Yes, Quentin Dupieux has done it again. After the killer tyre in Rubber (2010), the jacket in Deerskin (2019) and the fly in Mandibles (2020), this time it is some eccentric horror stories – not very scary actually, rather pleasantly hilarious – that wring big laughs and dominate the scene in the latest film by one of the most absurd and paradoxical authors of contemporary cinema.
The 40th edition of the TFF is covered in stars and stripes in the new retrospective on western cinema: the festival’s director – Steve Della Casa is a great fan of the genre – could only pay homage to some films of this fundamental strand in American production from 1938 to 1960.
The films in question, however, have nothing to do with the great auteurs of the Hollywood western, in this case replaced by skilled tradesmen such as Joseph H. Lewis and Alfred “Al” Green, cornerstones of the industry and prolific creators of b-movies. Thematically too, there was a desire to find a common thread linking the various titles in the section: extravagance and uniqueness are the two terms that guided a careful selection of the most unknown and forgotten films of American cinema par excellence.
But what is western cinema without its heroes? Sometimes ‘knights without blemish and without fear’, other times men torn apart by a dark past. In High Noon, the heroes are nothing more than anomalous characters at the mercy of the narrative, which transports them – willingly or unwillingly – to new and painful frontiers: this is the case of Henry Carson (Van Johnson) in R. Rowland’s rural The Romance of Rosy Ridge (1947) where we are presented not with a restless cowboy, but with a romantic and mysterious vagabond who settles in the house of Southerner Gill MacBean (Thomas Mitchell), the father-master of the beautiful Lissy (Janet Leigh).
The same could be said for Four Faces West (1948) directed by Al Green where we find Joel McCrea as Ross McEwan, a bandit with a heart of gold on the run from the infamous – but more harmless than his classic portrayal – sheriff Pat Garrett. Not a single shot is fired throughout the film: this is unnecessary, since our outlaw is actually a good and generous man who gives the money he stole to his financially struggling father and helps a needy Mexican family afflicted with diphtheria.
The absence of duels in Green’s film is compensated for by J. H. Lewis’ Terror in a Texas Town (1958), in which guns are loaded and fired, but when firearms are not enough, harpoons and forges worthy of a Melville novel appear in the anomalous final confrontation between the one-armed gunman Johnny Crale (Nedrick Young) and the vengeful George Hansen (Sterling Hayden).
The section dedicated to B-westerns reserved some curious rediscoveries and courageous revivals such as S. Newfield’s The Terror of Tiny Town (1938), a musical played entirely by dwarf actors, but also more sober films in Technicolor such as R. Enright’s Coroner Creek (1948) and L. Selander’s Shotgun (1955). In short, High Noon took spectators on an atypical journey through the festival trails, offering genre lovers unmissable appointments with the theatre and the most unusual stories of the American frontier.
Memories of a distant past that gradually fades in time often remain linked to an ideal world reworked by our minds to preserve emotions, sensations, fleeting instants of our existence in which we have, even for an instant, savoured flashes of true happiness. Manodopera recounts the world evoked by the sweet and nostalgic words of a grandmother, restoring the memory of a bygone era, made up of sacrifices and carefreeness, suffering and love.
The location, recreated in stop-motion, is a small mountain village at the foot of Monviso. It is called Borgata Ughettera and recalls the director Alain Ughetto’s Piedmontese origins. The film comes to life through the words of Cesira, his grandmother, who thinks back to her youth towards the end of the 19th century. Starting from some fundamental events, she thus gives rise to a reality suspended in time that is emphasised by the fragile malleability of the plasticine with which the characters are made of.
Between cardboard houses and bizarre broccoli trees, the objects somehow represent an indispensable aspect of the story; tangible elements whose purpose is to bring the sweetness of a memory closer to the purity of nature. The simplicity of the poor peasant world, the meeting with her future husband Luigi, the difficult periods of war and the need to emigrate to France in order to work and survive: these are the episodes that characterise Cesira’s past and that she describes to her nephew, in a surreal and poetic exchange between the animated universe and the real presence of the director on stage.
