Apparently, British director Mike Leigh has become the central person of the third festival day. He answered questions from viewers and journalists at an hour and a half creative meeting at the Rodina cinema, after that he presented his most successful film Secrets & Lies awarded Palme d’Or at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.
This gray, old, yet sharp, concentrated and rather a harsh man looks at the cinema and the life soberly, sarcastically, not falling into unnecessary melancholy. In this regard, he himself resembles his own films – often made as serious dramas but with glimmers of irony and hope. Leigh doesn’t like Hollywood approach to the films though he grew up on Hollywood films, he sees nothing ill in big budgets only if you don’t pay your inspiration for this, Brexit and the rise of far-right parties he perceives as a result of social inequality from the one side and genuine manipulation from the other, and he chooses the actors not so much by their appearance as by the nature and level of intelligence – here, by the way, the “intellectual Harlequin” of Les Kurbas comes to mind.
Speaking about Sunday program screenings, it seems that the main motive here is a person who lost in life.
Thus long-anticipated National Feature Competition opened with the film Projectionist (Ukraine-Poland). First, director Yuriy Shylov, one of the co-founders of the group “CUK” (Contemporary Ukrainian Cinema) made the documentary short film Projectionist about the projectionist Valentyn, who for 44 years worked at the Kyiv cinema, and his friend and colleague Volodya, who worked there just a little less. While Shylov searched for the money for a feature version, a fire occurred in the cinema, Valentyn lost his job and fell ill, and then the first panoramic cinema theatre in the USSR closed down altogether.
The first half of the film is almost entirely unfolded in the cinema and at Valentyn’s home, where the projectionist takes care of his bed-ridden grandmother. Projection and adjacent production facilities are a clear illustration of the thesis about work as life: here they have their hair cut, dance, drink, celebrate the birthdays and New Years, half-naked girls run and swear words fly around. Valentyn who, for some reason, is called Vitya is a merrymaker and wit, he doesn’t lose heart even it the plights of life. To find such a character is a dream for any documentalist but Yuriy has also managed to properly process the material, diving the film by two parts – before and after dismissal – completely different in rhythm and mood.
As a result, a soul-crushing portrait came out – a cinema and a projectionist, a doomed house and a lost person. In the end, when Volodya suddenly starts to dance under the swift kitsch melody, Shylov reaches nearly Muratova’s level of tragicomedy.
The protagonist of Initials S.G. (Rania Attieh, Daniel Garca, Argentina, United States, Lebanon) Sergio Garces is in his 50s but he continues boozing, smoking weed and hunting skirts. Friends call him Frenchie because when he was younger he recorded an album of Spanish language covers of Serge Gainsbourg songs and ultimately believed in his own Frenchness. He dreamed about main roles, actor glory – instead, he is filmed in crowd scenes and porn. His life gradually falls apart, he is piled by more and more absurd troubles until he simply shots in the head. In that very moment, he receives long-awaited glory. All according to the phrase – lived sinfully and died ridiculously. Startling performance of Diego Peretti makes this film almost an exemplary embodiment of the genre of black comedy.
The director of Synonyms Nadav Lapid (France, Israel, Germany – Festival of Festivals section) has written off the behaviour of the character of his film from his own biography. Same as a young Israeli Yoav (Tom Mercier) Nadav once has decided to break the ties not only with his family but also with Israel, he fled to Paris, refused to speak Yiddish and began to build French identity.
Actually, this struggle for personal self-identification is shown through a series of brilliantly discovered directorial techniques. Synonyms is a French dictionary, the words from which Yoav throws right and left, sometimes inappropriately. The camera gallops together with the protagonist often being directed just at the asphalt because the guy refuses to look at the city sights unless he finds “the heart of the city”. He is a weirdo, sincere to the rupture of the aorta, he is stifled by the hypocrisy of that in Israel, and in France – and therefore he is doomed to loneliness, to a desperate knocking at a locked door. The film turned out to be just as funny, as piercing and dramatic. This very dazzling coalescence brought a 44-year-old director Golden Bear Award for Best Film at the 2019 Berlinale.
On Monday, the National Competition continues with the screening of the frontline drama Eastman with Bohdan Beniuk in the leading role, Special Screenings section holds the premiere which is hated by the followers of the “Russian world” – Putin’s Witnesses by Vitaliy Mansky.
Dmytro Desyateryk, The Day – specially for opinionua.com