The Glorious Acceptance of Nicolas Chauvin (Benjamin Crotty)

A bit of anti-historical fun by the guy who made Fort Buchanan. Napoleonic soldier Chauvin is resurrected to collect some award, his acceptance speech turns into a fantasy that gets away from him, leading to some resurrected medieval dude pitchforking Chauvin’s girl, and explaining that the reason Chauvin can’t remember his parents is that he’s a fictional character invented by playwrights.

How Fernando Pessoa Saved Portugal (Eugène Green)

Carloto Cotta (Tabu, Diamantino) plays an office writer hired to create a local slogan for Coca-Cola, asks his would-be poet friend for advice. The slogan succeeds only in alarming the health ministry (led by Oliveira star Diogo Dória) into banning the drink. Also a bit of fun, but not as anarchic as Chauvin, calm and precise like La Sapienza, full of direct-to-camera address.

Erased/Palimpsest: Ascent of the Invisible (Ghassan Halwani)

The goal was to watch this feature, but I turned it off after 20 minuttes, so adding it to the shorts. Logging a movie I didn’t watch is not standard procedure, but I make the rules here. It’s investigating war photos and portraits of the disappeared, memorializing them properly, drawing and animating them to give them new life, exposing missing-person flyers covered up by years of advertising posters. Serious and worthy concept, but the methodical slowness of it was too much for me – a single still image was onscreen for six of the first ten minutes, and I bailed during a montage of news articles on mass graves.

A Room With a Coconut View (Tulapop Saenjaroen)

iMovie title effects and an AI voice speaking Thai giving a hotel tour, doesn’t seem promising. Then an English AI voice starts challenging her on the mechanics of what is seen, until we’re getting scientific explanations of how sea waves are formed. “Oh no, the images are bleeding.” A new English narrator appears as the male English narrator leaves the Thai AI and goes on a voyage… discussion of the nature of tourism… one AI smokes a joint. Great movie.

Gulyabani (Gürcan Keltek)

Placid visual and narrated poetry, hard to adjust to this after the more insane Coconut View. No people are seen, narrator is a girl, molested by her dad, thought to be a prophet by the villagers. “Two actions may look the same, but one may be evil and one may not.” A very serious story involving military coups and child prostitution, but I was tuned out due to the problems of the work week. The director’s feature Meteors had played Locarno the previous year.

Man in the Well (Hu Bo)

Not about a a man in a well… featureless hooded figures wander a post-apocalyptic wasteland looking for food. Very different from the Elephant movie, except in its pacing. They find a dead person and immediately dig in with a saw. I guess they chuck the body down a hole – is that the man in the well? Odd little movie.

Like an Oliveira film shot by Kaurismaki. Hilariously deadpan, and I was digging all the bold, formal framing, the editing games, the odd performances. Everyone has a clear, straight-ahead gaze while speaking, declaring their line then pausing just the right amount before the next line, reminding me of Sicilia!

And since I was enjoying watching the movie so much, and since I hadn’t read anything about it before watching, it snuck up on me late that it’s a version of my least favorite movie logline: cranky guy (Fabrizio Rongione, who I just saw as Riquet in Rosetta) is saddled with kid he barely knows, they go on road trip and learn stuff from each other.

Less dramatically captivating, his wife (Christelle Prot of every Eugène Green film) stays behind and visits Riquet’s sister, who suffers from fainting spells and is stressed that her brother is leaving soon to attend architecture school. At the end she feels better and Riquet’s horizons are broadened and he teaches the cranky guy the importance of light and everyone’s happy except me, but the first 80% of the movie looked fantastic so I can’t complain.

D. Ehrlich:

Combining the knowingly arch style of Abbas Kiarostami (whose Certified Copy towers over and belittles this film) with the didactically educational passion of your favorite art professor, La Sapienza alternately feels like a self-reflexive love story or a haunted history lesson—its best scenes play like both. Full of bright ideas but so unsure of how to humanize them (the film’s characters often feel like they’re simply supporting the structures they’re in, as wispy and translucent as the ghosts to which they’re constantly alluding), La Sapienza manages to effectively condemn modern life for its lack of memory.

The director as a wise Iraqi refugee:

V. Rizov:

For all this, La Sapienza is a pretty lovely film. Symmetricities are everywhere, starting with that opening architectural showreel, which deliberately avoids perfect symmetricity … In Alexandre and Goffredo’s slowly-warming-up relationship, there’s much talk of what purpose these buildings serve. The older man, a former builder of factories, wants to focus on anti-urbanist structures; his would-be student is even more utopian/regressive in his ideals, positive that architecture’s function is nothing less than to create spaces filled with people and light. The light will protect and inspire the people, who will complete the empty space, which is precisely the function they serve for Green. Rather than merely acting as reference points for scale, it’s the human presence (in the work itself and those standing within it) that makes architecture worth looking at.

Played the Locarno fest with Horse Money, The Princess of France, Listen Up Philip and winner From What Is Before.