What Ughetto wanted to tell is not only the story of his origins, but also the story of all immigrants, wherever they come from in the world. A story of hard work, of adaptation, of gazes that lacerate the soul and leave irremediable wounds. This is why certain stereotypes in the film take on a different meaning, as if they were the images perceived by those who feel invaded and – not knowing other cultures and not understanding the languages spoken by migrants – judge those from other countries as inferior. As the original title makes clear: “forbidden to dogs and Italians”, a dramatic situation that our families have had to live with in the past and that is being played out again today, this time through the eyes of the viewer.
According to Mesopotamian mythology, the female demon Lamashtu was a devilish creature bringer of nightmares and diseases, who haunted unborn children by brutally ripping them out of their mother’s womb to feed on their blood. Venus, the latest feature by Jaume Balagueró, begins with a terrifying apocalyptic premonition: the reincarnation of the demonic figure is imminent and her coming will bring chaos and pain throughout the planet.
At the centre of the narrative is young Lucía, a dancer in an infamous nightclub run by a group of comically stereotyped criminals. One night, after stealing a big drug shipment from the gangsters, she miraculously manages to find shelter at her sister Rocío’s house, located in a building called Venus, in the decaying outskirts of Madrid. Venus – hence the title of the film – is a gloomy and mysterious place, home to dark presences that have been haunting the unfortunate residents for decades.
Loosely based on H. P. Lovecraft’s short story The Dreams in the Witch House, skilfully reworked by the Spanish director into a “horror story” with strong authorial connotations, Venus recalls in its structure the previous film, Muse, in which the paranormal subtly hovers against the background of an ordinary criminal investigation. Also in this case, the film crawls sinuously through the meanders of genre cinema, combining effectively sci-fi horror with gangster film, without ever becoming trivial or repetitive. Moreover, the caricatural element is intentionally emphasised, continuing the specific project on the grotesque that characterises the entire work of Balagueró.
This is definitely not the Spanish director’s masterpiece, however his ability to direct female figures is confirmed as excellent. In Venus, clearly inspired by Dario Argento’s characters, Lucía moves in a suffocating atmosphere, halfway between the nightmares caused by the demon and the oppressive reality of the daily life that the young woman must constantly face. For her, the building takes on a clear, although paradoxical, ambivalence: it is a prison that holds back her desire to dance, restricting her in a forced immobility caused by fear; but it is also a safe haven, a solid shelter to escape the demons that await her outside, the true nightmare of real life.
In an essay on the link between reenactment and fantasy, Bill Nichols reflects on how this technique underlines the gap between past and present, but also between the subjective and objective perception of events. In this way, it creates a surreal dimension that nullifies the idea of total objectivity highlighting its impossibility. In Parkland of Decay and Fantasy, presented in the TFF40 International Documentaries competition, it is the digital image that performs the function described by Nichols through the use of new technologies and especially their capacity of altering images, as in the case of the visionary finale, where the visual evocation of ghosts is at the centre of the narration of Parkland of Desire and Fantasy.
On August 4, 2020, a massive explosion destroyed the port of Beirut, killing 220 people and injuring 7,000. The day just before that, director Karim Kassem had arrived in the city’s port area to shoot a film he will never make, Octopus. In its place is this Octopus: the title remains, but it is a completely different film. It is the symphonic lament of a city left voiceless.
“Huesera”, in Spanish, refers to an expert in treatment of bones and joints diseases. The term, however, also designates The Woman of the Bones, a figure from Mexican mythology whose task is to gather the bones of the dead, symbol of the vital force that doesn’t wear out, and to pray until flesh returns to inhabit those remains, recreating life from disjointed parts. The bones of Valeria (Natalia Solián), in Huesera, constantly creaking, because getting her fingers and the joints of her back crinckled is the protagonist’s way of trying (and not always succeeding) to drain its discomfort out of the body, her frustrations, her ineptitudes. Tormenting Valeria is the awareness that she will soon be a mother: a motherhood apparently sought after, but intimately unwanted.
A neat line of shops appears on screen, billboards sparkle on the walls and the vibrant technicolour of the Sixties almost gives us a sense of peace. It looks like a typical post-war American city, quiet and geometric, maybe too much. The narrating voice asks, “What are we looking at?” and a doubt awakens in us: the buildings are as fake as panels of a set design, the roads look as if they’ve never been walked on, the paint on the signs is new and shiny. This is Riotsville, one of the fake cities built by the American government in the Sixties as military training bases. In these cities, crowds of plain-clothes soldiers staged riots, complete with an audience and cheers, so that their colleagues could learn how to contain them, all in preparation for the civil rights protests that would unleash in the Summer.
