Wednesday, December 28, 2011

European Union Film Festival 2011: Of Dictators and Adultery

EUFF 2011
Truth be told, I wasn't expecting this one at all, given the current economic trouble the EU is in. As such, the announcement of the second ever European Union Film Festival (That I've been to- apparently it's the 12th, though I've heard nothing of previous ones) was a pleasant surprise.

The last time I attended the festival  I pretty much went bonkers and tried to go to as many movies as possible- I went for three in one day- burning myself out in the process. I controlled myself better this year- no doubt with help from a healthy dose of sloth, and went for two movies over a period of two weeks.

Se Devo Essere Sincera, Italian (2004)
The first movie, Se Devo Essere Sincera (If I have to be Honest), was watched with the parents- which in hindsight, was not a very good choice, considering the content, though they didn't really complain about it. Se Devo is mainly about, well, adultery. "Hey mom, dad, let's go watch a movie about a bunch of grown ups who cheat on each other". Bad choice indeed.

Se Devo stars Luciana Littizetto as cutely frumpy Literature teacher Adelaide (No, she's not Australian), who inadvertently gets involved in a murder investigation. She has trouble at home, frequently fighting with her husband Renzo, who she suspects is having an affair with one of his customers at the driving school he runs, and finds herself falling for smooth-talker Detective Gaetano. She has to decide whether to stay with her husband, or leave him for...

...hey, what happened to the murder investigation? Apparently it was used as a reason to introduce Adelaide to a police officer, because police officers who drive super-bikes generally aren't allowed within ten feet of school teachers. Sure, Adelaide pretty much solves the case by herself (Just what were the carabinieri doing, I wonder) but it's mostly in the background compared to the decidedly un-Pythagorean love triangle.

I thought Se Devo did fairly well, but I wouldn't pay to watch it in a cinema (Film festival tickets were subsidized). If it was on the telly, perhaps- but only if I had nothing else to watch and I wanted to hear some Italiano. The plot was just too generic, and the crime spin didn't help much. My parents couldn't stand Adelaide- because 'she just wouldn't stop talking'. She did have a big chunk of the dialogue, but I didn't really mind.

What I did find annoying had nothing to do with the movie, but the lady a few rows behind who kept chuckling away- once at the beginning when she saw a dog onscreen she went 'oh good I like movies about dogs'. Uh. Did you even check out what the movie was about before you paid for the ticket? Constant gurgling chuckling throughout.

On a better note, Se Devo did well in reminding husbands not to take their wives for granted after marriage, and was convincing enough in portraying the conflict in Adelaide's mind- from her initial reluctance to enter into an affair to how Renzo's continued insensitivity basically knocked her into Gaetano's arms, and the subsequent bliss and torment she gained... though I believe that other movies have done the same just as well.
Une Execution Ordinaire, French (2010)
Next up, Une Execution Ordinaire (An Ordinary Execution). Watched this one with the whole family- another mistake, I suppose, because it was too boring for my sister- not enough action for her. I wanted to watch this one mainly because it was about Joseph Stalin, Premier of the Soviet Union. The thumbnail of the movie poster provided by the cinema's website had me confused- Stalin snuggling up to a young woman? Eh?

Nothing like that, thankfully. Execution is for the most part truthful to what we do know about the Georgian dictator, though I have to wonder whether the part about Anna, the nurse he had secretly treat his illness, having some sort of special healing power is true or just fiction (The movie is based on a novel by Marc Dugain, after all).

Execution is fantastic in showing how life was like in Moscow during Stalin's time- where you could trust no one, not even your own family, for fear of being sent to the Lubyanka. Anna is given a hard time by everyone, from her co-workers, jealous of her popularity with patients, who attempt to gain sexual favors from her in exchange for 'protection'; to her landlord who... also does the same, albeit for different reasons.

Stalin soon gets wind of her ability, and whisks her off for private sessions. He gets to feel good, while Anna... gets nothing short of hell. Imagine being alone with a man who kills off people he relies upon. Ever heard of the Great Purge? It's his doing. Here's a quote (I'm paraphrasing) from Stalin in the movie: "The Nazis lost because Hitler gave them too many certainties. I give the Russians uncertainty."

Anna does her best to stay alive, and to keep her husband Vassilli alive as well, no matter what the costs. The fear can be felt every second she remains in Stalin's presence, at every knock on the door. So far what I've described may put off some readers from watching this film. There is some beauty, however, especially in the tender moments shared by the two lovers. Comedy too, in one brief scene where a recently famous Russian President is mentioned.

I'd definitely recommend Execution to anyone with a healthy attention span and patience. My main regret was that it wasn't in Russian, but that's negligible. Oh, and if all you're capable of watching is Michael Bayish movies and films with bouncing boobs, stay away. Meanwhile it's 3AM at time of writing, and since I don't feel like picking up from here on some other day (Goodness knows how I'd drift off from what I originally intended to write), I'll just go to bed and hope my left brain stays stuck to the right brain. Sleep=Glue.

...what a horrible analogy.

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