Luxembourg Film Festival

The Baker’s Half Dozen

d'Lëtzebuerger Land vom 01.03.2024

After the 14th edition of the LuxFilmFest was officially launched on Thursday night, it’s high time to start thinking about how to coordinate the next ten festival days and make a screening schedule. The LuxFilmFest is small, especially compared to the big European festivals, but it is impossible to see everything. What’s more, not all films are shown the same number of times. The feature film competition shows its films three times, those from the documentary competition only twice. And while the out-of-competition films are also shown twice, the Cartes Blanches titles are only screened once. Not to mention the Luxembourg (co-)productions premieres. We’ve previewed seven films from across the programme and can offer some brief impressions as a way of counteracting the anxiety of decision making. Let the cinephile festivities begin.

Nome by Sana Na N’Hada

Guinean filmmaker Sana Na N’Hada was one of just a handful of people who followed the revolutionary desire of the (armed) freedom movement on camera at the end of the 1960s. These archival images now accompany his latest feature film, in which he follows two young people who live through the caesura from Portuguese colonial rule to independence in different ways.

The impressive thing about Nome is the juxtaposition of these degrading images and Na N’Hada’s reconstruction of this period in a fiction film. Whether or not the film holds together completely over its almost two-hour running time - especially the last thirty minutes - is actually of secondary importance in the context of the two diametrically opposed ways of dealing with life at the time. One thing is certain: the mise en scène is precise and at times surprisingly virtuosic and is occasionally reminiscent of the works of Ousmane Sembène and Pedro Costa.

This Friday at 4pm at Ciné Utopia, and Thursday, March 7th at 1.30pm at the Cinémathèque

Hoard by Luna Carmoon

Whilst most coming-of-age stories dedicate their time to the awkward quirkiness of their adolescent characters, Luna Carmoon decided to go a few steps further. Her debut feature Hoard is a chaotic initiatory tale - which, apart from the first half hour, in no way speaks against it - in which a young woman (literally) wallows in the dirt as she experiences her sexual awakening and tries to come to terms with her childhood trauma.

A Play for Today with a performative theatre approach and with more than committed players at its centre. Saura Lightfoot Leon as Maria alone is worth the entrance fee. This first cinematic breath of yet another promising female voice in British cinema will antagonise many. However, those who embrace it will be gifted with a very personal film.

Monday, March 4th at 8.30pm at the Cinémathèque, on Wednesday, March 6th at 10am at Kinepolis Kirchberg, and on Friday, March 8th at 6.30pm at the Ciné Utopia

River by Junta Yamaguchi

The eponymous small river quietly flows through an even smaller and quieter spa town, in which time seems to stand still. But in Junta Yamaguchi’s film, time not only stands still, it suddenly even turns into a loop - a two-minute loop - from which the hotel employees and the visitors of said establishment seem unable to escape.

Even though it’s ultimately a much less intricate mindgame-film than its madcap predecessor Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, River still has a very clear artistic view and playful sense of framing time and space. Director Yamaguchi and his troupe remain true to their very idiosyncratic low-budget charm and their way of filmmaking as a true collective. Despite a slightly sobering ending, this slighty hysterical, fun romp of a Japanese film delights with its wit. Will there be a conclusion to this playful two-minute trilogy? Only looped time will tell.

Monday, March 4th at 9pm at Ciné Utopia

Animal by Sofia Exarchou

Presented in Locarno last year, this award-winning Greek film has since enjoyed a good festival career. It portrays the other side of the all-inclusive holiday coin. Sofia Exarchou’s second feature film is a social study of a band of entertainers who have to keep tourists happy during the holiday season. The head of the troupe is Kallia, who knows the dynamics and dangerous pits of the ephemeral holiday resort better than anyone. But that doesn’t stop her from jumping into it with both feet.

You’ll never be able to listen to the disco banger I Can Boogie by Baccara as light-heartedly ever again after seeing this. Sofia Exarchou’s film is almost documentary-like in places as it follows the group’s everyday holiday life, which, of course, is not a holiday at all. It does so without judgment, by meandering and being deliberately repetitive. Between escapism, partying and permanent hangovers, how do you live something real in the false world of the resort? Dimitra Vlagopoulou’s Kallia character won the acting award in Locarno. Still, it runs a little out of steam when it stays exclusively with her.

Tuesday, March 5th at 9.15pm at Ciné Utopia and on Wednesday, March 6th at 4pm at the Cinémathèque

Evil Does Not Exist by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi had to go through the same long Oscar fuss that Justine Triet is currently going through the year before last. While the whole new Hamaguchi fanbase was craving a second Drive My Car, the director delivered Evil Does Not Exist. It is a follow-up film which kind of resembles a middle finger towards any such expectations, both in its formal restraint and general dramaturgical lack of melodrama.

The film tells the story of a Japanese idyllic village that runs the risk of being destroyed by the construction of a high-end glamping-campsite nearby. On the basis of this wafer-thin pitch, Hamaguchi dissects the role of man in relation to nature. Of course, it is also about the human condition, which, perhaps in the director’s view, always lets man slip close to evil. The film’s title could almost be labelled ironic. The film, which was initially intended as a collage of images for a project for musician Eiko Ishibashi, is more than mysterious and will leave more questions than answers after the first viewing. Definitely no Drive My Car 2.

Monday, March 4th at 8.30pm at Ciné Utopia and on Saturday, March 9th at 4.15pm at Cinémathèque

Vampire Humaniste Cherche Suicidaire Consentant by Ariane Louis-Seize

This much is certain: the film title of the year has been awarded already. Young Sascha is a vampire. But she has a problem. She doesn’t like the killing involved in blood-drinking. Her parents must do that for her. Thank God she meets the suicidal boy Paul, who is not at all surprised to have met a bloodsucker. Quite the opposite. He offers to sacrifice his life so that she can live. But before that happens, both decide to honor his last wishes.

Out of the way Jenna Wednesday Ortega, Sara Montpetit is the true reincarnation of Winona Ryder. Somewhere between Thomas Alfredson’s Morse and Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, the French-Canadian Louis-Seize serves up a more than entertaining teenage comedy. She is not ashamed in the least of her goth and emo affinities and delivers a palatable pamphlet in favour of being different. Lovely needle drops and even lovelier Steve Laplante – seen in Viking at last year’s fest - included.

Saturday, March 2nd at 9pm at the Cinémathèque

Dream Scenario by Kristoffer Borgli

Nicolas Cage is an unstoppable force of nature. Between all the crap, there are always interesting nuggets of films to be found. For Dream Scenario for instance, he slips into the role of an unimpressive professor and family man who thousands of people dream about overnight. While nobody can explain these dreams, he becomes an inconspicuous celebrity.

The films of Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli polarise. Some find his treaties about the effects of online life on offline life too simplistic and his more than tongue-in-cheek cynicism difficult to deal with. Nevertheless, the casting of Nic Cage is more than a meta-gag. He, who is no longer collectively dreamed of himself, puts in a tremendous amount of effort and lurks with a nuanced comedic performance that Borgli perhaps doesn’t deserve. The film doesn’t know how to get out of its own act, but thanks to Cage, it somehow doesn’t matter.

Saturday, March 2nd at 7pm at Kinepolis Kirchberg

Tom Dockal
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