What to see at the film festival: here are a few early picks
BOSCH: THE GARDEN OF DREAMS: It was just a year ago that we got a close look at Hieronymus Bosch’s iconic painting The Garden of Earthly Delights. That was in a film from the Netherlands, where he lived; made with almost no co-operation from the museum that owns it, The Prado in Spain. Now, with the Prado as co-producer of this new film, we’re invited to look again and even closer.
We stand before it like visitors to the museum with a stellar cast of experts. Salman Rushdie calls it “a painting like nothing else in the world.” Soprano Renée Fleming sings part of it. Art historians, religious scholars, writers and philosophers talk about specific images and try their best to explain what they would have meant when Bosch painted them 500 years ago. The film by the veteran Spanish documentary maker José Luis López-Linares eventually concludes that the painting doesn’t want to be interpreted. It’s a stimulating and intellectually exhilarating tour though. (Take it Fri and Wed) 4 out of 5
RESEBA: THE DARK WIND: Absolutely timely, this one. It’s a drama but looks so authentic it could be a documentary. It’s set in the Kurdish part of Iraq and shows ISIS gangs raid a village of another minority, the Yazidi, round up all the women and take them away. They’ll be sold in a slave market, the old men say, and the buyers will then try to sell them back to the village at a profit. One man, who was away at the time of the raid, sets out to find his fiancé and bring her back.
The film takes us to giant UN refugee camps, through villages reduced to rubble and into gun battles. And then into an appalling aftermath. When the woman is brought home, many reject her. The man’s father won’t let him marry her. Old men say women like her are “used” and “useless”. How that plays out makes for a very moving film with no easy answers. I was warned it would be “gritty.” That’s true of the content and some choppy story telling early on. But not of the technical standards or the dramatic impact. It was directed by Hussein Hassan who is well-known in Kurdistan as a filmmaker and actor. (Screens Fri and Mon) 3 ½ out of 5
TOP OF THE LAKE: CHINA GIRL: This one isn’t playing until Sunday (and again a week later) but I’ll include it now because it’ll take some planning on your part. It’s six hours long, basically a TV series with all the chapters run back to back, and only two 15-minute intermissions. Don’t fret about the length though. It’s so well written and played that it just glides through. By hour four there are some peculiar story elements that almost mess it up but you’ll get past them. Jane Campion wrote it, and directed two of the episodes, so get ready for a heavy dose of feminism within a crime investigation.
Elizabeth Moss plays a police detective in Australia sent to find out who stuffed a young Asian woman’s body into a suitcase and threw it into the ocean. It takes a steady line of coincidences and contrivances to fill the scene. The woman was a sex-trade worker and a surrogate mother. The brothel she worked at is supervised by a German immigrant (nicely creepy David Dencik) who believes he’s a feminist because he helps young women ply their trade. One of them is the embittered adoptive daughter of a feuding couple (Nicole Kidman, as a lesbian, and Ewen Leslie, as her estranged husband) but, now get this, she’s the real daughter of Moss the cop. She was born after a gang rape. There’s much more in the plot to drive home the points about men and the women they abuse, or as one character says “enslave”. Despite the rhetoric and the agenda-driven plot, this is a compelling film to watch. 3 out of 5