At the University of Turin, on 29 and 30 November, the study conference “Being an actor. Paths and dialogues on training and acting” organized by the “F-ACTOR” project in collaboration with UniVerso and curated by Professor Mariapaola Pierini was held. The conference is part of the research plan of the “F-ACTOR” project, dedicated to the mapping of the actor’s profession in the contemporary Italian media scenario, according to methodologies and study perspectives that refer to performance studies, studies on stardom and media production studies.
Carlo Rivolta was a young talent of Italian journalism during the ’77 protest movements, a figure unknown to most, yet capable of describing firsthand the upheavals of this historical period. The crisis of ideologies, the internal clashes of the movement and, above all, the spread of heroin that condemned him, and an entire generation, to an untimely demise.
The main difference between us and History is that History does not speak, but we force it to do so. What would happen, however, if it looked us in the face, took us by the hand and started making small talk, telling us about its regrets and pipe dreams? This is exactly what Aleksandr Sokurov’s “Fairytale” aims for: to make History speak spontaneously, quietly and with a hint of humour.
Adolf Hitler, Iosif Stalin, Benito Mussolini and Winston Churchill find themselves reunited in the afterlife, chatting as they wander through a dark, foggy forest, waiting for the gatekeeper to decide whether to let them into heaven. What about the content of these conversations? Despite their different languages, they mock each other while asserting their political and social ideals. Their speeches focus on their private dimension and therefore erase the aura given by their public function and by History itself. Words thus serve as a tool to reconcile the different points of view and as an attempt to overcome the past and the crystallised image we have of these historical figures. Built through archive footage and without the use of deep-fakes or other artificial intelligence tools, the film calls into question the relationship with reality, verisimilitude, memory and the demythologisation of these personalities. This is an objective that could not have been pursued by using actors to replace the faces, bodies and gestures that changed history. Moreover, the voices lent to the protagonists are perfectly given through an excellent lip-sync that breathes life into the faded images shrouded by the misty reminiscence of the past.
Sokurov seeks to make sense of the challenges that mankind is facing nowadays by taking a step back and lingering on the figures who most shaped the reality we know, namely the protagonists of World War II, the main event that eradicated positivist beliefs about human progress. Trying to empathise with figures such as Hitler and Stalin is the arduous task proposed to the viewer, who through this process realises that behind every historical event, even the most terrible and evil, there are men.
Presented and competing at the fortieth edition of Torino Film Festival, and already winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes, competing in the Un Certain Regard section, War Pony marks the directing debut of actress Riley Keough and producer Gina Gammell, featuring an inspiring portrait of the Native American community, directly involved in the making of the film.
Honoured by the 40th Turin Film Festival with a retrospective and awarded with the Stella della Mole prize, Malcolm McDowell has been one of the best-known British actors in the world for more than half a century. In particular, for his unforgettable performance as the sadistic and violent Alex De Large in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971).
It is difficult to talk about such a popular but atypical figure without repeating what has already been written about him over the decades. McDowell has never been a canonically understood star or even the darling of a specific season or cinematic current. Nevertheless, he has been able to traverse a variety of narratives in European and overseas contexts throughout his prolific career, often guided by great auteurs.
After gaining experience in the theatre, he made his debut in 1968, immediately starring in one of the last peaks of British Free Cinema and a Palme d’Or at Cannes, Lindsay Anderson’s If… (and with this director he would repropose the character of Mick Travis in a sort of truffautian cycle in the following O Lucky Man! in 1973, and Britannia Hospital in 1982). After the unjustly forgotten Figures in a Landscape (1970), an en plein air dystopian film directed by Joseph Losey, Kubrick had no hesitation in calling him out. The ineffable tenderly childlike gaze capable of transforming itself into a perverse grin with the mere hint of a smile was indeed truly unique and terrifying, and embodied the very essence of the very young criminal from the pen of Anthony Burgess.
