Sunday, February 8, 2009

PIFF Day 2

It was an up-and-down day for me at the festival--though the up was really high.

I find the fact that The Chaser (South Korea) was a huge box office hit at home rather disturbing, as it is full of gratuitous violence and the film-making is nothing new. It's the story of a cop-turned-pimp and his search for one of his missing girls who has been kidnapped. The Seoul police are made to look like a bunch of boobs and Korean culture is depicted as base and misogynistic.(3)

The Necessities of Life (Canada) was a perfect gem from start to finish, so wonderful that I expect it will end up on my best of 2009. It tells the story of an Inuit hunter, Tivii, who leaves his northern home when he is stricken with tuberculosis in 1952 to recuperate in a sanitarium near Quebec City. Surrounded by people yet utterly alone in an alien land and unable to communicate, his despondence is palpable. Never have I seen the effects of racism so clearly and honestly portrayed, without oversimplification. It is finally his connection with an orphaned Inuit boy who is transferred to the hospital that brings him back from the brink. The film offers a profound depiction of how a dominant culture can unknowingly repress the humanity of outsiders. A must see. (10)

Hunger (Great Britain) won the award for best first film at Cannes, but I hated it. It depicts the brutal treatment of prisoners at Belfast's Maze Prison leading to the hunger strike in 1981 led by Bobby Sands. With very little in the way of narrative explanation or context, the film mostly just portrays the violence in gruesome detail, aside from a 20-minute one-shot dialogue between Sands and a priest that purports to explain Sands' motives (very unsatisfying), and then ends by shoving your face in scenes of Sands' horrific decline. I left nauseated and feeling like I had been punished, though to no good purpose. It added nothing to my insight about that horrible chapter in history. (3)

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