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The New European Auteurs At NDNF

UNMADE UNMADE BEDS (United Kingdom) 

Wednesday, 2 April----New Directors New Films, an annual rite of spring in New York film circles, provides the armchair traveler with a delicious and intoxicating journey through world cinema. While the series is certainly international in scope, new films from Europe provide the cream in the coffee for ambitious filmgoers. This year, new European auteur directors are making a strong impression on New York film critics and industry reps.

The themes and styles of the films are decidedly different. In CAN GO THROUGH SKIN, a feature debut by Dutch director Esther Rots, a young woman’s carefree life in Amsterdam is upended when her boyfriend breaks up with her and a deliveryman breaks into her apartment and assaults her. After helming two short films that have been featured at international film festivals, her impressive debut is a study of the battles that occur between the subconscious and reality.

In Russian director Vladimir Kott’s feature debut THE FLY, a macho truckdriver with interest in little else than life on the road (and the casual sex and vodka drinking done there) discovers that he may have a teenage daughter living in a dismal Russian town. When he decides to pick up the pieces and re-enter her life, high drama and delicious humor ensues, topped off by the strong acting of Aleksei Kravchenko as the father and Alexandra Tyuftey as the unruly daughter.

In the French/German co-production GIVE ME YOUR HAND, director Pascal-Alex Vincent sets his road movie as a journey by twins who are hitchhiking to their mother’s funeral in Spain. In another feature debut, Vincent sets the physical terrain against the interior struggles of the fraternal brothers, creating an atmosphere that is at once freewheeling and also tainted with rivalry and jealousy. After directing numerous short films, including the animated CANDY BOY, Vincent is a new French film talent to watch. GIVE ME YOUR HAND will reach theaters later this year via arthouse distributor Strand Releasing.

French director Ursula Meier worked on several films of the acclaimed Swiss director Alain Tanner before helming her debut feature HOME. Starring Isabelle Huppert as the matriarch of a family living in a desolate stretch near an unused highway, the film looks at the dynamics of her intense family, particularly after the highway becomes clogged again by whizzing cars and the sounds of “progress”. Finding the right balance between farce and drama, Meier gives her talented cast room to expand their characters and create a portrait of a family in distress.

Also from France comes the collaborative team of Gustave de Kervern and Benoit Delepine, whose third film LOUISE-MICHEL is set in a troubled factory. When they are abandoned by the factory management, they decide to hire a hit man to take care of business. Both a social satire and a “cri de Coeur” of economic hard times, the film is a potent reminder of the possibilities for revenge and retribution.

Italy has been enjoying yet another renaissance these days and the film MID-AUGUST LUNCH by writer/director Gianni Di Gregorio is a welcome addition. After a long career as a screenwriter (including the script for Matteo Garrone’s award-winning GOMORRAH), Di Gregorio takes the director’s chair in telling the tale of money-troubled Giovanni, who spends his days caring for his demanding elderly mother. Winner of the Venice Film Festival’s Isverma Award for Best First Film and London’s Satyajit Ray Award, the film is a potent charmer.

Spanish director Daniel Hernandez makes an auspicious debut with ORDINARY BOYS, a political drama set in a small Moroccan village that was home to the terrorists of Madrid’s infamous train station bombing in 2004. The film introduces use to a group of people who muddle through their lives and have simple desires but are sometimes influenced by the wrong forces. After producing more than 30 documentaries for television and the cinema, director Hernandez uses a realist eye to find the small exchanges that make up the lives in this slice-of-life drama.

An impressionistic story of the early days of the Soviet space program, Alexey German’s PAPER SOLDIER is part drama and part film essay. Through the eyes of a doctor working with young cosmonauts, German outlines the tensions in Kruschev-era Russia, where liberal intellectuals began to look into the future towards a new era of openness (that would not actually arrive until two decades later). After winning best film honors for his previous film THE LAST TRAIN at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, the director has been honored as the “discover of the year” by Russia’s Nika Awards.

Following his international success GLUE, Argentine director Alexis Dos Santos has made his first film in English. UNMADE BEDS, a UK production, follows a wide-eyed Spaniard who comes to London who finds himself in the midst of a bohemian community living in an underground squat. Allowing his misfits to carve out precious terrain in a hostile environment, Dos Santos uses original visual language to tell the story of these irreverent searchers.

To read more about these films and the full program for the New Directors New Films series, which runs to April 5, visit the websites: http://www.filmlinc.com/ and http://www.moma.org/

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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