Second day of the 5th edition of the Barcelona – Sant Jordi International Film Festival. Our colleague Fausto Fernández tells us what happened.
That day when Robert Stigwood squeezed all his disco potential in 1978. For clubs we are not yet, less in the BCN Film Fest that this morning has made us accredited journalists live not a disco film, but the very list of Schindler spielbergiana. Let me explain: we were all waiting to enter the screening of Mamá María, Jean-Paul Salomé’s criminal comedy with Isabelle Huppert (both present in Barcelona and the event), when we saw members of the Festival team go from one place to another telling us which sheep of Carmen Sevilla. Would we have multiplied the pens like loaves and fishes of cinematographic information? Did some irresponsible person think of feeding us after midnight or getting us wet? Well no, the solution to the enigma was simpler than all this: the viewing of the film was not going to take place in the large Verdi theater, but in one of the small ones, number 4, and, of course, the capacity was not the same. Thus, as if it were not known how many of us wore that plastic with a photo and a barcode around our neck, there were a few moments of tension in case we could all have a seat in a room with its capacity reduced for security reasons. Server entered among the first and was attentive every fifteen minutes of delay before the projection to guess if a colleague, or even friend (rare thing), was left out. Many are called and few are chosen. But I think that in the end we all found accommodation in view of the discussion of the heavy duty on duty with someone who had occupied a seat not assigned to be one.
With regard to room 4 of the Verdi I have to add to this anecdote of no importance whatsoever that for some time I have been panicking to go to it. No, there is no spectral or demonic presence there, and that there have been dark characters. What is there, on the wall that you run into when climbing the stairs, is a mural painted with cinephile images. The horror, which Colonel Kurtz would affirm if he were to undertake the journey to the heart of darkness of the person who perpetrated that mural. The most terrifying thing, not only because of the size of the drawing, is the one that is supposed (much to suppose) represents Francisco Rabal in Goya in Bordeaux. Although one is hardened in fright having been in the Wax Museum in Madrid, the sight of that huge bobblehead continues to cause cold sweats as it looks more like Paquirrín with myxomatosis than the late Azarías from Los Santos Inocentes.
However, nothing can stop the strong will moved by the cinephilia and professionalism of the chronicler. Nothing stopped her and if he must return to that room he will be ready with holy water, crucifixes, garlic and some sunglasses.
Speaking of sunglasses, yes, they were Johnny Depp’s gadget to attend the press conference at noon in which he asked to lose… he appeared before the scoundrel, along with Andrew Levitas, director, defending The Minamata photographer. Both were in the evening gala session (7.15pm) adding an extra and glamorous touch to the screening for the public (and authorities) of the film. The presence of the actor has been the media highlight of the Festival, somewhat noted by its organization, many of whose members behaved (and with all the reason in the world) like fans. The same thing happened to me when I wrote for the Spanish edition of the Hustler and I had to hang out with the stars of adult films. So seeing distributor executives, such as the fundamental A Contracorriente, alternate with whoever was Eduardo Manostijeras, Ed Wood Jr. or Jack Sparrow was moving. Or see the Festival director herself, Conxita Casanovas (still wearing her journalist hat since yesterday morning), with the same happy face before Depp as Steven Seagal before a two-kilo steak.
You see, things from film festivals, like the baton we have among various colleagues to guess how many times someone will address the actor as Johnny DEEP; or in case someone dares to ask him if his next interpretive challenge will be to embody our Fernando Simón.
The Grifa of the Others
Under the mask one guessed the continuous smile of Jaume Balagueró, jury of this edition and one more of the spectators (Oskar Schindler was on the list) in the first morning session of this Friday, April 16, during the screening of Mamá María. In addition to that smile there were many more, comparable to the laughter that this comedy, made without fanfare and without falling into caricature, signed by Jean-Paul Salomé started from the respectable. Surely the greatest virtue of the film is that it never wants to be openly a comedy, nor a thriller with policemen, interpreters, Chinese housewives, retired police dogs, drugs and drug traffickers, but that with a traditional treatment it ends up provoking those typical reactions mentioned above. Salomé does not seek the gag, but reaches it (if we can call it gag) from a classic narrative, even linear, but thanks to its plot, its development, and the naturalness and verisimilitude of what happens, it achieves the Same humorous effect.
