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    Home > Film Festivals & MarketsBerlinale 2017 - Day 3: When you get to know ...

Berlinale 2017 - Day 3: When you get to know the depth of a film by perusing its press kit

Monday, February 13, 2017 11:54:43 AM (IST) | Rajesh Kumar Singh, Bollywood Trade Editorial


FÉLICITÉ by Alain Gomis is that kind of cinema. You may not appreciate the real importance of this France, Senegal, Belgium, Germany, & Lebanon co-production unless you perused the contents of the film’s press kit. It’s so unfathomably deep that it gets nihilistically depressing. Here, you have a filmmaker who should rather have been a philosopher who saw what a layperson could not and laid threadbare the phenomenon of complex human existence in Sub-Saharan Africa in his tome. There is a little problem here. The philosopher is an outsider who has not lived the experience & thus his prejudiced intellect manufactures an exotic film festival friendly narrative instead of discovering the true nature of things.
It’s the story of a bar singer Felicite who lives in the slums of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is a divorcee, and an independent spirited yet melancholic woman. Things turn really bad after her son meets with an accident and she needs a lot of money for his operation. She begs & borrows, and manages to collect the money but finally one of the legs of her son has to be amputated knee down. She has an ardent admirer in a mechanic called Tabu who almost acts like a man of the house in the dire & difficult circumstances. He wants Felicite to marry him. The narrative is punctuated by seemingly irrelevant but actually pregnant-with-meaning kind of sequences and visual metaphors that firmly put the stamp of ‘Arthouse Cinema’ on the film. It’s neither hopeless nor hopeful but a ‘slice of life’ kind of narrative, with ample traces of intellectual fakery here and there. The Congolese folk music comes across as the most authentic and dynamic mood-elevating element of this otherwise boring and lugubrious film.
FINAL PORTRAIT is a biopic about the life of a well-known Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti. It tells the story of how one of the last of his portraits got made. Stanley Tucci has directed the film. It played ‘Out of Competition’.  The film’s story is set in Paris of 1964 and takes place largely in the artiste’s studio cum home, a kind of dilapidated unkempt place in the haven of artistes. A young American art critic James Lord, without realizing what he is getting into, agrees to model for the artiste for a portrait. What follows is a study of a legendary artiste’s idiosyncrasies and impulsive nature and how he manages to be the focus of the small universe around him. The minimalist, predictable and anecdotal film is remarkable for its perfect cast, which is the key to the artistic success of such endeavours. It’s a kind of copybook perfect casting; Geoffrey Rush as Alberto Giacometti and Armie Hammer as James Lord. Both essay their contrasting roles with effortless ease and aplomb. Armie Hammer’s performance is particularly nuanced, immensely likeable, and thus highly commendable. The other complimentary characters ably add to the film’s narrative tapestry. It’s a competently directed, written, and photographed  low-budget film.
The German film WILD MOUSE by the Austrian helmer, writer, and actor Josef Hader, provides the much-needed comic relief in a largely somber film-fest milieu. Set in Vienna, it’s the story of a music critic and newspaper columnist called George who is married to a psychoanalyst Johanna. Both are in their middle ages and have not yet managed to raise a family in spite of Johanna’s relentless pursuit of the objective. Things take an unexpected twist when the media group unceremoniously fires George after years of service since he costs the company more, nearly thrice of what it pays to a younger journalist. George does not tell Johanna about it and continues to pretend he still has the job. He also begins to stalk his ex-boss, who fired him, and takes out his anger particularly on the boss’s convertible by scratching it and cutting its hood. He gets a bit neurotic and suicidal after his boss tells Johanna about his getting sacked and she throws her out of the house. If that’s not enough, a young musician whose music was trashed by George, the critic with a sharp pen, trashes his car. Apparently the musician, a Japanese, ended up as a cook in a Japanese restaurant frequently visited by George. 
It’s more of a big screen sitcom and one of those lighthearted films included in festival line up by kind hearted programmers to provide relief to audiences from the usual overdose of intense intellectually taxing stuff.

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Tags : Berlinale 2017, Alain Gomis

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