Travels in Locarno

A view onto the film festival plaza in Locarno, Italy

The thunderstorms have finally cleared in Locarno, but the Leopards continue to pour down: I’m visiting this week for the 65th edition of the Festival del Locarno and on the hunt for new film experiences.

My journey through the labyrinthine cobblestone streets of the city has offered diverse views so far, including the lead-up to the recent Russian election of Vladimir Putin, an aging couple and their mortally-aware daughter in China, the treacherous imbalance of a Maine fishing vessel, the mythology of the people of Vanuatu, and so much more. Yes, here in the mountains of Locarno, you can fish quite the cinematic splendor from Lake Maggiore.

I started my cinematic travels at the festival by peering inside an Occupy-like landscape as the Russian people prepared to vote Putin once again. Winter, Go Away! is an important examination of the peoples movement responding to the totalitarian urges of Putin et al. Directed by a group of film students, the piece is not so much agit-prop as verite inspection. Urgent and exciting, this film demands to be viewed.

The Spanish film Arraianos (produced by recent Film Forum guest Oliver Laxe’s brother) represents my second festival day’s thematic concern: time. Shot in a small Galician village, the film grafts a Marinhas del Valle text onto documentary portraiture of a disappearing cultural identity. It was the best of the day’s three examinations of experiential time. I also took in Peter Bo Rappmund’s landscape pixilation work Tectonics, whose looping movements felt a bit lazy, as well as Canadian Peter Mettler’s bravura End of Time. It felt like a durational and conceptual stretch to me.

The day ended with what is certainly the talk of the festival thus far, Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Sweet Grass) and Verena Paravel’s Leviathan. A visceral experience, I felt like I was literally drowning in the rocky North Atlantic sea.  Not to be viewed in the first few rows, for fear of leaving the cinema drenched! Haunting and nauseously beautiful, it is the film experience to beat this year.

Other highlights from the festival include the latest architectural portrait from Austrian Heinz Emigholz, who this time looks at the Algerian architectural work of Auguste Perre; the latest playful repetitions from Nicolas Pereda; conspiracy theories on The Shining in Room 237, Film Forum October guest Ben Rivers’ latest short shot in Vanuatu, and Ho Hsiao Hsien actress Fang Song’s fatally aware Memories Look At Me.

Today I take in the latest from Joao Pedro Rodrigues, Jem Cohen and an 8,000 person piazza screening of Pablo Larrain’s latest. So much more to absorb in the days ahead.

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