Leeds Film Festival - Day 8

Don't Get Me Wrong (Romania) (site)

This documentary was similar in style to the earlier Drifter, but where that film fell down in its monotonous static shots, Don't Get Me Wrong worked much better. Set in a Romanian psychiatric institution, and using no narration, the cameras quietly take in a small period in the lives of its inmates. Two in particular form the backbone of the experience, Alexander is a man who has become convinced that he is a supernatural being comparable to Christ, who is able to start and stop the rain at will; Ocsy has managed to find a smart suit from somewhere and walks around the institution debating with Alex about the notions of religion and the afterlife. (in fact, it was very difficult to tell whether he was an inmate or a visiting doctor..) The film's title comes from the phrase that prepended most of their discussions - 'don't get me wrong, but I disagree with your theories that you are God...'

Interspersed with these heated debates are more domestic scenes, of the other inmates wandering aimlessly around, some given certain responsibilities such as feeding and changing the nappies of those unable to do for themselves, while others spending their time occupying their minds as best they can, the most touching was a bloke who spent 40 years just moving a huge pile of stones a few feet to the left in the courtyard. Despite the sound of it, it was a touching tribute to forgotten lives and their day-to-day actions. 7/10

Cyanosis (Iran) (short film synopsis/trailer)

Running with Don't Get Me Wrong, this short documentary brought to the attention the work of an Iranian street artist, Jamshid Aminfar, who uses scraps of wood and car hubs as the canvas of his works; garish, demonic imagery representing his feelings and experiences, created using primary, saturated colours. These paintings come to life through a series of vivid animations that remain true to his style, and they seamlessly knit with the live-action sequences to great effect. Jamshid has his fair share of problems; his parents beat him, his friends and family shunned his decision to give up his previous menial jobs, his wife has nothing in common with him, and he regularly gets attacked by police and the artists struggling through the college at great expense who have to walk by him every day.

Cyanosis gives voice to the artist and the man just as his life is turning round; someone wants to set up an exhibition of his work, and a promising young French woman has taken an interest in him as well. It's a bittersweet tale of sticking to your guns, by the end of which I had changed from an initial revulsion to the art style to actually warm to it now it's muse had been explained to me. It left me wanting to see more of the guy's work, unfortunately there isn't much about online. 7/10

Out of Time (Austria)

Another documentary, this time about the slowly disappearing sight of high-street shops owned by families and individuals, rather than chain stores. It takes a handful of shopkeepers of varying types (a butcher, a leatherware store, a grocers and a button shop, all of which have been going for several decades and sometimes through many generations) and shows their situation under declining popularity in favour of chain stores, supermarkets and the internet.

What starts out as a fairly ordinary slice of life that seems to concentrate purely on their chocolate box appearance and appeal, begins to expand in size and warmth as the shopkeepers and their families begin to share with the audience their feelings of where they are in their lives; some are proud of their continued commitment, whilst others are left asking why exactly they decided to devote their lives to such a living instead of pursuing the dreams held in a younger life.

I was surprised at the amount of emotional investment I had placed in the film, which by the final chapters had moved from the shop to the people in it, and followed them at what for some is an end of a working life, one especially moving one has a shopkeeper returning to his emptied store which he had been a part of for the past seventy years, both joyful and bemused at what he would do in life now that his shop was no more. The strength of this film crept up on me and I was very glad I caught it. 7.5/10

Dream (S Korea)

Kim Ki-Duk is a favourite filmmaker of mine, especially after discovering some of his earlier films, such as 3-Iron and Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring at previous festivals. His films often use serene landscapes, relying on actions more than words (in 3-Iron, the two leading characters never spoke once) and playing on a number of recurring themes; a spiritual element derived often from eastern folklore, a cyclical approach to the story, and love under difficult circumstances.

Dream fits right into classic Ki-Duk filmmaking. Jin dreams that he is chasing his ex-girlfriend in his car, and collides with another car, before speeding off. He wakes up, and because the dream is so vivid, he drives to the scene of the accident, where true enough, the victims car is being picked up by the police. Following them to the house of the owner, Ran. She is dragged screaming to the station claiming she has been asleep the whole time, when he attempts to explain the situation to the forces, they naturally want nothing of it.

Turns out that he and the woman are connected by a curse - whatever the man dreams, the woman will act out in real-life, sleepwalking her way through it. Going to a mystic, she says that falling in love is the only way out. As they try all sorts to get round the situation, they realise they are connected indirectly via their ex-partners - whom she hates and he loves; they are ying and yang, two opposites and in fact two halves of the same spirit.

Ki-duks films are rarely predictable, and though you may think that the ending is an inevitability, it isn't quite so simple as that. It's an inventive, moving, sometimes funny, sometimes brutal and often a beautiful film, and easily up there with his best works. 8/10

Dachimawa Lee (S Korea) (trailer)

Finally, an antidote to all the seriousness of the past films. Dachimawa Lee is a suave but slightly chubby detective, highly feared and respected in 1940's Korea. It plays as a slapstick fusion of Bond, Dick Tracy and Austin Powers, and sends up all sorts of martial arts and spy films, and is a big-budget remake of an experimental film he made ten years ago. The detective is sent after a Golden Buddha which has gone missing after being stolen back from a fellow agent who has suffered for her actions. Dachimawa and his appointed female assistant (along with a few Q-style gadgets) must head off in search of them, not least because the statue contains a list of all of Korea's secret agent details, which the Japanese would like to get hold of. Infultrating a Mongolian settlement, he escapes with the Buddha, but doesn't make it very far before crashing and losing his memory. His oft-beaten enemies suddenly have a shot at revenge..

Crazy fight scenes, intentionally ludicrous situations, lots of laughs and a breakneck pace to the action make for a hugely entertaining film, one that I could happily see again. 8/10