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FESTIVALS Europe

Lost women at Locarno

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Lost women at Locarno

Women, women and more women: lost and found, travelling to unknown lands, grappling with foreign languages (which they speak fluently). From a geographical rather than existential point of view, “lost” women dominated the competition of the recent Locarno Film Festival.

So it was no coincidence that the festival winner was a film whose very title was “feminine”, She, a Chinese [+see also:
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film profile
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, by Chinese-born, UK transplant Xiaolu Guo (who will be at the upcoming Venice Film Festival with the documentary Once Upon a Time Proletarian). It tells the story of young Mei, who is dissatisfied with her life in a small village and decides first to move to the neighbouring city of Chongquing, and then England (with money she finds in the house of her gangster lover, who dies before her eyes).

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Less long, but cinematically better, is the journey of Anne, who in the beginning of Nothing Personal [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Urszula Antoniak
interview: Urszula Antoniak
film profile
]
(the debut film by Urszula Antoniak, winner of the Best Debut Leopard) leaves her native Holland for Ireland, where she wanders around until meeting Martin (the extraordinary Stephen Rea).

He lives alone in a secluded country house and offers her a job in exchange for room and board. She (Lotte Verbeek, who won Best Actress at the festival and about whom we will be hearing much) accepts, on the condition that he asks nothing personal about her. Over time, their relationship changes, infused, like the film, with a subtle and laconic humour that won over festival audiences.

Audiences were less enthusiastic, however, about A Religiosa Portuguesa [+see also:
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film profile
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, by Locarno regular French filmmaker Eugène Green. Inspired, at least in some of the framing, by the films of Manoel de Oliveira, the film also takes from the latter its lead. Léonor Baldaque stars as a Parisian actress of Portuguese origins who travels to Lisbon to appear in a film adaptation of Letters of a Portuguese Nun, an immensely successful 17th century epistolary novel.

The intellectualism of the film’s opening is watered down by its (self)irony, musical dialogue and the heartbreaking melancholy of the Fado music that accompanies the protagonist’s wanderings and encounters.

Also featuring good music (from its very title) is Argentinean director Diego Martínez Vignatti’s The Tango Singer [+see also:
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film profile
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, a Belgian/French/Dutch co-production. How does one get over (if they ever do) the end of a great love affair? Helena (Eugenia Ramirez, the director’s wife) and her boyfriend have broken up and she’s desperate. She hounds him with telephone calls, neglects her rehearsals and drinks.

Will she rebuild her life in the windy landscapes of the Nord-Pas de Calais, perhaps accepting the advances of village doctor Bruno Todeschini? Alternating sequences in Argentina with France, Vignatti offers no final answers on the woman’s fate, preferring instead to follow Rossellini’s example and “ask questions: only in this way can cinema become a tool of revelation”.

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(Translated from Italian)

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