Leeds Film Festival 2009 - Day 16

Can Go Through Skin (Ned) (review/trailer)

I missed this at both Edinburgh and Cambridge, so it wasn't getting missed again. It tells the story of Marieke who, after being attacked viciously by a pizza delivery guy in her own house shortly after a painful breakup with her ex, immediately withdraws from the world. Moving into a remote, run-down house she begins to make it habitable once more, and even though it needs a lot of work and lacks the most basic of facilities she stays there, little more than a squatter.

Within this isolated cocoon, she is able to feel a degree of safety and control over her environment, and the process of healing her mental scars begins. However, for every home improvement, every venture beyond the walls, and every tiny increase in confidence, she seems to be battered back down almost to square one, particularly at the outcome of the trial, where the attacker smiles wickedly as her case is thrown out. Dark thoughts of revenge begin to manifest, spurred on by her online friend in a 'survivors of rape' bulletin board who encourages Marieke to feed the hatred. This is most powerfully depicted in the scenes where Marieke talks to her hallucination of the attacker, that she imagines is kept as a hostage in the attic. Only due to the patience of nearby kind and lonely soul John who bares the brunt of her anger when he tries to help, does she slowly begin to patch the scars for good.

As a realistic portrayal of the breaking and healing of a damaged mind, Can Go Through Skin works really well. The real and imagined are mixed up and played against a grating, unsettling soundtrack that reflects the confusion, anger, hatred and fear constantly spinning around the mind of someone who has had their life taken away, seemingly for kicks. 7.5/10

Small Crime (Ger/Cyp/Gre) (review)

On the quiet Greek island of Therasia, there is often little to do, but for the largely ineffectual policeman Leonidas, things are about to get a little more interesting. At the bottom of the cliffs lies a body of Zaharias, an old man with a reputation for drunken late-night walks. His body is bruised and cut by the fall, but the expression on his face is pure happiness. Oddly, his shoes are missing and turn up neatly placed at the top of the cliff. How did he end up falling off the cliff, and was it suicide?

Small Crime's backbone is all about this mystery, with a little comedy and romance thrown in. Shortly afterwards, daytime TV goddess and local girl Angeliki arrives back to much celebration, but something about the behaviour of her mother sets Leonidas onto a trail of clues that might lead to cracking the case, even though Angeliki seems to have an eye for him. Along the way, several theories of how Zaharias copped it are played out in flashback, leading to the poor man dying in several ignoble ways, until the truth is finally uncovered.

Small Crime plays games with the viewer, using the various signposts present in many whodunnit mysteries to send you down the wrong path of assumption, which depending on your mood, might entertain or annoy. Effectively, this is a lighthearted film version of Columbo. Make of that what you will. 7/10

If You Are the One (Chi) (wiki)

My 150th film is a romantic comedy from China. Qin Fen is a deadpan cynical fortysomething guy who has just come into some pretty big money, but he isn't banding it about. He is on the online dating circuit, and is an old hand at it by now. On the occasions he doesn't put them off outright with his 'old before his time' looks, he tends to be the one doing the rejections, when after a little digging (using his one major selling point, a sense of humour) he usually finds some oddity or other in his prospective mate. One woman has a side job selling graves and uses his guilt over his cremated father to have him buy one on the date. Another expects him to pack his bags there and then and live with her in a remote village that is 'an hour by ox-cart' from the nearest road. Another has an aunt who cannot remember what happened the previous day, and so would need constant re-teaching of everything. Yet another prays on old and sick men so she can play nurse to them and keep them like a pet.

Only the beautiful Smiley, a headstrong air stewardess having an affair with a married man seems to attract him at all, and he immediately discounts her because of her perfection; she could aim so much higher than him. However, their blind date runs its course and they part company on friendly terms, each not expecting to see the other again.

Naturally they do, and as things progress, the sparring between the two leads moves from China to Hokkaido in Japan, where they tussle and work out their feelings for each other, in the midst of Smileys assertion that there will always be a place in her heart for someone else.

This film is a surprisingly touching bitter-sweet comedy with two likeable leads and a storyline that survives the trip halfway around the world very well (even if the quality of the print didn't - the sound was appalling and the video was grainy and darkened as if they had done an old-fashioned VHS tape-to-tape copy, twice). It was consistently funny, it's pace was kept relatively bouncy (for this sort of film) all the way to the end, and I didn't look at my watch once. 7.5/10

The King of Escape (Fra) (trailer)

Those crazy French. Those crazy, crazy, crazy-assed French. The King of Escape is Armand, supposedly, although he's not very good at it. A rather chubby gay man in his forties, he sells tractors by day and has intimate liasons with whoever will have him in the local lay-by in the evenings. Days go by without much else happening, until he confronts a gang of youths trying to assault a teenage girl. Once dispatched (less heroically than he would prefer), Curly falls in love with him. Although she is barely of age, and the wrong sex, Armand becomes infatuated himself. After a great deal of confusion as to who did what, Armand and Curly go on the run, helped along by his discovery of the local village secret: the roots of some woodland plant giving a natural Viagra-like effect, something the village inspector is investigating, along with Armand's under-age frolics.

The rest of the film is one big chase, with various strange and plot-confusing things happening, mostly involving either gay or straight sex, and the straightening out of Armand's confusion, complicated still further by his competing fascination with a 70-something old man with an enormous willy. If Bruno put you off because of its many man-flesh scenes, then you definitely don't want to see this. There were a few funny moments, and a couple of others where I had a glimmer of empathy for the couple as they attempted to evade the law and the pitchfork wielding villagers, but for the most part, it was a let-down due to it's inconsistent narrative, its tendency to go off in a direction and then leave it hanging, and its lack of a satisfying conclusion. 5/10

Film Count: 151/150 - Get In!

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