Join Soundtrack Stream to Research the article “Let Locarno come to you | Film”
Film festival coverage can often be of less interest to casual readers than it is to the reporters and critics churning it out: it can be frustrating to read detailed appraisals of films that won’t be available for public viewing – if ever – for months or sometimes years. The Locarno film festival, currently under way in its balmy Swiss lakeside setting, is one of a growing number of showcases trying to close that gap a bit.
Like the Rotterdam fest, which I discussed in this space earlier in the year, Locarno has embraced the possibilities of online viewing platform Festival Scope to bring a selection of films from its typically diverse Cinema of the Present competition to cinephiles at home immediately after they have their world premiere in Switzerland: they’ll be streaming, free of charge, until the end of August. (Armchair viewers can also participate in audience award voting.) It’s a smart move for a festival specialising in the kind of oblique or experimental fare – “alternative”, relative to the big-name auteur titles dominating Venice or Cannes – that might well struggle to find distribution once the festival carpet is rolled up. At a time when many high-profile festival hits are heading straight to Netflix, smaller films in particular are getting less sentimental about the big-screen experience.
I wouldn’t hold your breath for UK cinematic distribution for several of this year’s Locarno streaming selections, though the challenges they pose are often worth taking. Swiss documentary-maker Nicole Vögele’s Closing Time is a beguiling exercise in life-in-ellipsis observation, following a nocturnal rice-restaurant owner in bustling central Taipei after a spontaneous decision to disrupt his routine. Locarno’s programming mixes documentary and narrative film-making more freely than most: another documentary, Matthieu Bareyre’s Young and Alive, empathetically investigates the surge in political activism among the teenagers of Paris in the wake of the November 2015 terrorist attacks.
On the fiction front, options range from thoughtful, low-key character study – Brazilian director André Novais Oliveira’s Long Way Home, about a woman reshaping her life after changing jobs and cities – to dense, teasing esoterica such as Andrea Bussmann’s Faust, a Oaxaca-set riff on the eponymous German legend, with an infusion of Mexican folklore and American colonial history. And it wouldn’t be a contemporary festival sampling without at least one film straddling the docu-fiction divide: South African up-and-comer Joshua Magor’s We Are Thankful affectionately and self-reflexively chronicles a hard-up, theatrically-inclined township resident with big-screen dreams of his own.
Eight films make up Festival Scope’s Locarno menu (nine if you’re outside the UK: Qiu Sheng’s elegant puzzler Suburban Birds is region-barred), and at no charge, you’ve nothing to lose by trying something entirely new.
New to streaming & DVD this week
If you’d prefer a more pre-vetted festival experience, meanwhile, arthouse streaming service Mubi is celebrating Locarno with a triple bill of selected highlights from last year’s lineup. One of them, Dominican Republic director Nelson Carlo de los Santos Aria’s form-bending hybrid Cocote (reviewed in these pages last week), had a limited run in cinemas last month, and is well worth catching up with. Ostensibly about a devout Christian gardener whose faith clashes with local tradition when he returns home for his murdered father’s funeral, it morphs into a more impressionistic study of spirituality and community, awash with piercing images and sound design.
The other two picks are lower on the radar, and perhaps a little less approachable. Narimane Mari’s 150-minute documentary Le Fort des Fous fuses history and subjective memory in a fierce consideration of Algeria’s colonial past that also looks to a fraught political present. Turkish director Gürcan Keltek’s Meteors assembles archival footage from the Turkish army’s 2015 mission against the Kurdish PKK to inventive, poetic effect. These are archetypical Locarno babies: leisurely, left-field, out to challenge and exasperate with sometimes puckish rewards. It’s nice to see the streaming world finding a home for them.
Isle of Dogs (Fox, PG)
The critical discussion over its cultural appropriation goes back and forth, but the world-building wonders of Wes Anderson’s wry, gorgeously rendered canine escape comedy are less up for debate.
L’Amant Double (Curzon Artificial Eye, 18)
One of François Ozon’s friskiest, most brashly entertaining films, this hot, gleefully ludicrous psychosexual thriller must have Brian De Palma seething with envy.
Love, Simon (Fox, 12)
A rare case of a film being groundbreaking for its sheer conventionality, this sweet-natured, appealingly performed teen romcom finally gives teen homosexuality the universal Hollywood treatment.
Wonderstruck (Studiocanal, PG)
A rare miss from Todd Haynes, this era-hopping story of two lonely children finding their place has all the director’s technical virtuosity in place, bound to a whimsical story in which he doesn’t seem half as invested.
Ready Player One (Warner Bros, 12)
Steven Spielberg is also oddly off-form in this propulsive, eye-assaulting but narratively plastic video game fantasy which does little to unlock the appeal of Ernest Cline’s source novel to the unconverted.
Journeyman (Studiocanal, 15)
From-the-gut thespian conviction – particularly from new Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker – is the chief virtue of Paddy Considine’s surprisingly sentimental boxing weepie.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Let Locarno come to you | Film