I spent four days at the Ostend Film Festival this month. Whereas most film festivals program hard-to-find films, the Ostend Film Festival has a majority of Hollywood premieres, mixed with a dose of Belgian movies, classics, and documentaries. It is the kind of festival you would attend after a sun-filled day at the Belgian seaside.
Here are a few photos of the festival and its surroundings, as well as an overview of the movies I got to see:
Night Train To Lisbon
In Night Train to Lisbon, a Swiss professor saves a woman from suicide. She leaves behind a Portuguese philosophy book and two train tickets to Lisbon. Fascinated by the ideas of the unknown author, he abandons his buttoned-down life to go to Lisbon and find out everything there is to know about this man. His search brings him into contact with the writer's friends and family members and leads him to the very heart of himself. Bille August's direction is flawless and the actors (Jeremy Irons, Mélanie Laurent, Charlotte Rampling, Lena Olin) all succeed in bringing the emotions of this beautiful story to life. Based on the novel by Pascal Mercier.
Insidious: Chapter 2
James Wan made with Insidious: Chapter 2 exactly the same film as The Conjuring and Insidious: Chapter 1. A haunting, a family with children, possessed people, toys that start moving by themselves – all the same elements are present. The "scares" are everything they shouldn't be: contrived, obvious, and expected. Not once was I put on edge. But who am I to judge; his work does scare half the world to death.
Though I grew up watching Formula One with my parents, I've never really been a fan. I can't say I was eager to see Rush, which deals with the rivalry between F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, if not for the rave reviews it gets. Turns out Rush is one of my favorite movies of the Ostend Film Festival. It's pure adrenalin and emotion, but not without conveying a deeper meaning. Loved it.
Thanks For Sharing
Three men and a woman undergo treatment to recover from their sex addiction while trying to maintain normal relationships. "Shame is a much more realistic approach to the same subject because it ends badly," a friend stated after seeing Thanks For Sharing. I don't know who started the idea that stories should be depressing in order to be true to reality. That being said, Shame IS a better movie in terms of cinematography and acting, but Thanks For Sharing does a much better job at making us understand what it's like to be a sex addict. At the core, it may be a light-hearted romantic comedy, but it's one that knows its subject and characters. Also, Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo make the cutest couple in this film.
White House Down
Channing Tatum has just been rejected for a job as Capital policeman. Just as he is about to leave the White House, a heavily armed group of paramilitaries invades the building. Saving the president will be his only chance in proving that he is worthy of the job. As is the case with all of Roland Emmerich's movies, White House Down requires you to put your intelligence on hold for two hours, but if you do, the result will be a fun roller coaster ride of non-stop suspense.
A young woman infiltrates an anarchist group that executes covert attacks upon major corporations and develops a love/hate relationship with its people and ideals. The East misses punch but the interesting concept and promising actors (Brit Marling, Ellen Page, Alexander Skarsgård) make up for many of its misses.
In Promised Land, Matt Damon and Frances McDormand arrive in a small town where they persuade the inhabitants to invest in the natural gas company they work for. Some of the residents are aware of the side-effects of natural gas, and fear for their farms and animals. Convinced they are doing the right thing, Damon and McDormand continue their job. Gus Van Sant tackles the subject with distance and logic, which results in a controlled, smart film, but also in predictability and lack of emotion.