The Salient International Film Festival Diary Part 2

by / 02/08/12

THE TASTE OF MONEY
Dir: Im
Reviewed by Adam Goodall

Im Sang-soo’s latest festival film is a pseudo-sequel to the enthralling and laudably bugnuts The Housemaid, sharing a character, an actress (playing a different role), and the themes of upper-upper-upper-class excess and the casual contempt for the disempowered that such power cultivates in those that possess it. However, Im’s satire oscillates between the low-key and the didactic here, a stock melodrama about infidelity oh-so-subtly infused with class conflict and tax evasion sharing screentime with blunt monologues about how terrible characters are for loving money so much. It’s an approach that’s more unsatisfying than anything, with the tone fluctuating wildly and the narrative being tougher to penetrate than it should be. That said, the production design is nothing short of incredible, extravagant to the point of absurdity, and Kim Kang-woo is excellent as protagonist Mr Joo, an assistant for the Yoon family who’s half-bewildered by their insanity and inhumanity, half-intoxicated by their opportunities and their money.

The Verdict: B-

NEIGHBOURING SOUNDS
Dir: Mendonca Filho
Reviewed by Adam Goodall

Using his short films Electrodomestica and Caged In as a starting point, Mendonca Filho’s first feature is an off-kilter, entertaining, thought-provoking look at a street in a middle-class Brazilian suburb. Mendonca Filho tackles subjects as wide-ranging as class disparity, urbanisation and gentrification, the fragility of human relationships, rampant consumerism, and the constant, overriding search for security, and he does so with good humour, a keen eye for framing, an unconventional (and heady) narrative flow, and an unexpected streak of horror. It’s one of the most striking individual statements of the festival and it’s absolutely worth seeing.

The Verdict: A

TABU
Dir: Gomes
Reviewed by Adam Goodall 

After I got over the fact that there’s now an actual TREND of using the Academy Ratio in modern cinema (note: Academy Ratio is awesome), Tabu was very easy to slip into. A poetic tale split in two about an old and lonely Portugese woman whose life is marked by monstrous crimes, it moves at a steady, unhurried pace and lets you into this woman’s life through her carer and her former lover respectively. That all said, it’s a tough film to wrap your head around in one sitting, particularly when you’re fighting to stop yourself from falling asleep because of all the work you’re doing and oh my god these new Paramount chairs are so comfy, but I have a feeling this could be a sleeper classic when I see it again. For now, I just really liked it.

The Verdict: B+

THE MINISTER
Dir: Scholler
Reviewed by Gerald Lee

Most political dramas don’t open by showing a naked woman crawling into an alligator’s mouth. Then again, The Minister couldn’t be called a normal film in any respect.

Ostensibly this is a mere political drama, focusing on the French Minister of Transport’s efforts to first stop, and then push forward, an agenda of privatisation.  However, the endless stream of political information quickly becomes maddeningly confusing. This is partly by design but also the fault of some clumsy plotting which seems to think information dumping is somehow engaging.

Interspersed with these scenes of political life are some sequences which can only be described as bizarre, including a moment where we watch (and listen) to the minister have a shit. Scholler tries to imply that these represent the minister’s fractured state of mind, but they end up feeling redundant as he only briefly and infrequently touches on them. The film’s ending also feels arbitrary, implying some grand thematic completion that doesn’t really exist.

There are certainly aspects of The Minister which work exceedingly well, most notably the impressive performance from Olivier Gourmet as the titular minister, but they are often overshadowed by disorienting scenes and plot points. It’s truly a bewildering film, which some will love and which others will loath.

The Verdict: B-

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