Tonight the 2014 Athens International Film Festival, aka Opening Nights comes to an end. 11 Days with tons of films for all tastes! This year I managed to see 4 films: The Drop, Palo Alto, When Animals Dream and What If.
Before getting into the films, let me say that this year the festival seemed more alive than ever before, despite the 20 years that have passed. The selection of films was amazing, with many Greek productions, including Xenia by Panos Koutras, the crowd was amazing and the organization was almost impeccable, except from the problems in the Nick Cave screening (perhaps that was jinxed by all of us who did not find a ticket). The film ‘71 (Yann Demange’s tale of a British soldier accidentally abandoned by his unit at the riots in Belfast in 1971) won the ultimate prize, the Golden Athena award.
Now, regarding the films that I did get to see.
Palo Alto, is the first film by Francis Ford Coppola’s granddaughter, Gia Coppola, based on the short stories by James Franco. Starring Emma Roberts and the man himself (James Franco), Palo Alto is the tale of April, a shy virgin teenager (Emma Roberts), who while trying to connect with a sweet classmate (Jack Kilmer) has to deal also with her soccer coach (James Franco) hitting on her. Through April and her friends’ tales, we get to see the anxiety and issues that teenagers deal with, the mistakes that they make and how they deal with it. Coppola’s exquisite cinematography showed us that it must be in the genes (seriously, can this family ever get it wrong?) and reminded me a bit of good old Auntie Sofia’s debut film “The Virgin Suicides”. Overall a great debut film!
When Animals Dream, is a Danish film by Jonas Alexander Arnby, about a 16 year old girl living in an isolated Danish town, with her sick mother and her father, who will discover that something weird is happening to her body, making her transform little by little to something not human… I will not reveal too much about this film as the element of surprise plays a very important part. What I can say, is that the direction and photography were amazing, adding to the whole mystery of the story and that the newcomer Sonia Suhl, is breathtaking in her film debut.
The final film that I saw was my favorite! What If, is a Canadian-Irish co-production, directed by Michael Dowse and starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan (Elias Kazan’s granddaughter). The story is quite simple: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl likes boy, but girl has a boyfriend, boy decides to be friends with girl but of course falls for her. Despite that it is considered a romantic comedy, to my opinion it was an anti-romantic comedy that made fun in a way of many genre clichés. A fresh, well written comedy, with talented protagonists that share great chemistry! Daniel Radcliffe shows that his Harry Potter days are far behind him and the lovely Miss Kazan, who we had already noticed in the film Ruby Sparks that she had also written, proves that she has inherited her fair share of her grandfather’s talent.
Well, that was for this year’s festival! Let’s focus now, on the very busy cinema & TV Fall that has already started!!
This year, Athens International Film Festival turns 20! For 20 years (!), “Cinema” magazine, makes September a special month for us film lovers, by offering a wide selection of film screenings, including premieres, documentaries, short films, music films and many many more!
This year’s first film I saw was “The Drop”. Michaël R. Roskam’s English-Language directorial debut, the film is based on a short story by Dennis Lehane, the writer of “The Shutter Island” and “Mystic River”. Starring Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini (his last film) and Noomi Rapace, this crime drama, takes us to the world of illegal gambling, animal sheltering and a series of events that puts our not so innocent heroes on a pretty tough spot.
Not to spoil it too much for you, we follow the storyline from Bob Saginowski perspective (Tom Hardy’s character), who while being in the centre of a crime universe, insists on separating himself from the role of a gangster or a lackey, by calling himself “just the bartender” of the bar where all the bad deeds take place. While dealing with some trouble on the (illegal) job, he founds a beat up puppy, which he takes under his protection, developing a bond with it, along with the puppy’s “trainer” Nadia (Noomi Rapace). At the same time, cousin Marv, his cousin and employer (James Gandolfini) seems to have his own agenda and his motives in the series of events that occur, are seriously questioned.
Tom Hardy’s and James Gandolfini’s performances were to my opinion, the highlights of the film (and the cute puppy). Other than that, the director set a very convincing, mysterious atmosphere, but the way the story and the scenario were developing, I felt that it kinda stretched out. I mean, you could tell that it was a short story initially; it was missing something that would make the viewers more on edge. Not to be too critical, we did get a good “wow” moment at the end, but was that enough? I know that the critics and viewers were all enthusiastic about the film, but for me it was good in some parts but not everything came together as it should. Well, I guess the fact that this film's got everyone debating about it, means that at least it's a film worth noticing..
The time has come! Today the Athens International Film Festival (Opening Nights) has announced the screening schedule! Lots of exciting movies to see, including a Robert Altman and Andrzej Zulawski tribute, the Nick Cave & Pulp documentary and many many more!! I am already trying to decide how to be in two theatres at the same time!
Today debutes in the 71st Venice film festival, Abel Ferrara's film "Pasolini". The film takes place at the final days in the life of Pier Paolo Pasolini, prior to his mysterious murder. Williem Dafoe portays the legendary Italian director, in a film where all characters except Dafoe speak their native language and the sex scenes are described so far as "extreme". From what we see it in the trailer, Dafoe once again gives an amazing performance and Ferrara manages to capture this dark time in the life of the Italian director.
For those of you not familiar with the work of Pier Paolo Pasolini, I advice you to look him up and watch his iconic films such as Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma, Il fiore delle mille e una notte and Teorema. His films might be hard to watch due to the strong sexual content or sadist violence, but if you are able see beyond that, you will see a great artist - a poet with strong political views, whose legacy still inspires younger directors.
Ever since I first set foot on a cinema theatre, I knew that something magical was happening there....