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Lindsay R. Bellinger


 

Lindsay is a film journalist and an aspiring playwright currently based in Berlin.

Attending film festivals, reviewing films and collecting vinyl keeps her busy. Let her know what you think of her reviews.^^


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Fantasy Filmfest 2018 Day 2: The Good, the Brilliant and the Unbearable

 

By LINDSAY R. BELLINGER

 

Well, the second day of the Fantasy Filmfest came and went. It had its ups and its downs. Let's start with the good even though it was at times a tad confusing. Irish director-writer Anthony Byrne co-wrote "In Darkness" with his fiancé, the formidable actress Natalie Dormer. Technically, the film is stylish and keeps one's attention, especially in the first act although some plot points become a bit perplexing later on. The opening shot is of a woman getting strangled but it's actually a scene from within the film and the live orchestra is merely recording music for it. The camera settles on the talented blind pianist Sofia (Dormer) and shortly after her interactions with her gorgeous and troubled neighbor Veronique (Emily Ratajkowski) come into play. Veronique winds up dead and Sofia, as a witness, is drawn into the dark web surrounding Veronique's father who many believe to be a Serbian war criminal. 
 
 
The classical soundtrack and the music that Sofia plays within the film are the standouts. The audience was into the film, that is until the third act when it became a bit too convoluted. Joely Richardson as Alex, the stone cold head of a security agency, is flawless and stunning. Her younger brother Marc, played by the handsome Ed Skrein, doesn't say too much, which is fine because he looks good flexing his muscles. Visually the film looks lovely. Somewhere in the latter half it looses some steam and doesn't quite live up to its full potential. If one enjoys political thrillers with a good soundtrack, then it's really not a bad way to spend an evening.

 

 

 

 

 

Now to the unbearable, not just awful in the sense that it was poorly shot or executed but in that it was absurd just for the sake of being absurd. It feels like a hipster film if there ever was one. It's a shame because one can see that the studio gave this film a decent budget to play around with. The comic talents of Audrey Plaza (as Lulu Danger), Chris Robinson (as Beverly Luff Linn) and a decent supporting cast including Emile Hirsch (as Shane Danger) was really wasted here. British director Jim Hosking's "An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn" feels like it's a cheap imitation of a John Waters or Christopher Guest film or even worse an extended SNL skit from their lazy and boring days. What boggles my mind is why the Berlin audience was really into it; there were way more laughs than the opening night's far superior New Zealand film "Mega Time Squad". I could go on and on about why this film really sucked the air out of the room, and even had me checking my watch four times, but then this article might never end. Thanks to the coffee that I downed right before the opening credits I was able to stay awake. Each moment when I thought that it might end a new scene started. It was quite trying. One scene in a diner where Lulu keeps saying over and over that Beverly is a man's name, even though her suitor adamantly says that it's a woman's name is tedious. There are too many scenes like that. The music was actually not that bad but much of the original score seem misplaced, as if it was accidentally synced to this film in some big mix-up. Too bad I couldn't muster up enough energy to walk out, but some small part of me needed to stay and see if it got any better. It didn't. 

 

 

And finally as I'm listening to Tangerine Dream's "Firestarter" soundtrack on vinyl we reach the brilliant part of Day 2. These Tangerine Dream electronic tracks get me in the perfect mood. Certain parts of composer Simon Waskow's menacing score brings to mind this iconic German band, well known for their film work. Their piercing and frenetic sound is influential. Some other bits even evoke memories of John Carpenter's compositions. German writer-director-producer-editor Tilman Singer's debut film "Luz" is a mysterious horror film that leaves a lasting imprint on one's mind. As soon as it was over, I wanted to see it again. That doesn't happen often. 

 
The establishing scene is a long static shot of shabbily dressed Luz (Luana Velis), a young Chilean cab driver, as she enters a police station. Blasphemous words are heard in Spanish, these words are later repeatedly spoken by various people at different times. Cut to two strangers sitting on their bar stools. There is a bit of a Lynchian or old school Cronenberg vibe here. The woman Nora (Julia Riedler) approaches the man, Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt), and asks for his opinion about her troubled friend from Catholic school. Rather than defusing Nora's strange behavior, the doctor imbibes far too many cocktails while she snorts some powder up her nose. They end up in the bathroom and some weird shit goes down but not in the wham, bam, thank you ma'am kind of way. Back at the police station Dr. Rossini hypnotizes Luz to figure out what went down earlier in the evening. A translator is used since Luz speaks Spanish more often than she speaks German. Singer's slow-burn of a film is just a mere 70 minutes in length but it really packs a punch. It doesn't feel too long or too short, but rather just right. The time is never stated but it's likely set in the 80s or 90s due to the dress, old boxed TV sets and Dr. Rossini's pager. 
 
It's been quite a long time since I sat in a theater where nobody, I mean nobody, was crinkling candy wrappers, checking their phone or noisily chomping away on popcorn. The audience was simply stunned into silence. This made the many silent moments within the film all the more effective. It was a welcome surprise. The sound design was compelling.  There was even one gentleman in front of me who was literally on the edge of his seat for most of the film. 
 
Honestly, modern German cinema leaves more to be desired, especially mainstream fare. Before the film a German man next to me was lamenting about that very fact, how simple comedies like "Fack ju Göhte" and goofy Til Schweiger films are the ones that make big money here. Let's hope that "Luz", with being shot in its glory on 16mm, which has a nostalgic feeling akin to some of the great supernatural films of the 70s and 80s, will get a real shot. Even though it premiered at Berlinale this year in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino section it flew under the radar, no big surprise since over 700 films were screened. Perhaps if it keeps making the festival rounds, it'll pick up even more steam. The festival Head of Programming, Frederike Dellert, was quite enthusiastic when she and Singer introduced the film and the excitement continued after the screening. The audience bombarded Singer with upwards of a dozen questions during the official Q&A and then of course there was a line to pick his brain privately. I'm not secure enough in my German skills to say that I understood 100% of the Q&A, although I still managed to scribble down a lot in messy German/English. Good thing that I talked with him afterwards in case I need to have some of his answers clarified. I'll post some highlights from the Q&A at a later date.   
 
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