This year, the contemporary program of the Strange Festival offered curiosities of all kinds, some of which will splash in theaters and DVD bins in the months to come.
The festival season is in full swing, to the delight and fatigue of the Écran Large editorial team. No question, in any case, of missing the Strange Festival, which took place from September 6 to 18, 2022 at the Forum des images. As usual, the program being sprawling, we had to make a selection. This edition once again offered exciting carte blanche, a short film competition, several quality retrospectives (Pale Flower in room 500 of the Forum, a great experience), as well as all kinds of cinematographic festivities.
Due to a lack of time and capacity for multiplication, we will therefore content ourselves with discussing the programming of contemporary feature films, that is to say the competition and the out-of-competition screenings. Several of these films will later sneak into France, sometimes in theaters, often on video. Between big Korean productions, award-winning films and remarkable oddities, we take stock.
Don’t count on us to indulge in an exalted celebration of the big winners of this edition: of the 12 films presented in competition this year, 11 have been seen by the author of these lines… And it is obviously the twelfth who won the Audience Award. So we have nothing to say about The Flight of Captain Volkonogov, except our good old Alexandre Janowiak who had seen it in Venice in 2021. Here is what he said at the time in a tweet: “A powerful fresco on the Soviet system, skillfully juggling between appalling darkness, biting humor and a welcome dose of poetry”. Suffice to say that it looks quite deserved as a price.
On the other hand, concerning the winner of the Grand Prix New Genre Canal+, the Norwegian-Swedish Sick of Myselfthe author of these lines considers that it is the worst collection of reactive and self-satisfied cynicism seen within the framework of the festival and therefore very logically the least good of the films of the selection, which would make Ruben Östlund’s cinema pass for a pinnacle of lyrical humanism.
Speaking of the wolf, we see the tip of the palm. Impossible not to report it: Without filter was previewed. Yours truly not being a huge fan of The Square (as you may have guessed), it has skipped its turn and is redirecting you to the enthusiastic review of the Palme d’Or of his esteemed colleague (Alexander him again). For fans of Nordic misanthropy (the first being clearly inspired by the second), Without Filter has just completed its operation, while Sick of Myself will pollute our screens on April 12.
Truce of grumpiness. The other great Cannes expectation presented out of competition was more than up to the task and will perhaps remain the strongest moment of this edition. Tchaikovsky’s Wife completely transcends its slightly rancid biopic postulate, to sketch through the female point of view the shadowy areas of History, Great Men and the idealized and consensual narrative that putrescent good society projects on their lives. The complexity of the alienated character camped by the excellent Alyona Mikhailova and the virtuosity of the staging of Kirill Serebrennikov take care of making it digestible, and even sometimes heartbreaking. Pity, that his films continue to be screened at the Strange Festival!
Let’s move on The Origin of Evil. Not that the film is unworthy of interest, on the contrary. But it has already delighted French spectators, almost 100,000 at the time of writing these lines. If you still have the chance, don’t miss this devilish and devilishly sneaky Chabrolian game of fools as a bonus. Another Cannes film, Hunt did not enjoy the same reputation. However, despite its long duration, he explores the limits of political engagement with rare virulence and a fairly effective suspense, especially during a climax jam-packed with turnarounds. But he wasn’t the only one to represent South Korea this year.
The organizers of the event themselves joked about it: the programming for this edition gave pride of place to Korean cinema, in all its forms, in all its guises, and with all its excesses. Outraged Huntthe opening and closing ceremonies opened and then closed hostilities, with two popular entertainments destined to demolish the local box office : The Roundup and Alienoid.
The first, false sequence of The Outlaws (in the sense that it is not necessary to have seen it), is an ultra-efficient and frankly violent pure action comedy, whose absurd Reagan accents would be praised if the film had been released in the United States. The Dong-seok Ma mirror cabinet is still just as irresistible as an automatic stuffing machine, especially since the fight sequences are very well done. A little candy to be tasted soon at Metropolitan, like Spiritwalkerwhich spoils its ambitious concept much too quickly for us to dwell on it too much.
The second is a bloated digital blockbuster of more than 2h20 with a trepanned pitch of the bulb (a temporal fault and an alien robot connect a conflict between monks endowed with superpowers in the 14th century and an alien invasion in the 21st century). Funny when he shamelessly displays his anachronisms, sometimes entertaining, but most often boringhe may have difficulty crossing the border, especially since his insolent cliffhanger did not fail to attract the mockery of the room.
In the department of dark and violent trips, we were also served with hot-blooded, thriller taking place almost mainly in the shallows of the port of Busan. The usual grub, technically very accomplished, narratively captivating, but instantly forgotten at the end of the projection. However, we will not so easily forget the completely stupid Project Wolf Huntingsold as a closed-door action movie, but in truth authentic brainless slasherwhich drowns its many faults under hectoliters of blood and tens of minutes of histrionics, digging as much into predator (yes) than in the HK mega-bis. Too bad it lasted so long, though.
Let’s also get rid of the disappointments like Life for salewhich suffers from a rather crippling pacing and editing problem, as do wobbly UFOs like Tower, the new film by Guillaume Nicloux, which got a lot of kicks right after its screening, even though it has to be acknowledged that it has a rather unprecedented suffocating radicalism. Too bad the rest is also… remote controlled. Stay a slew of curiosities of which the festival programmers have the secretsometimes promised to go out with us.
This is the case of the famous Unicorn Wars, presented on the sidelines of a retrospective dedicated to its eminent director, Alberto Vázquez, and expected in theaters on December 28. The lively hybridization of Full Metal Jacket and of Mon petit Poney made you want to, but risked sticking to its nag and multicolored gore satire. Nope: during an exciting epilogue, the filmmaker manages to deepen his discourse and justify his biases. A final at the height of the quality of the animation, bluffing.
Effective entertainment level, each in their own way, Dual and attachment were making coffee. The first, carried by Karen Gillan and a very amusing Aaron Paul, manages to compensate for its status as a clever concept film with a tongue-in-cheek, even downright cold humor that works rather well. The second manages to compensate for its status as a generic funk film on Jewish folklore with touches of comedy and above all a subtext on the life of a couple that is darker than expected. Two good surprises.
Finally, there are the unclassifiable who, this year, aligned themselves with a fashion for American fantastic and independent cinema: minimalism. A minimalism that ends up serving the nevertheless interesting family dinner (an exciting first part, a very disappointing climax) and We Might as well be dead (rereading of high-rise a little too shy), but which gives its salt to The Strange Story of the Woodcutter, poetic snowy stroll which sends any narrative structure waltzing to devote itself to a kind of discreet surrealism, which will put off those allergic to films that take their time, but will pleasantly rock the others.
Perhaps even more apt to divide its spectators, La Piedad yet largely convinced a part of the public. It must be said that its director Eduardo Casanova, a former sitcom actor behind the camera, was welcomed like a rock star during the memorable presentation (those who were present will confirm) of his feature film. And we must admit that his style, both outrageous (the parallel editing with North Korea, we had to dare) and extremely simple (the sets) did not leave us indifferent. And that’s why we come every year.
We would love to thank the author of this short article for this remarkable web content
Unicorn Wars, Hunt, La Piedad… the best films seen at L’Etrange Festival 2022