Having attained his place in the pantheon of the seventh art (not without courageous sacrifices – just remember the serious corneal injuries suffered during the endless filming of the famous ‘Ludovico technique), McDowell’s image was marked for better or worse by those dazzling beginnings, failing to follow up on that first happy season. However, by stubbornly getting back into the game from the 1980s onwards, he was able to start a prolific second professional life, carving out a space in which to express his versatility, often in secondary roles, but always leaving a personal mark beyond the actual merits of the films.
We remember Cat People by Paul Schrader (1982), The Assassin of the Tsar by Karen Shakhnazarov (1991), Gangster No. 1 by Paul McGuigan (2000), Evilenko by David Grieco (2004), a couple of Altman and Mike Kaplan’s tasty one-man show Never Apologize (2007) to remember his friend/mentor Anderson in his own way. We tasted this ability as a performer also during the festival, in a masterclass full of anecdotes and brilliant jokes and, again, in the witty presentations of the films on offer, demonstrating a verve (79 years old and he looks great), the charisma and at the same time the affability of the star capable of involving even the youngest audiences.
The Turin prize helps fill the gap of the far too few awards given by the film world to McDowell (he was snubbed by the Oscars and the Baftas, he had a single Golden Globe nomination, a special European Film Awards, and a special Nastro d’Argento), but meeting him in person allowed us once and for all to dispel the evil aura that surrounds his cinematic double: Malcolm was never Alex.
“Don’t murder me, okay?” With these words Lea (Lily McInerny), a 17-year-old girl, responds to the proposal of Tom (Jonathan Tucker), a man in his mid-30s, to drive her home after a bad night out with friends. The tone in which Lea utters the sentence is ironic, but her lost gaze conceals an underlying reticence. Perhaps contained in that moment of carefree interdiction is the core of Palm Trees and Power Lines, Jamie Dack’s debut feature, which has already won Best Director at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and was presented in competition at the 40th Turin Film Festival.
The film presents a glimpse of Lea’s life during the last weeks of summer before school starts again: her everyday life in the American suburbia bores her, her friends are childish and immature, and her relationship with her mother Sandra (Gretchen Mol) – the only member of her family – is becoming more tense. Meeting Tom shakes the girl up and offers her an escape from her reality. Lea is fascinated by the fact that Tom is older but at the same time she does not let herself go completely. Tom acts like the perfect boyfriend: he woos her, gives her gifts, and takes her to the beach, but he hides a dark side that Lea decides to ignore and that will lead her to come to terms with a painful trauma in the finale.
The political intent of the film is clear but does not cloud either the form or the content. The work, in fact, deals with such edgy issues as child grooming and the difficult reality of many families in the American suburbs. Furthermore, it also features many burdensome lines, the majority of which are delegated to Lea’s character. To bring an example, she says, referring to her mother, “Some people shouldn’t have the right to have children”. At the same time, the work offers some rather unusual formal solutions of the coming-of-age drama. Jamie Dack, in fact, forgoes stylistic virtuosity to offer understated, unadulterated direction, demonstrating a desire to communicate a need, indeed an urgency in narrating certain events rather than dwelling on the visual component. The clean, static look of Dack’s camera not only offers new possibilities to the representation of the genre, but also showcases the originality of the director’s work and the courage with which she affirms a personal and authentic vision even from her first work.
The unbearable weight of manipulative ambiguity, unfounded guilt, and complicit silences. Maria Schrader’s new film, out of the competition at the 40th edition of the Torino Film Festival, is a protest against Harvey Weinstein that unleashes the desire to cry out that women have been deprived of for so long, and thereby redeems the right to their voice.
A young woman at the very start of her career, her soul bursting with dreams and her eyes full of naive hope, is overcome by a request as unexpected as it is inappropriate just when she was planning to attend a business meeting. “He ripped out my voice that day, just as I was starting to find it,” discloses Laura Madden, confessing her years-long belief that she was the only one who did not have the strength to stand up to the harassment from the powerful and feared Miramax producer. Laura was far from alone, but her persecutor was for a long time protected by a well-established system that systematically and scrupulously shielded the offenders. New York Times’ reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Zakan) undertook an investigative enquiry to expose the harassment and sexual abuse committed by Weinstein, who had crossed not only professional boundaries, but also national borders, committing countless abuses overseas.
The She Said crew is well aware that they are telling a true story and do not allow room for unnecessary violence, to which women are already abundantly exposed.
