Leeds Film Festival 2009 - Day 7

Blow Horn (Spn)

Buddhism is a faith with strong beliefs in harmony and peace and contemplation, and a film summarising the experiences of a group of Spanish friends staying at a Buddhist retreat naturally flows along the same waters. We catch up with them in the last few days of their stay at the retreat, a place they have stayed at for 3 years and 3 months. They are preparing for the culminating pilgrimage to the Sherab Ling monastery.

In peaceful and relaxed fashion, we board the heavily jewelled buses with them; exploring and experiencing the journey strictly at life's pace. They negotiate the Indian road system designed to keep a driver on his toes, visit several villages, temples and monasteries along the way, winding in and out of the beautiful countryside.

As a meditative journey through India it worked very well, but without any narrative, and precious little dialogue except between the friends (they didn't converse much with the locals), it did drag rather a lot. It seemed too direction-less, with no sense the journey was heading to a conclusion. Maybe that's the point, and I'm conditioned to expect that from a film, or maybe they just didn't do enough to tell me they had arrived. 6/10

Below Sea Level
(Ita/US) (clip)

On the southern outskirts of American desert lies an abandoned Naval base. For the most part, it is deserted, aside from a band of people of all persuasions who, usually due to falling on hard times, have lost almost everything and have had nowhere else to go. They can't sleep in parks because that's illegal. Ditto in the mountain ranges. No-one wants to live in the scrubland desert on the Mexican border, so this natural bowl in the landscape (hence the title) acts as a magnet. It's a lawless, resource-scarce landscape. Little water, harsh summers and harsher winters. No protection from the police or fire brigade, and the nearest hospital is hours away.

Wayne is fantastic. Getting on in years, and tall and thin with a face full of fuzz with a pair of the wildest eyes poking out you have ever seen. He goes by the name of Insane Wayne, and whenever he gets on one in a conversation you can understand why; his borderline psychosis and desire to wipe just about everyone off the planet who isn't him would send a chill up the spine if it wasn't so funny, those mad eyes popping further out of his head with each bluster. The clip above is a perfect example of Insane Wayne at his insanest.

Other people join in the fun too. Bulletproof Carol had a gun fired off in her face, making a mess of her features, but she doesn't let it stop her. She's on the CB radio most days laying into passing truckers giving them a piece of her mind. Cindy is a transgender Vietnam war veteran who is trying to set up a nail bar in the middle of the encampment (a few rusted buses and vans) as realisation of her life dream. 'Bus Kenny' is trying to write country songs about their camp in the hope of becoming a star even though he is tone deaf, and Lili lives out of her SUV and functions as the village doctor, having lost almost everything in a messy custody battle. Each of them come strangely together as a community of sorts, helping others where they can and getting by with surprising levels of contentment. Except Wayne, who is insane. Its funny, and it's got a bit of feelgood running through it, but it could be cut a little in length. 7.5/10

Seven Minutes in Heaven (Irl/Fra/Hun) (trailer)

Galia cannot remember the last few weeks of her life. She and her boyfriend were victims of a bus bombing in Jerusalem. She got out, but was badly burned over her back. Olek didn't make it after a second blast peppered him with shrapnel. Or at least, that's what she understands had happened. As she struggles with her memory, people around her seem familiar and the act strangely, and the chance meeting with a possible new man Boaz at exactly the wrong time confuses her still further, as despite her brain telling her to keep things platonic for now, her heart tells her they know each other much more already.

Told as a brooding thriller with shadows of the divine, Seven Minutes constantly plays tricks with the viewer to keep the true intention of the film shrouded until the final few minutes. When it does arrive, it's not immediately clear, and I'm not completely sure I get it, but I think so, and it was enjoyable trying. 7.5/10

(Swe) (trailer)

Roy and his wife Ylva are going through a bit of a tough patch. Well into middle age, with a bad back, Roy has no spark any more. No longer going to work, he puts the most trivial job off until the next day, rarely talks, and often just lays about like a surly teen, except with a far-off look in his eyes.

Assuming that the back problems are the root cause, ever-patient Ylva does the donkey-work of looking for a solution, but each one is met with indifference. Desperately, she makes the most of a chance meeting with a directly spoken young man named Carl who overhears her exasperated conversation to a friend, who offers to take him off her hands for some 'alternative therapy'. On pain of death and divorce, Roy finally relents.

It turns out that 'alternative therapy' isn't that alternative. Lots of running up hills and a strict diet, although the mountain retreat near where Carl lives cut off from the outside seems a bit extreme to Roy, who bites his tongue and tries to comply with Carl's ever more ludicrous therapies. In the meantime, Ylva finds liberation from Roy's depressive attitude, and after a few days down the gym, starts turning a few heads. But when Roy overhears Carl having a Kevin the Teenager talk to some poor soul on the other end he thinks it's time to go, but will Carl let him leave that easily?

There were some nice scenes in Guidance, although it did seem to be lighter on content than it should have been; a few threads not followed, some opportunities for comedy laid to one side in favour of a couple of chuckles now and again. It was ok, but nothing special. 6/10

Film Count: 30/150

No comments: