I just came back from the Brussels Film Festival whose focus is on European films. Here are a few photos and an overview of the films I got to see...
The Brussels Film Festival started on Thursday with two matinee press screenings. The first was Post Partum, a Belgian film about a young mother coping with postnatal depression and the inability to love her newborn. Many women will sympathize with Mélanie Doutey's believable character as they'll recognize her fatigue, doubts, anxieties, and attempts at being a good mother. I particularly loved the scene where her water breaks when she's at work in a veterinary office, yet she takes her time to put a client's dog to sleep and to give its owner the possibility to say goodbye. Post Partum is a film Belgium may be proud of.
The second press screening was for Chaika. The film follows the life of a couple of nomads over two seasons: winter in Siberia and summer in Kazakhstan. What we get is poverty, rape, prostitution, extreme cold, desolate landscapes, and an overall feeling of depression and hopelessness. No wonder I was relieved when Chaika was over. But don't get me wrong. The film is interesting because of the different culture and setting and well-made. Definitely give this film a try, but don't expect it to be an easy watch.
On Friday afternoon I went to a press screening of The Best Offer. In this engaging mystery set in the world of art auctions, Geoffrey Rush plays a solitary auctioneer who is asked to handle the valuation of a mysterious woman's priceless heirlooms. The woman, however, refuses to show her face at all cost. His initial irritation with her behavior quickly transforms into empathy, then love. Once he finds out who she is, he will be in for a big surprise. The Best Offer fascinates on many levels: with the mysterious story, the gifted actors (Jeoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess), and the precise direction. But is it a film that will stick? Only time will tell.
The first film I saw on Sunday was Charlotte Rampling: The Look. In this documentary, actress Charlotte Rampling is filmed while in deep discussion with fellow artists about love, age, taboo, desire etc. The conversations are intersected with scenes from several of her movies such as The Night Porter, Stardust Memories, Swimming Pool, Heading South, and Max, Mon Amour. Thanks to this approach, we get a good feel of what Charlotte Rampling is like: philosophical, analytical, modern, but also a little sad.
Next came The Girl With Nine Wigs (original title: Heute bin ich blond). Sophie is only 21 when doctors tell her she has cancer and almost no chance to survive. Fighting back against fear, hospital visits, and drugs with excruciating side-effects, she decides to live life to the fullest and that includes lots of men, parties, and alcohol. But because Sophie refuses to show the world she's ill, she hides under a variety of wigs... and with every wig comes another personality and name. The Girl With 9 Wigs, which is based on a true story, is touching and engaging and makes you feel alive and happy, despite the subject. It's a film many people will relate to. Author Sophie van der Stap and actress Lisa Tomaschewsky were also at the Brussels Film Festival to present The Girl With 9 Wigs.
The Brussels Film Festival closed with I, Anna directed by Barnaby Southcombe (Charlotte Rampling's son) and based on the novel by Elsa Lewin. The first hour captivates. It starts as a film noir with Charlotte Rampling being the witness to a murder and Gabriel Byrne investigating the case and falling in love with her. We find out that the woman has many secrets and that she may not be as innocent as Byrne thinks she is. The majority of the film surpasses the common thriller because it focuses on the characters and their daily activities. Then the third act happens; the characters lose their charm and we are left with a mess of loose ends. A missed opportunity.
Which of these films are you looking forward to seeing?