Sunday, August 10, 2008

MIFF Mini Review: O' Horten and 881

I don't really have enough to say about either of these titles to write much more what's below so I'm just presenting you guys with these mini reviews. Hope you like.

I happened upon this Norwegian film by director Bent Hamer (Factotum) after my screening of Yinan Diao's Night Train was cancelled due to a blown projector (naturally at the Greater Union cinema), but I'm actually glad because O' Horten turned out to be my second favourite film of the festival.

O' Horten is one of those films that right away you can tell it's a Scandinavian film. It's sense of humour in the face of sadness reminded me of Aki Kaurismäki's The Man Without a Past or Lars Von Trier's The Boss of It All. Those cold exterior landscapes are photographed so beautifully by John Christian Rosenlund, especially those opening shots of the tunnels of Norway, and the performances, especially the lead work by Bård Owe is exceptional. He had a way reminscent of actors such as Jean Rochefort in the way they handle the work so delicately, but evoke so much. If this film is ever released theatrically near you or screens at a festival do try and see it. It's a lovely way to break up the occasional depressing monotony that is a film festival. B+

Another impulse viewing as I had a spare two hours before My Winnipeg, so I decided to see Royston Tan's hyperactive musical 881, turns out I shouldn't have bothered. Tan's film is a mess that gets by because of it's bright splashy colours and it's occasionally fun music.

The performances certainly don't help make 881 any more palatable as nearly two hours of watching Ling Ling Liu overact the point of exhaustion is not my idea of fun. And while Liu is off gallivanting around like a madwoman, the performances of Yuwu Qi (who was in last year's AFI winner The Home Song Stories), Mindee Ong and Yann Yann Yeo are dreary and uninteresting. Only May Wan Tei and Chow Wan Tei get the right level of absurdist moxie as the villains of the film. The costumes are appropriately outlandish and the music differs between dull and cutesy fun, but not exactly the sort you would rush out and purchase the soundtrack for. I should note that for the first hour I was fighting and almost losing battle with the desire to nap, which, even during a film festival, is not a good sign.

I'm sure 881 will pop up on SBS from time to time and will get some sort of tag as a cult classic, but don't be sucked in. People may complain that movie musicals like Hairspray are soulless Hollywood endeavors, but they're far more entertaining that this dross. C-


Paul Martin said...

Yes, those tunnel shots were beautiful. Also a little reminiscent of the opening sequence in Three Monkeys. O' Horten may get a local release, which it deserves. It certainly has the potential to attract a reasonable arthouse audience. It's vastly superior to 90% of those French and UK comedy/family dramas that the masses flock to.

I liked the unpredictable nature of events in O' Horten, which were full of irony, and observational in nature. He kept pulling out all these rabbits out of the hat, without being overly showy. More matter-of-fact and moving on without exploiting events as if they were comic gags. Thus, there was a naturalistic ring to the story that I found really heart-warming, but not in an overly sentimental way.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Totally agreed. And I would be very surprised if it didn't pop up on the release schedule within the next year.

Paul Martin said...

The distributors, Aztec, have confirmed that O' Horten will get an early 2009 release, to coincide with its US release, so they can capitalise on it's overseas marketing.