Locarno turns in quite a few surprises
Ankur Pathak brings all the action from Day 3 of the Locarno International Film Festival, live from Locarno!
The third day of the Locarno Film Festival turned in quite a few surprises. The fairly mainstream and much hyped premiere of Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike failed to elicit as encouraging a response as the film Ruby Sparks by filmmakers and real life partners, Jonathon Daton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), and the debut screening of French auteur Leos Carax`s latest movie, Holy Motors.
"It is such an incredibly fine film that if I say it changed my life, that would be a real under-statement," said Australian singer Kylie Minogue, who plays an important part in the bizarre Holy Motors, a film unlike any you may have seen lately.
Starring the director`s favourite and also old-time acting collaborator, Denis Lavant, the film is like a mythical beast, a strange kaleidoscope of inspired insanity in which the main character, Monsieur Oscar, goes about the streets of beautifully lit Paris in various disguises, biting peoples' fingers, kidnapping supermodels, killing a certain target and leaving him disguised as himself.
Image: Movie poster of Magic Mike
What we vaguely comprehend is that the director is somewhere trying to pass a comment on our increasing dependency on machines, but his way of doing so is confounding, and for most part, obnoxiously self-indulgent.
If the Tree of Life convinced a certain section of American audiences to demand refund the admission price, Holy Motors would want them to sue the theatre that screens it. Back home, the last film that broke the conventions so thoroughly, even by art-house film standards, was Anurag Kashyap's attempt at film-noir, No Smoking.
Holy Motors was a favourite with international critics at the Cannes film festival this year. Some were hopeful of a Palme D`Or for director Carax, until Michael Haneke came in armed with Amour, and hijacked his prospects.
Image: Movie poster of Holy Motors
In Harm's Way
Other attractions of the day, apart from the competing films, was a screening of Otto Preminger's In Harm`s Way as well as a couple of films of the English actress Charlotte Rampling, who was honoured with an excellence award at the festival.
The expected highlight was at the Piazza Grande, where Soderbergh`s Magic Mike premiered. A well-developed script about male strippers, which is derived from the real life experiences of actor Channing Tatum (who plays Mike), the film doesn`t have the intensity of Soderbergh's wonderful past.
There is the exploration of the psyche and multi-layered characters, but all of it feels dispassionate and cold in parts, not of the standard we have come to expect from the director.
Part of the problem could be the film that preceded Magic Mike, the outstandingly well scripted Ruby Sparks.
Image: Movie poster of In Harm's Way
It is the story of a loner named Calvin who is a hugely successful writer at the age of 19, but is struggling to put together his second novel. The title refers to a character in the novel, an ideal girlfriend, who springs to life and becomes a part of his otherwise lonely existence.
In laidback, almost comedic treatment, the film carefully explores the desperation, helplessness and frustration that writing, or any creative process, can trigger. It also playfully explores the rare possibility of an ideal romance.
In many ways, the character is reminiscent of Woody Allen's creations, while the plot itself can be traced to one of Allen`s short stories from his book Side Effects. Its closure, too, is fairly Eternal Sunshine-like. The film sparkles with charm and rare wit, like an evolved version of Little Miss Sunshine, which also premiered in Locarno six years ago.
Image: Movie poster of Ruby Sparks
At the introduction of the film, Paul Dano, who plays the lead, embarrassed his real-life girlfriend Zoe Kazan (who plays Ruby Sparks), declaring, "It was an intimate collaboration as I had to act opposite someone who I am sleeping with for the past five years.
So, yes, it is a great experience, probably the best I`ve had." Zoe Kazan, who is also the scriptwriter of the film, turned beetroot red and didn`t know where to look.
"Coming here six years ago with Little Miss Sunshine was a great pleasure but coming back with a new film is a greater responsibility," director Valerie Faris told the audience just before Ruby Sparks premiered at the Piazza Grande.
Image: Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan
Photographs: Reuters/Mike Blake