ÉCU 2016 Opening Night Film Reviews

BOX by Mathias Askeland (Norway)BOX
Watch two people show you the complacency that settles with long-term relationships in five minutes. The shelf life of their romance has expired and comfort has lodged between them like a thorn to the side, when thorns come in the form of passive-aggressive accusations of relationship follies and dissipated chemistry. Lovers: brace yourselves. Recently separated: Box is right there with you.

The saying goes that you’ll never know a person unless you’ve walked in their shoes. And so in Mother’s Day, a mother says goodbye to her son from a flipped perspective, which is at once heartbreaking and chock-full of painful understanding. The dichotomy between a mother’s love for her offspring than that of the latter’s reverberates with uneasy inequity: the latter does not come even close to the former. Mother’s Day shows us that we are all wittled down to selfish children at our core, and that maybe we should go home and hug our moms more often.

“This is a real goodbye. I cannot walk in circles ‘til I die. Cut the ties and let it go. I’ve crossed the line I drew so long ago.” Circles should come with a warning attached to it: not for the heartbroken. But if you want to watch two people clearly in love let each other go against their will after a cloyingly sweet two-minute love-bugged dance in a field fit for the girls from Pride and Prejudice, at least make sure your tissues are nearby and your cellphone is far out of reach.

Officer Arnaud really loved his mom. Thirty seconds too long into a painful dance tribute, we can certainly see that. The gem of Thunder Road is its recognition of the spectacle of a breakdown. Want to be truly entertained? Induce a vulnerable man on the verge of said breakdown. Sit back with a bucket of popcorn and enjoy the show.


THE SESSION by Edouard de La Poëze (France)
A lot of weird things happened back in the day. One of them was post-mortem photography. Before we all atrophy and decide the world is screwed beyond measure regardless, take a minute to understand that these things were norm-core at one point. The Session takes us into a Victorian era photo shoot at first, and – a couple of well-edited cuts later – slams the small detail that is post-mortem like a comedian throwing a final punchline. A way, way twisted punchline.

“In the beginning how the heav’ns and earth rose out of chaos.” Genesis quotes John Milton’s Paradise Lost to kick-off nearly three minutes of sonic punches to the face. Chemical enhancements shall never be consumed further; Genesis fulfills enough trips to saturate your next several fixes. And that, ladies and gentleman, was how the world was made.


PUT DOWN by Rick Limentani (United Kingdom)
Awkward millenial deadbeats are sort of really adorable. There is no real threat of looming poverty but the “suffering” from lack of direction is kind of delightful to watch unfold. In that case, we can call protagonist John of Put Down drop-dead cute. With his poncy British accent further highlighting his harmlessness, John is naïve but still not detestable. We want to root for him in all his constantly befuddled British glory. He’s too sweet! He can’t lose! Until he does.


ROSSO PAPAVERO by Martin Smatana (Slovakia)
Rosso Papavero is like when you take a music box and submerge it into your dreams. Except in this particular dream everyone is made of clay and smiles all the time. Its sparkly animation (keyword: sparkly) matches murky sound effects in lieu of actual dialogue. Kind of like your childhood – complete with a trip to the circus – and just the right variety of ethereal and cute without edging on creepy.


DISCIPLINE by Christophe M. Saber (Switzerland)
Fights. Misunderstandings. A back-handed slap. A punch in the face. How many times have you watched the hullaballoo from afar? Or walked by it completely, slowing your pace in interest but ultimately letting it crescendo without you? Nevermind that you stand at 160 cm and 50 kilos. You should’ve been in that fight! Making a testament to humanity! Telling it like it is! No more of these passive-aggressive social niceties that we all publicly abide. Hair-pulling! Bottle-throwing! Mom-insulting! Let’s go! Or, just watch Discipline and let the brouhaha hilariously unfold.


SPARKS by Areej Mahmoud (Lebanon)
Ride around Lebanon with a full night-out’s worth of sensory overload. Pass shady dealers and store-front street dwellers. Hear ashes burn while hookahs bubble and low conversation reverberate underneath the backdrop of the city’s tone. Take a deep breath of the smog-ridden air and feel like you’re right at home. Get your ass kicked, and then get back up. Move on with your night the way it always will.

REFUGEESREFUGEES by Eduardo Hernandez Perez and Hans Jaap Melissen (Netherlands)
You’re hearing about the refugee crisis – hundreds of thousands of people crossing the ocean in rubber rafts. But what do you actually know? By way of these people’s perspectives, probably nothing. But as Refugees demonstrates, perspective is key. Refugees is shot in panoramic view from the edges of the migrants’ journey. One by one, men, women, and children pile out of boats, walk alongside miles of empty road, unsure of their asylum status but carrying on in the name of survival. This is all to the narration of global leaders advocating for their removal from their respective countries, like a sonic middle finger to these people’s plights that we plainly see on-screen. We all want to say it: the contrast between what we hear and what we see is confounding. But like all things, I guess we’ve got to see it to believe it.

WHILE YOU WERE AWAY by Ben Mallaby (United Kingdom) WHILE YOU WERE AWAYHusband screws up while wife is away. Guilty husband shakes like a chihuahua admitting his fault when wife returns. Wife shrugs it off. Husband is relieved. This is the storyline of While You Were Away in a nutshell. We’ve all heard this story before. Pretty simple, right? Now throw in some hilarious dialogue to line the kind of seriousness and imagery akin to a primetime television scandal drama. While You Were Away and the irony in its contrast leaves you simultaneously uncomfortable and amused the way great ironic things do.

Written by Dara Kim

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