SITGES FILM FESTIVAL 2011 (PT. I)

What a mess! Once again, it’s taken me longer than expected to update on this festival I attended a month ago already. My apologies!

Wish I could talk about more films from Sitges Film Festival 2011 edition, but unfortunately, not press registration, bad planning, and lack of time and money, only allowed me enjoy a wonderful Saturday in town. Can’t complain though, for I had tickets for just two films, and ended up attending 4,with a result of 3 positive and worth seeing, and one a total joke.

I’ve not too much experience regarding film festivals, but I’m starting to think they’re as worth attending as music festivals, especially if contents are related to genres you love.

I’ve come to the conclusion I’m trying to get more involved in the future, in order to discover new proposals, and opening to new stuff. And of course, the possibility of meeting friends and share interesting conversations regarding all this marvelous world is simply priceless, and helps you realize how much you still can learn, and set new targets you to focus on.

So here it is my Sitges experience I want to share with you. Hope you enjoy.

DRIVE, Nicolas Winding Refn (2011)

There are many components in this explosive cocktail as not to fail: Ryan Gosling, cars, pink neon credits, 80s inspired soundtrack, violence and blood…  Nothing could be wrong, and in fact it didn’t, Drive is gonna be the hype of the year, but it’s worth it, believe me.

The Driver, by Walter Hill, as a strong source of inspiration comes to mind immediately. And of course, memories of Bullit or Vanishing Point also spark underneath.

The driver (Ryan Gosling) is a workaholic. He devotes his life to work with cars, as a mechanic in a repairing shop owned by his mentor, Shannon (Bryan Cranston), who also introduced him into Hollywood as a stuntman for car action scenes. Moreover, he performs occasional driving for robberies requiring a professional driver for the getaways.

He’s a guy with no identity, no attachments, not relatives known, and not a very talkative person or emotional either. Until he gets acquainted with his neighbors. A young woman, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her kid, Benicio. A kind of platonic story starts, with the shadow of Irene’s husband, serving prison for armed robbery.

In the meantime, Shannon is making business with dangerous people, in order to get enough money to develop a car prototype the driver would race with, involving lots of money. The associates, Nino (Ron Perlman) and Bernie Rose, are the kind of guys you don’t mess around with, and they accept to invest, supervising and nosing on the preparations as to ensure their money is safe.

Eventually Standard, Irene’s wife, is released from prison, which means the friendship among neighbors should logically come to an end, for obvious reasons. But nothing was said to be that easy, and Standard is attacked and beaten for unfinished business, up to a point if he doesn’t carry out a robbery at a pawn shop, his family will suffer the consequences. And who will do the driving? Easy to guess.

What seems to be a non risky job, turns out to be a trap, and the driver will be forced to apply all his skills and cold blood to get Irene, Benicio and himself out of danger.

The way the plot is developed is perfect. Opening with a robbery as a way of introducing the driver to the audience, as cold, calculating, and professional, is enough as to catch the bait.

Although the start of the film is powerful, according to the typical pattern of the action movies, with the first 5 minutes creating tension, the following change as to introduce us to the actual plot is radical in its rhythm, focusing on the strong attachment among the driver and his neighbors, Irene in special. There are some moments you can think of another cakey love story, as the tone is very evocative, takings are very artistic, and the whole thing is kind of bucolic. But it’s a good technique, to enhance the super blow to come.

Really, Drive is the perfect shot of action. It’s violent, dynamic, surprising, bloody and mean. Beware! It’s not to be related to last year’s major action releases, such as Expendables or Machete, better considered as just entertainment and a great laugh. Drive is serious in its story, not aiming to be taken as a joke. Characters are not super heroes but just the opposite. Standard is a vulgar robber, the driver is a mechanic and Irene is just a waitress. If you think of the mob side, involving Albanian mafia, believe me, there’s no glamour or attractive in that.

The cast is something to take serious. With Ryan Gosling, absolutely brilliant, confirming, not only he’s the most wanted man in the world, but also a great actor, with a promising future ahead, but also featuring one of the current hottest goddess Christina Hendricks, a rough Ron Perlman, and the innocent but seed of the whole mess, Carey Mulligan (truth is her performance is not so consistent).

Release date in Spain is due to the end of this month. Sure I will repeat and will go to the cinema to watch it for the second time. Believe me, this hype is worth seeing, and most likely is to be one of the films of the year. hope you like it!

KILLER JOE, William Friedkin (2011)

After an extense career as director, featuring more than 20 films, including classics such as The Exorcist, The Cruising or The French Connection, Friedkin is not expected to prove anything. Perhaps, because he can do whatever he wants, he’s delivered this shocking black redneck comedy this year, away from social politeness.

The Smiths are pure white trash. Dumped from his mother’s house, Chris (Emil Hirsh) asks his father for money and shelter. He’s in debt with Digger Soames, the kind of big guy you cannot play with, and his life is in risk. Ansel has no money and if he had, he wouldn’t spend a dime on his stupid boy, his wife Sharla (Gina Gershon) would not allow it.

The only solution is contracting Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to kill Chris’ mother, so they’d be able to claim for her life insurance policy money, pay the killer, clean the debts and share the money among the family.

Problem is that Joe Cooper only accepts prepaid jobs. But he finds a way to ensure the payment. Dottie, Ansel’s 12 year old daughter, a night walker and a very special girl, still virgin, will be the pledge.

As soon as the agreement is done, Chris will regret having ruined his sister’s life in the hands of the killer and will try to put things into order.

Killer Joe is an excessive story. The protection of the underage is not valid here. Dottie is to fulfill Joe’s requirements and is a grant for payment. Everything is unacceptable and morally wrong. But who cares? Anything goes.

Dialogues and situations are so way out of line, so absurd, while watching the film I was totally shocked, so astonished, I found myself laughing nonstop. The way all things are messed around, how situation is getting more and more twisted is insane.

Such extreme the contents are, don’t think this film is being released at any cinema. Positive Friedkin wasn’t looking to be acclaimed nor praised, he just doesn’t care.

Therefore, if you are sensitive to certain subjects or morally concerned as not to understand this film as a joke, don’t waste your time watching it, otherwise you’ll get angry and disappointed. I had fun though.

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