Saturday, 28 November

If you imagine a certain frame for the second day of the festival, then two diametrically opposite films are almost a perfect fit for it.

So, my Tuesday started with an American film The Dead Don’t Die. And it finished also with an American on-screen work “The Cossacks”.

The former was shot this year by the cult and adored by all the festivals Jim Jarmusch. The latter, a black-and-white silent historical drama, was shot by George W. Gill and Clarence Brown in 1928.

The Dead Don’t Die is actually a song by a country singer Sturgill Simpson that is always on the radio in the sleepy little town of Centerville. It is associated with one of the funniest jokes of the film, “Why is this song so familiar?” asks the policeman played by Adam Driver. “This is the main soundtrack,” his partner with the face of Bill Murray replies.

Shot from the film The Dead Don’t Die

The news that Jarmusch shot a film about zombies keeps shifting towards the reduction of sensationalism even in the first half an hour. Because it is a typical film by Jarmusch. And, of course, it is no horror, but a black comedy. In addition to Driver and Murray, there is Tilda Swinton as the owner of the funeral home, who has a perfect command of a samurai sword, Tom Waits, disguised as a crazy partisan Hermit Bob, a provincial racist performed by Steve Buscemi with the inscription Keep America White Again on the cap and extremely organic Iggy Pop as a bloodthirsty dead man.

There is everything that Jarmusch is loved for – the above-mentioned humor (a list of verbal and visual jokes would take more than one paragraph), smooth and ironic direction, fascinating camerawork (Frederic Elms), slow and phlegmatic acting, which remains the same even after the beginning of the slaughter. And in fact, those who reprimand Jarmusch for a failed attempt to fit into the history of zombie horror, remember that the best films of the founder of the genre – George Romero – were also in the first place very scathing satire and then horrors. I would love The Dead Don’t Die to come out in Ukraine.

The Cossacks is one of the samples of the early Hollywood blockbuster. In Odesa, it was shown with the appropriate scope: in the open air, on the Potemkin Stairs, accompanied by a symphonic orchestra and choir. Back in time, the MGM Studio built the whole Cossack village for these shootings in Los Angeles and brought more than 100 real cossacks – emigrants from the Russian /Soviet Empire.

Shot from the film The Cossacks

A composer Robert Israel, whose grandfather once emigrated from Odesa, was invited to create the soundtrack. Israel specializes in the musical accompaniment of silent films; while preparing for the Cossacks, the composer adapted and arranged classical Ukrainian music, in particular, the works of Mykola Lysenko, Kyrylo Stetsenko, Semen Hulak-Artemovsky, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, traditional folk songs and even the anthem of Ukraine.

The plot is based on the story by Leo Tolstoy and is a kind of educational novel. The main character is Lukashka – the son of severe Cossack chieftain. However, the guy avoids the eternal war with the Turks, but studies books, exercises in the art of riding and pursues the beautiful Maryana. But you can not escape from the battle fate, and soon Lukashka becomes a successful fighter, and while he is at war, the Tsar’s son comes to the village from Moscow, which greatly complicates the situation. There is a lot of battle scenes, lots of dancing.

Of course, there are tons of kitsch and errors here – from cossacks playing the balalaika (!) to the Ukrainian-Turkish skirmish in the Grand Canyon. But in the end, the magic of the great American cinematography works – there are brilliant acting, horseback stunts, that take the breath away even now, a plot, swift as the cossack saber – all this make any blunders and inelegancies unimportant. First of all – this is a wonderful movie, and with the efforts of Israel, the film was born again.

Somewhere between these contrasting poles, the beginning of the International Competition lurked. It was opened by the Danish-Swedish drama Queen of Hearts (Dronningen, directed by May El-Toukhy). The main character is an older middle-aged woman named Anna (Trine Dyrholm) – the head of a successful law firm, that specializes in cases involving children and adolescents, and takes the most difficult cases – rape, other crimes of violence. She is happily married to Peter and has twin girls. The harmony begins to crumble when Peter’s son from a previous marriage Gustav moves in. It is hard for Peter to restore the relationship with the practically lost son, but Anna strives to reach out to the embittered teenager. And she succeeds too much and even starts an affair with him.

Shoot from the film Queen of Hearts

This film won the audience award at Sundance festival, and it is clear why: the direction is straightforward, the plot cracks from frontal strong emotions in the second half and in the end. This is a clear melodrama, somewhat burdened by a hint of incest, but in general, it corresponds to the format of the festival – “problematic” cinema. However, the victory of the film in its section is seriously doubtful.

The third day of the OIFF – Sunday, July 14 – will be held in the shadow of the great name – the British director Mike Leigh: there will be screenings of his two films and a creative meeting of the master with the festival audience.

To be continued.

Dmytro Desyateryk, “Day” – especially for opinionua.com

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