By Blair Stewart
Hi everybody, I'm averaging four films a day here so now's a good time to catch up on some of the work I've seen so far.
Winter's Bone (2010) dir. Debra Granik
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes
The big winner at Sundance this year, and already lauded here at DFD, "Winter's Bone" is a classical western moved to the crank-stained hills of the Ozarks. Star-in-the-making Jennifer Lawrence is Ree, the daughter of a meth cooker who's vanished like a puff of smoke around the same time bail bondsmen are coming to collect either him or the family home. Ree will have to spiral down into a white-trash Dante's Inferno to find him while failing to stay on the good side of her terrifying Uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes of "Deadwood" and "American Gangster" acclaim playing mid-70's Dennis Hopper as Charlie Manson). The characters and setting are true to the very marrow, and "Winter's Bone" is made for the Criterion collection.
Submarino (2010) dir. Thomas Vinterberg
Starring: Jakob Cedergren and Peter Plaugborg
Thomas Vinterberg's comeback attempt since wandering out in the ether after "The Celebration" is a hearty dose of Danish misery disguised as realism. Jakob Cedergren delivers the best male performance of the Berlinale I've seen so far as one of two brothers traumatised by their youth, but outside of a strong opening the navel-gazing soon overwhelms as I saw where we were heading. Wildly over-praised so far by the press ("it's just so honest and gritty!"), and could very well win the Golden Bear despite my meagre protests. We've seen this tragedy before and it was told far better.
Portrait of the Fighter as a Young Man "Portretul Luptatorului La Tinerete" (2010) dir. Constantin Popescu
Starring: Constantin Ditá
Displaying the unwavering stubborness of a pedant who can't edit himself, Constantin Popescu's "Portrait" is a potentially great 100 minute film trapped inside a sluggish 163 minute opus. The story of Ion Gavrilă-Ogoranu and his Romanian freedom fighters rebelling against the Reds could have been a masterpiece if it wasn't assembled in this order: Skirmish, retreat, speech, repeat. Skirmish, retreat, speech, repeat. And onwards. The only number higher than the body count of the freedom fighters was the amount of critics prematurely fleeing the screening. The letdown of the festival in my books, but one that could be saved by a re-edit.
One Day "You Yi Tian" (2010) dir. Hou Chi-Jan
Starring: Nikki Hsin-Ying Hsieh and Gwen Yao
Executive-produced by Hou Hsiao-Hsien, I figured a Taiwanese dreamscape would be up to snuff with the craft of Bunuel, Lynch and Kar-Wai. Sadly Chi-Jan appears only to dream of watching paint dry with an occasional horse turning up. Next!
The Initiation "Blutsfreundschaft" (2010) dir. Peter Kern
Starring: Helmut Berger and Harry Lampl
The worst film I've seen at a film festival since 2001's "Suicide Club" in Vancouver. An unholy fusion of skinhead "Apt Pupil" via early Almodovar as directed by Edward D. Wood Jr., "The Initiation" shoves amateur comedy where drama should be and vice-versa. Should the braintrust of the Pentagon ever catch this poorly-written, incompentently directed offensive shit-box on a future episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" the Marine Corps will be dispatched to Austria.