B.U. Does FNC: Entry #11 (The Flying Machine, Land of Oblivion, Hara-Kiri)
The 40th edition of the Festival du Nouveau Cinema is over, put it in the history books! Closing weekend was a busy one, but it was filled with some pretty exceptional film. Let’s get to it, shall we? NOTE: SPOILERS ALL OVER THE PLACE.
The Flying Machine
I couldn’t go through the whole festival without seeing at least one film that was aimed at children, could I? The Flying Machine is about a young girl’s love of piano, and a magical journey that changes her life forever. Set entirely to the compositions of Chopin as played by Lang Lang (who is also a character in the film), we are treated first to a half-hour animated tale that is entirely free of dialogue but completely captivating, where a young girl finds a magical flying piano that flies her across Europe. As she does this, the soundtrack jumps from Chopin song to Chopin song, with all the titles discretely inserted into the background of the animation (as an engraving on a wall, written at the bottom of a billboard). Then, we jump back to the real world, where our main character – a young girl with a business-obsessed mother – somehow ends up on her own flying piano, travelling through Europe and discovering facts about the life of Fryderyk Chopin. Seeing the world through her child’s eyes, her mother begins to realize that her priorities aren’t quite right, and vows to spend more time giving into music and caring for her children. Everybody wins! Though the mother’s dialogue wasn’t all that great to my adult ears, I could definitely picture children loving this one, and hopefully finding a new appreciation for classical music through it. I know that when this comes out on DVD, I’ll be picking up a copy for my adorable niece. So, parents of the world: See this film!
Land of Oblivion
Alright, I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: This was my favourite film of the festival, hands down. This film takes us to Pripyat, a city of 50,000 people near Chernobyl, on the day of the great nuclear explosion that ruined the city and everything around it. The movie focuses on a few people, most notably Anya, who gets married to a firefighter on the day of the disaster, and loses him to it within 24 hours. The first 40 minutes or so takes us through that day in particular through the eyes of a few different residents of Pripyat. Afterwards, the movie jumps forward 10 years, and we find ourselves revisiting the now-abandoned city, where Anya is working as a tour guide, mainly for students who wish to learn about nuclear disasters. Pripyat is destroyed, a shadow of its former self, as is Anya, who still lives near her old home but has generally lost everything. We also begin to follow Valery, a young man whose father is believed to have died at Chernobyl, as he illegally scavenges through the remains of Pripyat, looking for any trace of his long-lost dad. Director Michale Boganim does a great job of highlighting the few people who refuse to leave their hometown, even with the nuclear fallout, and of showing the utter destruction that was caused by the complete abandonment of the city. Vice magazine did an odd feature on Chernobyl and its surroundings a few years ago as part of the Vice Guide to Travel, and the images from there have been etched into my brain – Land of Oblivion‘s portrayal of the city is hauntingly accurate, from what I can tell. This movie was beautiful, sad, and touching. Its soundtrack and score were subtle and wonderful, adding just the right tones in all the right places, really gluing this one together. Hats off to everyone who made this film, I think it truly hit the mark…and in three languages, too!
The festival’s over, but find a way to see this. I have heard no news of a distribution deal, but the minute I get a DVD release date, I’ll be smothering all of you with it. Guaranteed.
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai
Takashi Miike brings another excellent piece of cinema, but this time it’s a remake. Hara-Kiri was originally a film by Masaki Kobayashi, which I have unfortunately not seen, so I cannot compare the two. However, if the original is anywhere near the level of its evil twin, it’s got to be a great piece of work. Miike’s Hara-Kiri tells the tale of a middle-aged samurai who seeks a house in which to commit ritual suicide, to regain the honour he believes he has lost. Fearing that he is simply trying to scam the house in question, the master of the house first tells him the story of a man who tried to bluff his way into charity a few months prior, in an effort to scare him away. If I keep telling you the story, it’s all massive spoilers from here on end, so I’ll leave it at this: The stories told are magnificent and heartbreaking, the theme of honour is discussed from multiple angles, and the second-to-last scene is absolutely breathtaking. This one isn’t your usual Miike film, if you’re familiar with the man’s work, as it feels a bit quieter than his films usually do. Nonetheless, it has a Miike feel to it, especially during the story of the first suicide bluff. A fantastic piece by a continually impressive director. I can’t wait to see what Miike’s got in store next.
Alas, that’s it for my coverage of the 40th FNC. Vic’s got one more entry coming for you, and then that’s all, folks! I’d like to take an instant to thank the organizers and staff of the festival for putting together such an amazing program this year, and running it all so well. Truly, the opening day box office line-up was the only part of this festival that I didn’t enjoy. A job well done, and I can’t wait until next year!