Atlanta Film Festival 2014 | Report #2

AFF 75In the future, movie stars will sell their scanned personas to studios, which will use them to create films without having to bother about that messy human element known as live actors.

 

 

One of the things I like best about film festivals is the opportunity see films that probably won’t turn up elsewhere. A second is the chance to visit foreign lands without spending a fortune on airfare. So far, the AFF has provided opportunities for both pleasures, and delivered one film that should definitely be going places on the awards circuit.

Titles don’t come more ironic than Nothing Bad Can Happen (the original title in German is Tore Tanzt), an amazingly sure-footed feature from first-time director Katrin Gebbe. That Nothing Bad Can Happen succeeds so well is all the more amazing when you consider that several of the actors, including the lead, are also first-timers. The story, both grim and inspiring, is about a young man (Tore, played by Julius Feldmeier) who falls in with some Jesus Freaks, but takes his religion a bit more seriously than they do. In fact, he takes it more seriously than might be good for his health, as becomes evident when he falls in with the sadistic Benno (Sascha Alexander Gersak) and his wife and stepkids, who live on a scruffy “allotment” (sort of like a trailer park without the wheels) in Hamburg.

Nothing Bad Can Happen is not a film for the weak of stomach, but it’s worth the effort, because you will find yourself thinking about it for days to come. It was nominated for the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes and won several awards at the German Film Critics Association Awards and Bavarian Film Awards, as well.

The Right Juice, directed by Kristjan Knigge, is an upbeat comedy about a failed London banker (Mark Killeen) determined to make a new start as a citrus farmer in Portugal. Unfortunately, he’s brought his old habits along, but gradually the sunlight and the quirky locals (including a mechanic, played by Miguel Damiao, and a diver, played by Lucia Moniz) show him another approach to life. That’s what you expect with this type of film, and that’s what you get: The plot and characters are utterly conventional, but The Right Juice is still a lot of fun. An added attraction is the location shooting, which will make you want to visit the Algarve.

So far, so good, but a festival wouldn’t be a festival without some big-name films that turn out to be a disappointment. So far, my leading candidate in this category is The Congress. It’s directed by Ari Folman, the same guy who did the amazing documentary Waltz with Bashir; stars Robin Wright, Danny Huston, and Harvey Keitel; mixes animation and live action; and is based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem that has a fascinating premise: In the future, movie stars will sell their scanned personas to studios, which will use them to create films without having to bother about that messy human element known as live actors.

I like the concept, the directors, the lead actors, and even some of the execution, but overall the film is pretentious, muddled, and boring. Normally I glare at people who play with their phones during films, but for once I could see the point—if you’re half-distracted all the time, you might be impressed by some of the interesting ideas in this film and be able to ignore what an overall mess it is. For all that, The Congress does have its moments, and one scene with Harvey Keitel and Robin Wright (he’s telling her a story from his childhood, in order to elicit a particular response from her for the scanners) is almost worth the price of admission by itself. | Sarah Boslaugh

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply