LIFF 2012 Day 8

Now, Forager (US/Pol) (site)

The Kiskstarter website is full of all sorts of strange and wonderful projects trying to get off the ground, and many of them are for films that might otherwise never get off the ground.  Well, this is the first one I know of that has made it to a festival, hopefully to be joined by others soon.

The directors, real-life foragers and filmmakers, present to us a vision of themselves.  Lucien and Regina live hand to mouth on the money they can get from foraging for edible funghi in the forests around the city, and then selling it on to a few contacts at fancy restaurants.  Bad summers, closing businesses and a tempremental 4x4 mean that at any moment their income could be removed from beneath them with little or no safety net.  They have got this far purely on Lucien's intimate knowledge of the wild, and his single-minded focus on what he thinks is the 'right' thing to do.

So when Regina takes a job as a preparer at a local restaurant - a good job that can bring some stability, Lucien's sugar-glass world and the straight path through it is threatened, and a gap begins to grow between them.

Rather than the telling of a horrible and messy breakup, Now Forager is more humane with it's protagonists than, say Stormland, using gentle pillow scenes between the chapters where Lucien reflects on the state of his relationship via the medium of mycology. It never resorts to grandiose tragedy or melodrama, remaining within the bounds of the non-sensational drifting apart that can happen as a couple learn about how their wants and needs diverge from their partners'.  Lucien personally rings a bell with his pent-up-tight and inflexible nature, his attitude to the slow wearing away is rather too familiar for me to ignore.

Enjoying Now Forager will depend on whether you can identify with the sort of character and relationship being applied on screen; it's the quiet, considered type of film rather than the screamy shouty type, which doesn't make for much action, but to me at least that makes it feel genuine. 7/10

Alps (Gre) (wiki)

Director Yorgos Lanthimos enjoys putting his favourite lead actress Aggeliki Papoulia through the mangle.  In the inspired but divisive Dogtooth, her unnamed daughter character was on the receiving end of a video tape to the face, and knocked her own teeth out in the name of freedom.

Here she plays the almost mirror opposite from before - a similarly unnamed nurse at the local hospital who has a mysterious second job.  She is a member of a small group whose purpose is to inhabit the lives of others who have lost a loved one and are struggling to cope. 

Dropping into the lives of a couple whose teenage daughter is badly injured in a car crash, she emulates her behaviour to the parent's satisfaction as much as possible.  But the job calls for some pretty intimate acts, and before long she is beginning to prefer her new existence to the frustrations of her true life.  Rather than a character aching to escape a fantasy land into the real world, she is trying to deny her existence and escape into the realm of make believe.

Dogtooth was one of those films where if you didn't tag on to what the film was really about, it would be merely a confusing abstract mess.  I (like to think) I 'got' Dogtooth, and consequently found it to be one of my favourites of 2010, but Alps is far more opaque, almost mocking the viewer as the film progresses that it keeps the deeper meanings (of which I am sure there is one) just around the next corner.  I felt the same sense of abstraction, a story hiding behind a story, but I never had the eureka moment where it all came clear to me.  I want to give it the benefit of the doubt, but I found myself in similar company to the rest of the (packed out) audience, who gave a collective and bewildered 'huh?' when the screen went black. 7/10

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