Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Reviewing Three Films from QCinema: LEVIATHAN, IDA, TWO DAYS ONE NIGHT

Noveember 12, 2014

Last week, the QCinema Film Festival was held in the Trinoma. QCinema is the official film festival of Quezon City, the City of Stars. Aside from local indie films, this festival also featured several acclaimed foreign language films. I went to catch these three films because they were already announced as their country's official entries to the race for Best Foreign Language Film in the next Oscars. Furthermore, they are actually touted to be those most likely named as nominees and even the possible winner.



1. LEVIATHAN 
(dir: Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia)

Kolya is a regular man who lived in a small seaside Russian town with his younger second wife Lilya and a teenage son from his first marriage Roma. He was being evicted out of his home by the mayor. He enlisted the legal assistance of a junior army buddy Dmitry, who has since become a hotshot lawyer in Moscow. However, as Kolya becomes the unfortunate victim more and more, both in the political and domestic fronts, Dmitry's arrival may actually have brought Kolya more harm than good.

The events in the story could in fact have happened anywhere else in the world. The political corruption aspect of this film (about how the powerful had the poor under their thumbs) has been tackled many times in many films. The family problems tackled in the film (poverty, rebellion, betrayal) are also really nothing new. The whole film felt like a Filipino film, even complete with a religion sermon at the end. All the characters in this film are flawed and not easy to like or relate to.

Maybe I was expecting too much because of the hype, or maybe the story is just too familiar for me, but this did not exactly feel too impressed by this film. It was only OK, not that special. Honestly, the film felt like two separate films with an awkward transition in the middle.  A major character in the first half even totally disappeared in the second half unmentioned. As with many European films, the pace of the storytelling was very slow, with very little happening in many scenes. There was a climactic twist of sorts, but it was not as big or surprising as I was expecting. I was disappointed, but hey, I read that this is the film most favored to win the Oscar. 6/10.



2. IDA 
(dir: PaweĊ‚ Pawlikowski, Poland)

Set in the 1960s in Poland, Anna was a young novitiate nun. Before she takes her final vows, she was required to reconnect with her only living relative, a worldly jaded judge, Wanda. Wanda takes Anna out to discover the truth about a dark family tragedy that happened during World War II.

The film is short and quiet. The story is deceptively simple. The actresses were both very good in their roles. The title role is the young nun played by Agata Trzebuchowska. She mainly plays it shy and innocent the whole film with hardly any dialog. But the more challenging role of the judge was played by Agata Kulesza, and she delivers a very passionate performance. The controversial endings for both women will be topics for discussion after watching the film.

The main conceit of this film though is its spectacularly sharp and stark black-and-white cinematography. Every frame it seems is worthy of being a picture postcard in its eloquence and beauty, even with its bleakness and shadows. There are shots where the main subject is off-center, yet they still looked so very good. 7/10.




3. TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT 
(dir: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium)

Set in modern day in the town of Liege, Sandra had a prolonged leave from work due to severe depression. Management realized they could do the job without her. When she recovered from this illness, Sandra learned she will be fired from her job depending on a vote by her co-workers. Sandra only has two days to convince at least nine co-workers to vote of her to stay over the 1000 Euro bonus management is offering them.

This is a very real-looking contemporary film about a very mundane topic. You can imagine Sandra going around house to house in order to personally talk to 16 people, so things do get repetitive. Some will side with her and some will rebuff her appeal because they need the bonus. Certain people will have some additional drama over the others. It all boiled down to that critical final vote at the end to see if Sandra stays or gets fired.

The main shining point about this film is the very realistic performance of Marion Cotillard as Sandra. Plain, frail and totally deglamorized, she looked like any regular woman desperate to keep her job. Her character's depression would invade her being during this very stressful and trying times, and Ms. Cotillard nails those delicate moments with devastating honesty. 7/10. 



21 comments:

  1. It seems great. You did a great reviiew

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  2. Two days one night sound a little boring... is there any plot twists in there? :P

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  3. Great review! Hope you can review other Hollywood films too!

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  4. I have been more intrigued with Two days, one night. Hmmm, seems like a mundane yet interesting scenario. :-)

    Just a question, how do you get copies of these eurofilms?

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  5. IDA kind of interests me..it sounds like 'Sound of Music' with a twist :)

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  6. Never heard of the QCinema Film Festival but anyway, before I read this post, I was looking at the posters and it seemed like those not-so-famous fictional books I see from bookstores.

    I'm more interested at the first one because it's something I can relate to.

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  7. It's interesting how we both do reviews but never seem to be reviewing the same show! I think we should one day do a review on one common film and see where we stand! Shall we?

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  8. Oh Fred- such splendid brief reviews! I'm a movie buff that's why I read this article in its entirety:) I'll watch IDA and Two Days, One Night then- my curiosity was piqued:) Keep it up Fred!

    JeniG Kalikotpepot

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  9. I'm interested to see Ida. Something about WW2 interests me that I sit up when it's about that. Thanks for the list.

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  10. Nice review..I watched Ida, the nun, and it's not my choice. According to your review, I prefer the third one, but the plot seems unique.

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  11. Never heard of the festival. I'm thinking of watching leviathan because it sounds familiar

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  12. If I choose one of the three, the third movies looks interesting as it is something contemporary. I wonder which Filipino film would be the contender for the foreign language film category.

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  13. i fi were to pick one to watch, i guess i'll go with Ida. The third movie sounds really boring and Leviathan... I don't know, when i saw the poster i thought it has something to do with archaeology or something...

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  14. Two Days One Night looks like a real test on people's character. We'll know who'll side with money or side with Sandra.

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  15. I would love to catch up IDA some day. Sounds like an interesting movie. :)

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  16. It is great that you paid attention to Russian, Polish and Belgian movies. A very few movie critics pay attention to European cinema as a whole. Your 3 reviews are interesting and after reading I decided to check out IDA.

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  17. Wow, lots of bang for our buck with three reviews! They all have their own appeal for sure, but I am drawn to see Ida for some reason. I will have to check it out.

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  18. My goodness! You've been busy watching movies a lot. For some reason, Leviathan sounded familiar like an old movie with the same name. Very interesting selection. I'd like to see them too.

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  19. Interesting review! For some reason I'm very interested in Ida and Two Days One Night.

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  20. I was very interested with Leviathan too because the Oscar rumors, but after your review, I would like to watch marion cotillard's film more. Also, that black and white nun movie sounds promising.

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  21. id never really watch films from other countries but this gives me an insight! ida appeals to me

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