I watched ten films at the 2014 festival, fourteen last year (at two festivals back to back), and this year I managed ten again. I had bought tickets for fourteen, but stuff got in the way: a huge blizzard that knocked out public transport, subtitles disappearing, and a call to marital duty.
The people who book movies for this festival really know what they're doing. Half of the ones I saw get my special recommendation:
- Small Town Curtains / Småstad. Five middle-aged siblings play five middle-aged siblings dealing with the death of their father. In Vadstena. In a broad Östergötland dialect. With liberal use of the family's old home movies. I smiled and cried and loved this movie. This is the film about Sweden that I want foreigners to see!
- A Decent Woman / Los decentes. Love-starved and inhibited woman gets a job as a housemaid in a sterile, lifeless, affluent gated community. Discovers that across the fence is a free-love commune where people laze about nude in the sun all day giving each other intimate massages in a paradisiacal setting. She promptly joins and begins commuting between the two worlds. Delightfully strange film.
- Fiore. Young love between inmates of an Italian juvenile detention centre.
- Fritz Lang. Demonic movie director becomes obsessed with serial killer and faces his own inner darkness.
- American Anarchist. Documentary about the infamous bomb manual The Anarchist Cookbook, largely consisting of extended interviews at 65 with the man who wrote it aged 19.
Four were well worth watching:
- Malaria. Meandering tale of teenage runaways in Teheran who make friends with a bumbling feckless musician. So focused on smartphones that it looks like a commercial at times. Fine snippets of life in contemporary urban Iran, but fairly plotless. Nobody has believable motivation.
- SHOT! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock. Rock celebrity-strewn portrait of prolific photographer Mick Rock and his oeuvre. Interesting to folks like me who like 70s UK/US music. Probably irrelevant to others, who can better enjoy the pictures in a gallery or book.
- Baden Baden. Eventless study of a young woman's relationships with the people around her over a few weeks as she renovates the bathroom of her dear hospitalised grandmother.
- All These Sleepless Nights. Entire film is a string of clips from indoor and outdoor nights on the town among young Warsawites. All the dialogue is drunk and/or stoned. Strangely interesting despite these handicaps.
And only in one case would I suggest that you give it a miss:
- The Wedding Ring. Naïvist movie about a lovesick young noblewoman in Niger. Many beautiful shots but slow, plotless and amateurishly acted.
The movie that I left after 20 mins when the subtitles cut out looked really promising: Kills On Wheels, about Hungarian contract killers in wheel chairs.