Chongqing Blues (China) dir Wang Xiaoshuai
Lin, a sea captain, returns from a 6 month journey when he is told that his 25-year-old son Lin Bo has been gunned down by the police. In his quest to understand what happened, he realizes he knew very little about his own son. He starts a journey back to Chongqin, a city he once lived. He will understand the impact of his paternal repeated absence on the life of his child.
Lee Marshall (ScreenDaily) writes, "A strong performance by Wang Xueqi as the father provides emotional ballast but fails to make up for the glacial pacing of the drama; and although there are some effective emotional tugs and an evocative use of the film’s dirty industrial city setting, the audience’s investment in the slowbuild structure is never paid back in full....As a film about fathers and sons, Chongqing Blues has some resonance. The film is also chock-full of images of passage and change...But the slight, mushy story, and the overly pretty actors cast in the three main youth roles, are not really up to the task of carrying what would otherwise be a stimulating symbolic load. "
Maggie Lee (Hollywood Reporter) seems to concur: "It may be solidly directed with Bressonian detachment and anchored by an absorbing performance by lead actor Wang Xueqi, but it is neither outstanding nor revelatory enough to play outside of a cluster of European art house cinemas."
Sukhdev Sandhu (Telegraph UK) gives it four stars, "Like many Chinese films being made today, Chongqing Blues desperately needs to find international audiences; its focus on dislocation — both physical and mental — and its melancholic textures aren’t in demand back home. With barely a false note, and a quietly absorbing lead performance from Wang, this is a slow-burning gem."
Tournee (France) dir. Mathieu Amalric
Joachim, a former Parisian television producer had left everything behind - his children, friends, enemies, lovers and regrets to start a new life in America. But he returns with a team of New Burlesque strip-tease performers whom he has filled with romantic dreams of a tour of France, of Paris!
Brad Brevet (Ropes of Silicon) seems on the fence, "the film didn't bowl me over there is an undeniable playful and inviting quality to it — primarily to its characters..., the abrupt introduction and where the film ends up never makes it feel like a complete picture. The comparison to a Fellini piece ('8 1/2') is appropriate, but the film doesn't create enough sustainable layers to justify a nearly two hour runtime while Federico (Fellini) could go on for hours before I ever begin to look at my watch."
Sukhdev Sandhu (Telegraph UK) likes this as well, "Tournée is funny, intelligent, sad-eyed — just like Amalric himself..."
Dave Colhoun (TimeOut) writes, "Overall it’s far too scrappy and freewheeling to come across as the credible portrait of a man on the edge that it wants to be. Amalric is a frenetic, conflicted presence, but the writing and his acting don’t go anywhere near far enough to make you believe his predicament"
The Strange Case of Angelica (Portugal, France, Spain, Brazil) dir. Manoel De Oliveira
En Certain Regard
Isaac is a young photographer living in a boarding house in Régua. In the middle of the night, he receives an urgent call from a wealthy family to come and take the last photograph of their daughter, Angelica, who died just a few days after her wedding. Arriving at the house of mourning, Isaac gets his first glimpse of Angelica and is overwhelmed by her beauty. As soon as he looks at her through the lens of his camera, the young woman appears to come back to life just for him. Isaac instantly falls in love with her. From that moment on, Angélica will haunt him night and day, until exhaustion.
Peter Brunette (The Hollwood Reporter) sums it up as a "Rarefied homage to the imagination and the otherworldly is pretty but uninvolving". It's from a 101 year old director, and Brunette references his age, "There seems to be general agreement that longevity equals virtue, but this is true, in and of itself, neither in life nor in filmmaking. "Angelica" is vintage De Oliveira, and some will love it on those grounds alone, but it's a vintage that may have passed its prime."
Tuesday, After Christmas (Romania) dir. de Radu Muntean
En Certain Regard
Paul Hanganu married Adriana ten years ago. They have an eight year old daughter, Mara. For the past six months he has been involved in an extra-marital affair with Raluca, a twentyseven-year-old dentist. Paul, who is struggling to find time for Raluca, for gift shopping and for his family, decides to take his daughter to the dentist one last time before Christmas. An unexpected change in Adriana's schedule brings the two women in the same room for the first time. The meeting forces Paul to face a difficult decision.
Steven Zeitchik (LA Times) loves this one, "Romanians can't make a bad film. It's, like, illegal in their country. Or at least not in their DNA...This year the streak continues -- and perhaps gets even stronger...Muntean's movie is a remarkable, pitch-perfect work, as convincing and affecting a portrayal of the subtleties of modern life and marriage as you'll find on the screen. Cinematic genius is taking a story we think we've seen before and telling it an entirely fresh way, Muntean is ready for Mensa."
Natasha Senjanovic (The Hollywood Reporter) disagrees, "More than slice-of-life, Romanian director Radu Muntean's "Tuesday, After Christmas" is dice-of-life -- but the dissected minutiae of this adultery drama unfortunately doesn't add up to a very original or moving whole. Lovers of neo-neo-realism will extol the film's painstaking honesty so "Tuesday" can count on extensive festival exposure and auteur venues -- Muntean's forte. It will not have much television or DVD play across borders though."
Jay Weissberg (Variety) seems in between, "Impressively held takes and a superbly spare use of widescreen are the most notable elements ...Once again, Muntean and his script collaborators offer exceptionally naturalistic dialogue -- though there's an awful lot of it in this story of a guy shuttling between wife and mistress before finally making a decision. Perhaps more problematical (and perhaps partly due to Mimi Branescu's strong thesping), the male protag is far less interesting than his distaff partners. Nevertheless, excellent craftsmanship will win over fest programmers."