Before the Odesa premiere of the South Korean Parasite awarded with the Golden Palm a video message of the author of the film, Bong Joon-ho was shown on the screen. The 50-year-old director asked the audience not to reveal the most important plot twists of the picture, in other words – not to let on the spoilers.
This is what can be said: the movie is about a poor unemployed family that lives in a basement and lives on casual earnings. Their luck begins when the eldest son – not without fraud – gets a well-paid part-time job as a tutor in the estate of a wealthy businessman. The guy makes a good impression, and gradually the gullible rich hires the rest of the family as servants.
The plot is really sharp and full of unexpected twists. But there is another question: Cannes usually award not just fascinating films, but the works that discover something new in the language of the cinema.
Bong Joon-ho, who actually became famous for genre films, uses a sharp plot as a tool for the transmission of much deeper messages than in entertainment movies. What begins as an adventurous black comedy, consistently turns into a thriller, and then into a real drama, which, in turn, has motives of social inequality, and the price of material prosperity, and the struggle for one’s own dignity.
Yesterday, the National Competition had a shower of premieres: both blocks of short films were shown. The status of a FIPRESCI jury does not allow me to publish assessments of certain works, but without going into details, I am pleased to note that, with one or two exceptions, the overall level was consistently high, and almost every film had something to show – in directing, acting, in the formal receptions.
Another national premiere took place in the Competition of European Documentaries. Quite an unusual premiere.
Nadiia Parfan (born in 1986, Ivano-Frankivsk) studied culture at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, wrote articles, conducted public projects, organized protests, founded and managed the festival of cinema and urbanism “86” in Slavutych. Nadiia’s mother works in the municipal enterprise “Ivano-Frankivsk Heat and Power Authority”. This enterprise has its own trade union folk music choir. And here, at the intersection of these two facts – the love of Nadiia to the cinema and the existence of the choir in such a prosaic institution – a film with a quite logical name Heat Singers was born.
Nadiia chose not her mother as the protagonist, but the chairman of the trade union Mr. Ivan. His social life is very versatile – he even takes part in the tug of war competitions – but the choir, consisting of accountants, repairmen, locksmiths and dispatchers is definitely not a tedious load, but, on the contrary, a kind of Opus Magnum for the intelligent utility worker. The choir is coherent, almost professional, they easily win first places in the competitions inside the industry.
Of course, the obvious plot solution is a clash between communal prose and the solace of the song. But also, the author finds her own visual language for mundane life full of repair and water, showing all these strange devices, boiler rooms, cellars and pipes in a manner sometimes fitting a dystopian fantasy, and sometimes even a mystical thriller. This atmosphere is interrupted with a sharp comic note of telephone screams of angry consumers of heat and hot water who do not receive the heat; the utility workers, with their underfunding and the global collapse of the entire infrastructure, are not guilty of this, and these scandals sound both funny and sad.
And, of course, the songs. Lyrical, funny, combative, melancholic. An extra artistic dimension in this rusty and in a way fun parallel world.
The film has its typical debut flaws, but Parfan did what nobody did before her: shot quite a poetic film about our communal services.
Today, on the penultimate day of the festival, the winners of the FIPRESCI in the National Competition will be known, so, free from conflict of interest, I will be able to express my opinion about the Ukrainian OIFF films.
To be continued.
Dmytro Desyateryk, The Day – specially for opinionua.com