuyo, nephew Eisuke and daughter Michiru. He’s passionate about the plan of building a tunnel to improve transport connections. However, time does not change into better: The railway project was refused, the family impoverished, misfortune captured Kozo’s house.

Shot from the film “Suzaku”

This film doesn’t lack sad events, however, Kawase tells us about them with a restrained, balanced intonation that does not interfere with the overall drama.  Here, almost Chekhov’s manner of her director’s style showed up. The plot develops slowly, but its twists are not as important, as details insignificant at the first glance: sound of the springs, songs of cicadas, light of the stars at night, noise of the wind in the tops of the mountain forests that surround the heroes’ house, glances and gestures between conversations. We can say that this film is an ideal piece of the pause art. Also, the confessions of love in this place, which is especially noticeable in the entirely plotless inserts of semi-amateur filming of the locals, so different and so good-looking ordinary Japanese people.

In the mid-1990s, during the time of the big premieres, pervasive “Pulp Fiction” and proclaimed “death of the cinema” this approach seemed to be truly revolutionary. Because of it “Suzaku” deservedly received the “Golden Camera” of the Cannes Film Festival.

“The trouble with you” Pierre Salvadori, France, 2018

Shot from the film “The trouble with you”

French film “The trouble with you” Is a black comedy, which initial circumstances don’t seem ridiculous. The protagonist here is detective Yvonne. She is a young widow of a police officer and a local hero Santi.  She finds out that her husband was not as exemplary as his little son thinks: he sent an innocent person behind the bars in order to cover the scam from which he was gaining. Antoine had spent 8 years in prison as a scapegoat. Yvonne can’t destroy the image of the father hero in her son’s eyes, but she will do everything to help Antoine to redeem. The latter has difficulties with adaptation to a free life, he quickly loses self-control. Events are accumulated, becoming more and more absurd.

Indeed, “The trouble with you” Is a comedy, which however affects the issues that are far from comedy: the presumption of innocence, the limits of the law, the contradiction between formal law and justice, the state’s monopoly on the use of violence and the danger that comes alongside this monopoly. Yvonne eventually manages to unravel all the chaos, including one of her personal life. Sometimes it’s funny to do this – but this is the purpose of cinema to make you laugh where the tears are more than enough.

Soon, this night, in the Opera and Ballet Theater will be a solemn closing ceremony of the festival, where winners of the main awards will be announced. Not so much time is left for waiting.

Text by Kostyantyn Levin

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