Lightning round: SIFF 2014 remainders

Two weeks later, it’s time to call it. Here’s everything that didn’t seem to deserve a full post.

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

Women are terrifying, apparently, or so one might believe from this giallo-inspired horror flick. Probably? about a woman’s sexual awakening (?), The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears plays its strong cards too early, building up a lot of Hitchcockian tension but failing in the payoff. The film moves through flashbacks and stories told by the exceptionally unreliable residents of a beautiful French apartment building.

Suspense aside, the wild color palettes and off-kilter soundtrack (songs that wouldn’t feel at all out of place in a ’70s young-romance movie) alone are enough to sustain things for, like, the first hour. But the movie loses its footing when knives start going into people; between gratuitous murder sequences (resulting, obviously, in wounds resembling female anatomy) and increasingly hallucinatory/nonsensical scenes,[1] it’s hard to feel like the movie isn’t just jerking you around. Which, really, it is, because it ends up feeling like an exercise in form,[2] containing everything necessary to be a giallo film (goofy title, killer in black gloves, woman named Edwige, &c. &c.) but nothing else.

The Keeper of Lost Causes

Sufficiently thrilling, probably one of the slickest police procedurals I’ve seen. There’s some fairly clever use of flashback to set things up and inject some much needed tension. And that’s fortunate, because protagonist Carl Mørck is totally wooden. (Actor Nikolaj Lie Kaas does the best with what he can, but still.) His partner, Assad (played by the charming Fares Fares), injects some much needed character warmth as well. But maybe I’ve been spoiled by True Detective; for a few hopeful opening scenes, The Keeper of Lost Causes looks like it’s pursuing the same thing—i.e. character study dressed up as police procedural—but eventually settles comfortably into the latter. Still, it’s pulpy and gripping, with stylish lighting and a soundtrack that knows when to sting and when to back off.

Night Moves

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As always, Jesse Eisenberg is a twitchy ball of nerves, which works perfectly for this slow-burn ecoterrorism thriller adjective adjective thing. I’ve only seen Wendy and Lucy from director Kelly Reichardt, and while the subject material of the two movies couldn’t be any different, they feel very similar: sparse, paranoid, rural.

Patema Inverted

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I went through a pretty serious Sake Period as a teenager, and having grown out of it in college,[3] I tend to approach anime with caution. Miyazaki films still get to me—The Wind Rises is a hell of a thing—but the truth is that Miyazaki’s style is pretty far removed from the anime that tends to have the most cache with typical anime fans in the West. So despite an open heart and fascinating sci-fi/fantasy setting, Patema Inverted falls into regrettable anime tropes. There are moments of delight—the (wholly unexplained) mechanical city in the sky, the “other surface” of the planet we see in the ending—but really none come from the characters. The villain is over-the-top villainous, so much so that he’s impossible to take seriously—but of course his right-hand man has a heart of gold. Protagonists Patema and Age show a little more promise; but Patema has little to do except get damseled to hell and back, while her love interest, Age, follows the well-worn path of “young man discovering his resolve,” with few twists or turns on his character arc. Weirdly, considering her name is in the title, Patema Inverted spends a surprisingly small amount of time actually tracking Patema; Age ends up being the disruptor and motivator of the plot, and it’s (literally, disappointingly) from his perspective that we see things. Patema is the one standing on the ceiling,[4] because it’s not actually her story.

So much for titular princess characters with interesting stories. Luckily, once again Miyazaki provides.

Calvary

A couple of movies I’ve watched over the festival have, basically, a “spiritual bent,” so it was a welcome relief that Calvary mostly didn’t, despite its focus on a Catholic priest (Brendan Gleeson). Aidan Gillen deserves some…praise? for somehow managing to reach new heights of smarm and sounding totally unnatural in the delivery of his Irish accent despite being Irish. (But heck, I dunno, do some people actually talk like that?) Anyway, there’s a neat trick, here, where Father James knows who’s going to kill him from the start but the audience obviously doesn’t—the type of plot gimmick that sounds like it might try to point out how clever it is, but is actually (like the most of the movie [although there is is a lot of messiah imagery, but I guess you could have guessed that]) subtle and even-handed in its execution. Heh. “Execution.” Get it?

Cannibal

Okay, so one might assume that a movie about a cannibal would suggest some amount of grotesquery and/or body horror, but Cannibal has little of that. It’s a beautifully shot film, and I totally wish I could dress as well as Carlos. But the whole premise—prestigious tailor is also a cannibal—really doesn’t have a whole lot of weight behind it, and the whole “eating people” bit doesn’t add any additional depth to Carlos’ character except being this thing that he has to hide from everyone. Honestly, he could have been the regular (“regular”) kind of murderer; or even just had some particular trait that leaves him feeling alienated from everyone else. (Drug addict, maybe? I dunno.)

Our Sunhi

You know how I said Patema Inverted wasn’t actually about Patema? Our Sunhi isn’t about Sunhi, kind of, and it plays with this expection. One might be deceived by an opening scene in which Sunhi convinces her college professor to write her a letter of recommendation, but quite a lot of the movie follows three of Sunhi’s would-be suitors (professor incl.) as they drift around the city, talking to each other about their love life. The setups are pretty funny and don’t rely overmuch on awkward situational humor. And underneath the quirky humor is a surprisingly potent statement on Sunhi’s identity wrt. these three men, with the three talking in circles about Sunhi, and each individually arriving at the same vapid/self-contradictory/positive-but-probably-not-totally-true-and/or-accurate description of Sunhi. The final scene is fantastic: as the men wander around Changgyeonggung Palace looking for her, Sunhi quietly exits the area—of course, the idea that she is nowhere to be found never crosses the men’s minds. As if to say, “Don’t take it personally, boys, it just ain’t your story.”


  1. Incl. an overly long dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream that surely drew more than a little inspiration from Triangle.  ↩

  2. And it really feels like exercise by the end.  ↩

  3. My final-ish anime being Gurran Lagann, after which I decided that no other show would ever top in terms of anime-ness.  ↩

  4. I mean, predictable, given the title, but not very interesting, thematically.  ↩