Weinstein’s towering physical presence is rendered by the oral testimonies of women who describe episodes in which he holds the unmistakable authority of the perpetrator. At the same time, his voice is emblematic, as we hear it in voice over, as violent and arrogant as the suffocating agreements he induced his victims to sign, ‘legally’ depriving them of their dignity. We retrace, guided by these testimonies, the spaces from which they would have so much wanted to escape, as in a nightmare from which they were not allowed to awaken. This film, however, also wants to be a safe space for all the women involved in order to express themselves and share their grief and anger. First and foremost, Megan and Jodi, that we follow far beyond the investigative processes and that Maria Schrader reveals to us with great sensitivity and respect. The cooperation and supervision of those directly involved and their permission to enter into each other’s private lives were undoubtedly essential to achieve the goal of producing a film that resonates strongly and encourages women to trust each other.
“After spending a few weeks with the watchmakers, my views on socialism were resolved: I was an anarchist.” With this sentence by Pyotr Kropotkin extracted from his Memoirs of a Revolutionary (1877), director Cyril Schäublin decided to start his second feature film ‘Unrest’ in which, by reconstructing the events of 1870, he recounts how the independence of thought of the artisans in the Jura Mountains ignited the spark for the birth of the international anarchist movement.
The Plains, David Easteal’s first feature film, is the Australian filmmaker’s experimental attempt to faithfully reconstruct his time spent in the car of Andrew Rakowski, a lawyer in his 50s returning home at the end of his workday in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. A work that eludes definition, a radical, yet malleable cinema verité.
The oyster that remains attached to the rock on which it was birthed by fate will live peacefully. The oyster that instead ventures into the unknown in search of fortune can only end up swallowed by the ocean. This is the so-called “Ideal of the Oyster”, which is essential in the events of “I Malavoglia” by Giovanni Verga and of “La Lunga Corsa”, the second movie by director Andrea Magnani and the only Italian feature film in competition at the fortieth edition of the Turin Film Festival.
Giacinto (Adriano Tardiolo) was born and raised in prison, the only environment he recognizes as home during his training process. Abandoned by his parents, he is looked after by prison guard Jack (Giovanni Calcagno), who becomes his figure of reference. However, Jack would like Giacinto to go out and make a living away from the bars and narrow corridors through which the boy enjoys running despite it being forbidden. Thus, he takes him to a family house which, however, is more of a prison for the child than the prison itself. As soon as he gets the chance, he runs away and attacks a man to get arrested and be able to go “home”, but he discovers that children cannot go to prison. So, he tries again on his eighteenth birthday. Jack understands that Giacinto will never change his mind and has him hired as a guard in the penitentiary, which thus becomes a place of work, lodging and recreation for him.
If “Easy – Un viaggio facile facile” (2017), Magnani’s first work, was a classic road movie, here instead a static journey is presented: Giacinto runs for hours but never moves, he remains inside his miniature “Matrix”, preferring the blue pill to the red one (colors that, among other things, are recurrent in the film). He wants to stay locked up in his cave because he sees nothing interesting in the frenetic stillness that pervades the exterior, where people seem to do nothing but run aimlessly between circling buses and construction sites that have been standing still for years.
Jack tries to get Giacinto to escape from what he sees as a mental cage without realizing that he himself is the first of the prisoners chained to a life that doesn’t satisfy him and from which he tries to escape by drinking in the evening. Giacinto doesn’t run to escape or to win a race; he runs to run, unlike those like Jack who would like to flee, but stand still in their perpetual unhappiness.
Thanks to the Covid-19 emergency a lifer finds himself in a situation of greater freedom when compared to that experienced by many others. In Il corpo dei giorni much more is revealed, thanks to this paradox. Santabelva collective meets the lifer Mario Tuti, one of the protagonists of the neo-fascist terrorism in the 1970s, in an unexpected situation. Interesting starting points arise from this confrontation, both historically and cinematically.
In the theory of pre-established social relations, the practice of affection allows one to unhinge the certainties on which one individual bases his or her relationship with the other. Life is a tumult of unexpected encounters, of ephemeral and transitory desires, of painful external interferences and accidental impediments: men must get used to the mutability of life, making themselves and their desires as inconstant as the unpredictable circumstances of reality.