Sunday, February 5, 2023

Albert Serra's “Pacifiction”, Jafar Panahi's “No Bears”, Mia Hansen-Løve's "One Fine Morning", Hlynur Pálmason's “Godland”, and Brandon Cronenberg's “Infinity Pool” at The Grand Illusion, SIFF Cinema, Northwest Film Forum & Landmark Theatres: Jan 27 - Mar 2

Some of the last remaining films of note from this year's Venice Film Festival, alongside latecomers from the Cannes and Toronto festivals continue to arrive in Northwest theaters this month. Reporting from Cannes, The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw hailed the most recent in a succession of eerily atmospheric films from Spain's Albert Serra, "Pacifiction: Trouble in Paradise, in Apocalyptic Tahitian Mystery". In which Serra tells the tale of a French imperial tristesse, as an ambient and atmospheric political intrigue wrought with a palpable air of apocalyptic despair. Like much of the director's work, it is a nightmare that moves with confidence, at a gradual pace, somnambulistically shuffling through Serra's widescreen panoramic framings. Tahiti's lush coasts and landscapes are evoked with a breathtaking eye, yet the film is imbued with a lowering beauty, as something sinister looms out of frame, imposing itself over the whole affair. Rated the top film of the year by the illustrious Cahiers du Cinéma, Albert Serra's “Pacifiction”, continues the director's flair for distilling fabled events to eccentric anecdotes and imbues figures of history with the mundane and ironic weight of existence. These qualities brought to the fore in his most recent string of films beginning with 2013's "Story of My Death", followed by "The Death of Louis XIV", and 2019's uncompromising, "Liberté", a creative trajectory Artforum's Dennis Lim called Serra's pursuit of "Liberté or Death". Much in the way of "Pacification", a similar humid and discomfiting political air of threat and uncertainty hangs over "Stars at Noon", Claire Denis' most recent "Languid Tale of Sex, Lies and Intrigue in the Nicaraguan Heat", also at The Grand Illusion this month. From both Rotterdam and Berlin, at Northwest Film Forum we get the mashup of musical genre film and performance art seen in  Give Me Pity”, from Amanda Kramer, after her second of two films this year, following "Please Baby Please".

Playing at SIFF the same week, one of the major films from Berlin this year was the Golden Lion winner “Alcarras”, depicting "An Angry, Urgent Fight for Land in Catalonia", from Carla Simon. The junior of the Cronenbergs continues with his prolific stream after "Possessor", with a film that does little to temper some of the excesses of his father's filmography. Rather Brandon Cronenberg's “Infinity Pool”, instead dives headlong into its material of despair and sexuality, in the process becoming a recent heated battle in the discussion of ratings, "‘Infinity Pool’ and the Battle for an R Rating". A battle of a significantly more consequential nature has been raging for decades with a set of Iranian directors and the censors and government of that country. Most recently coming to a head with the arrest of Jafar Panahi, after he took part in a protest over the detention of fellow filmmaker and colleagues, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad. This all took place shortly after the completion of Jafar Panahi's “No Bears”. In Peter Bradshaw's film of the week "Jafar Panahi Headed for the Border in Complex Metafiction of Fear", following which, only in recent weeks was the "Iranian Filmmaker Released on Bail after Hunger Strike". Later in the month at the SIFF Cinema come some of the late stragglers from Cannes, including the intimate portrait of childhood seen in Lukas Dhont 's “Close", and Hlynur Pálmason's “Godland". Set against the stunning austerity and beauty of its Icelandic period location, Pálmason's is an entry in the Bergman tradition of, "Another of God’s Lonely Men Goes Amok (Spiritually)". Also from Cannes, "Léa Seydoux Sparkles in Poignant Drama" as auteur Mia Hansen-Løve returns to Paris with her most recent entry in a growing filmography of powerfully subtle and nuanced interpersonal dramas. "One Fine Morning" depicting what is her most fluidly indistinct merging of tangible life experience and cinematic storytelling, "Mia Hansen-Love and the Hazy Line Where Real Life Ends and Art Begins".