Mamá María begins as a banlieu version of The Wire and La vida de los otros that ends up becoming a friendly (but with its acidity) variation of Breaking Bad. The Walter White of this French comedy is her, she is that Arabic interpreter who collaborates with the police (and maintains a romantic relationship with the police commander) and who is in debt but has too expensive childish whims. She is Isabelle Huppert and she is the soul, the queen of the show. How can you not love a film in which Huppert begins to sing the theme song for the television cartoon series Denver, the last dinosaur? How can one not surrender to an actress whose relationship with the comic genre is almost one of epidermal rejection, which she has been, the times she has been able to demonstrate it, her greatest humorous asset?
Laughing critic of capitalism and start-ups, Mamá María follows the tricks of Huppert’s character, unfolded like Jack Lemmon in the Parisian Irma la Dulce, as if we were following any veterinarian in Burgundy. With more points of contact with the cinema of our José María Forqué (A million in the trash), how this rookie camel will be able to sell or not a ton of chocolate constitutes the nucleus of a highly entertaining feature film that winks at Traffic and El pianista and that reveals a new utility for playing video games online.
Epilogue: watching Isabelle Huppert in the disguised role of Algerian daronne I saw our Victoria Abril all the time, so they are already taking time to offer her the remake of her.
Sleeping with his enemy
Guillermo Ríos’ first feature film, Only Once It seems that he is playing it safe by adapting and adapting to an original play by the Barcelona-based Marta Buchaca, who was also the author of the script. However, what can be presumed as something simple and without risks (three characters in a closed space) has always been a challenge for many filmmakers, starting with the established ones, so no less for a novice director. Guillermo Ríos, supported by Buchaca’s stupendous transfer of language and cinematographic space, moves with brilliant and stylized comfort through this almost unique setting, making us suspect that he has learned very well the lessons of two of the best cinematographic authors at the time to understand what it is to do film theater: Roman Polanski and Mike Nichols.
Only once is, as for example A Wild God, the Polanskian twist to Yasmine Reza’s play, a ceremony where social conventions and the social agenda (the theme of gender violence) surround some characters trapped in them and they are swapping roles, just as Ríos’s film swaps comedy and drama (and suspense thriller as well) to finally strip this trio. And Only Once is also, for example, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?, that bloody Nicholsian dialectical confrontation from Edward Albee’s (black) drama, a verbal duel between its protagonists, where truth and lies (or what we think it is true or false) they challenge each other in an exhilarating alternative way.
A good text, a wise script, an inspired director… What he just rounded off Only once is his cast. Ariadna Gil as that psychologist who attends to women who suffer gender violence and that couple formed by Silvia Alonso and Álex García know how to enter the game (the games) proposed. What is appreciated. Tomorrow they will be at the Festival, so you know.
Not without my son
In a day that filled sessions with Charles Chaplin’s short and feature films and that closed with that fragmented portrait of what is or is not the truth (Akira Kurosawa’s masterful Rashomon, debut of the CineAsia cycle at the BCN Film Fest), there was room for a discovery, something that in these times of globalization, starting with the viral, is increasingly rare and unusual. So close and so far, Portugal remains a great unknown to us in cinematographic terms. After the art and rehearsal days of Manoel de Oliveira, little, if nothing else, of what is produced and premiered in the neighboring country reaches us, I do not even speak of traditional exhibition circuits, because televisions are allergic to their productions , and some titles sometimes arrive via film libraries or festivals.
The arrival at the fifth edition of the Barcelona-Sant Jordi International Film Festival, in its official section, of Sombra, the powerful drama written and directed by Bruno Gascón, is therefore a pleasant discovery. It is always so not only to see yourself in front of a director with a unique and own universe, with a language that surprises you, but also with a film that takes a fact from the chronicle of Portuguese events to transform it into a unique and strange experience.
Sombra is something more than the obsessive and sick search (in an area of shadows where, paradoxically, the light is hidden) for a missing son by a mother who refuses to accept that loss. It is something more than a (otherwise as gripping as Otto Preminger’s The Abduction of Bunny Lake) thriller or as sick as Paul Schrader’s Hardcore: A Hidden World. Bruno Gascón feels comfortable (as Rodrigo Sorgoyen felt in Mother and Jonathan Glazer in Reincarnation) in the chiaroscuro of a luminously off Ana Moreira (another finding; today we are leaving), in his face, in his gazes towards the void ? and in a film destined to remain in our memory.