Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tacking to satisfying dramatic resolution

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Of the films I’ve caught so far at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival, the French One Wild Moment (Jean-François Richet, 2015) was the best. The film, starring stalwarts Vincent Cassel and François Cluzet, is in the best tradition of the French farce-drama. The film is tightly edited and extremely well-paced, and on the button for stringing the viewer along in subtle suspense. Two middle aged best friends and their daughters (photo left) arrive in Corsica for a summer idyll. There are numerous instances where the plot could have gone in various directions but doesn’t until it reaches its key dramatic stepping-off point, and even here the narrative could have migrated but the director honed to his satisfying desired end…….In Infinitely Polar Bear (Maya Forbes, 2014) - and the festival’s opening night film - Mark Ruffalo plays a larger than life character in Cam, a father of two young girls and husband of Maggie (Zoe Saldana) who can barely stay married to him because of his failure to self-medicate his manic-depression. Ruffalo is very good in the role, so much so you wonder how he was able to keep the intensity scene after scene. But the movie is overly long and suffers from repeating the same emotional dynamics without coming to firm resolutions……Women in Oversized Men’s Shirts (Yngvild Sve Flikke, 2015), from Norway, plays with the movie cliché of women waking after a night with a new lover and donning his oversized Oxford shirt. Sigrid (Inga Ibsdotter Lilleaas) is a young feminist who abhors clichés, especially of the relationship variety. But that doesn’t mean she’s not looking for love, and falls for a cerebral writer twice her age, leading to more self-evaluation. Meanwhile, a couple of other disparate characters – a performance artist (Henriette Steenstrup) and a long ago radical author, Agnes (Anne Krigsvoll) - are symbols struggling through their own feminist-imbued dilemmas……Kings of Kallstadt (Veronika Schramm, 2014), from the poster, seemed like a mockumentary of Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential candidate. It is, but at a very low level. What it’s mostly about is Trump – and the Heinz family, of Heinz ketchup fame's – ancestral home of Kallstadt, Germany. The filmmaker interviews townsfolk in the quaint village, many noting their linked heritage to the American business tycoons whose families left hinterland Germany generations ago. The documentary has a mild satirical edge, describing the town’s insularity and idiosyncrasies, including the local delicacy, pig stomach. But if the audience was expecting outright mocking of The Donald they were likely disappointed. Most villagers actually said they admired the man for his business smarts and assertiveness……  

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