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Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. I just saw MARTYRS last night myself, and I am still reeling from it. I think it’s a film with a lot of greatness in it, and I’m digesting what I think it adds up to. I’m glad TheNorthlander also saw it, and I’m looking forward to reading his interview with the filmmaker later in the festival. For now, check out this latest batch of reviews from the Stockholm Film Festival by our Swede-in-residence:

Hey guys, The Northlander here again reporting from the 19th Stockholm International Film Festival, and we're kind of in the middle of a snow storm here right now. The winter is starting to really kick in. I'm okay though, these southern Swedes don't know real cold. You'd have to be a Northlander. So, anyway. These late night movies sort of keep me from seeing the early screenings. There's 170 movies to choose from, and they start showing at 9am and the last one starts usually around 11pm or 11.30pm. Today I've seen four. I got kind of a late start because I get home late, and then there's always the writing and stuff, but when I got up this morning and went, out a thought occured to me that maybe I should bring my digital voice recorder just in case. For whatever reason. I mean I didn't have it with me yesterday for that Q & A, and even though I don't think anything of real interest to an international crowd was said, I grabbed it anyway before I left. Here's what I saw today: COLD LUNCH (LØNSJ) Norway Directed by Eva Sørhaug I didn't really know much about this, but it was recommended by a friend of mine who's also seeing as much as he can, so I figured I'd give it a go. Before the film was a cool little short film called DIRECTIONS, which is completely without dialogue and about a guy's adventure with a shopping cart that sort of finds him. It also has that song from FALLOUT 3, which was cool, and I half expected to hear Threedog's radio voice over the pipboy. I don't play too much videogames. I can quit any time I want. COLD LUNCH though, is a really cool KIND OF episodic film about a few people in Norway - you've got the guy who owes money for rent and refuses to deal with it. Instead he just makes every bad choice like quitting his job because he can't get an advance, he's kicked out of his apartment so he sleeps in the storage, he refuses money from his father... in the beginning of the film, he goes to the laundry room in his building and the washing machine stops so he has to take out the fuse in order to open the machine, but he takes out the main one, forcing another tennant to call an electrician. The electrician puts it back in, and as the electricity returns, an old guy upstairs gets electrocuted because he's fiddling with his own fusebox in an attempt to figure out why there's no power. His daughter, a very alien like girl (sorry, that's the best description I can think of) is forced to move out because of this, as the owner of the apartment sells it, so she packs a suitcase and leaves. Things in this film happen very interconnectedly like this, and the characters, especially the girl, all seem very... alien. Now, here's the really cool part, and why I loved this film: Everything they do and say here is stilted and weird - like there's an awesome scene with the girl in a cafe, where she orders a cup of tea and another waiter brings her a sandwich she didn't order because he's got some other order mixed up. Watching her first deciding what to do, if she's going to eat the sandwich, return it or run away - then trying to eat the sandwhich but she can't really do it because she doesn't seem to know how - it's like this bizarre moment, almost like something from Mr. Bean. And the cool part is, despite the stilted, alien way of all these characters in what they say and do, it all makes perfect sense and all the things that happen work on an archetypic level that totally elevates this film. COLD LUNCH is just so real in it's surreal way, and I love that about it. It reminds me very much of another movie that's awesome, the Swedish film FOUR SHADES OF BROWN, directed by Tomas Alfredson. COLD LUNCH is not quite as good as that, but for a directorial debut it's really, really good. Can't wait to see what's next from this director. PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND USA Directed by Daniel Barnz I was glad to get in to this. The tickets were sold out, but some seats were empty and having an industry pass does have some advantages even though you can't go in if the theater is full. I hadn't heard anything about this, but I like ALICE IN WONDERLAND stories. CORALINE is one of the films I'm really looking forward to next year (the book is great), and then obviously Tim Burton's take on the ALICE. Then there's that thing with the cast in this, you got Dakota Fanning... 's sister Elle Fanning, and Bill Pullman, who seems to get better and better over the years, and I liked his work way back in SPACEBALLS too. His small part was the one thing about The GRUDGE I liked. PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND is the story of PHOEBE, a 10-year-old girl who is special, in a good way. You know, intelligent, different from all the others, that kind of special. Her mother encourages this and thinks it's good, her father, played by Pullman, agrees with her mother. At the beginning of the school year, all the teachers in all classes emphasize the importance of following the school rules, in exactly the same way. It's never said out loud, but it's probably something that's decided by the school principal; a smallminded weasel of a man, portrayed really well by Campbell Scott. He really is a great non-villain in this movie. Phoebe decides to audition for the drama class, after seeing the new drama teacher - a woman cut from the same mold as Drew Barrimore's performance in DONNIE DARKO; always dressed completely in black, never smiles, always with that serious but intelligent look about her. A teacher who wishes the best for the students and takes a lot of heat for it. It could be the same character in different stages of her life almost. Phoebe also meets a boy who's been in several plays who auditions for the part of the Red Queen, and who also talks to Phoebe about doing certain things in a certain way, to get a completely unrelated result. When he talks about this, it's more in a way of superstition, but Phoebe doesn't take it like that. This whole thing starts at about the same time as her Tourette's symptoms, and that's really the thing about this story. Phoebe has Tourrette's, and it's only getting started, with everything that means. Her parents of course are in denial, after all kids do have imagination and play weird imaginary games. Sometimes they can't control their urges. PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND is a wonderful drama about coming to terms with your own limitations, and the limits of your own body. It really explores this subject well while at the same time being extremely sweet and sort of magical. There are no supernatural elements here, but the film is very playfull in a childlike way anyway. The performances are all really suited for the material, although no way do 10-year-olds in groups behave like that orderly. But to me it still works in favor of the film's style so that's totally okay. Verdict: I love it. BAGHEAD USA Directed by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass Another one of those I walked into knowing very little about, I read the synopsis once a few weeks ago and I can't even remember what it said or why I green marked it, but I did. So when nothing else was on at this particular time, this particular day, and I needed something to squeeze in between PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND and the obviously necessary MARTYRS... BAGHEAD, it was. This is a film that should be as mandatory a viewing in every film school as CASABLANCA or BATTLESHIP POTEMPKIN. Not because it's as great as CASABLANCA or as historic as POTEMPKIN, it's neither, but because it's just incredibly inspiring and shows what you can do with a tiny crew and virtually no budget. In a lot of ways, it's very related to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT more than anything else. There are a lot of twists and turns in this film and I won't spoil because I don't want to ruin the fun of it, but I can tell you it's about a group of four friends who are struggling actors in their late 30s / early 40s... Did I say actors? I meant extras. Let's be honest about this. These two guys and two girls, they're at a movie screening at a festival and afterwards, there's a Q & A with the director who explains how he shot the film for virtually no money: He basically used small handheld DV cameras, and filmed a bunch of his friends and set everything up without them really knowing they were in a film. Sort of like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, only he didn't tell them they were in a movie. This inspires one of these friends to convince the others that they can make a much BETTER film together, and they should go out to a cabin in Big Bear over the weekend and write the thing with parts for all of them. They should write a movie, star in it, enter it in a festival and make it big. I guess he's watched GOOD WILL HUNTING too many times or something. But whatever. He says they always talk about doing stuff like this, but this time they should really go out and do it. So they go out to the cabin, sit down, have some wine, nobody gets any work done... If you've ever tried to get a couple of friends to work with you on a film project, you know exactly what this is like. Then something happens. One of the girls, who's had a little too much to drink get up in the middle of the night, and throws up outside the house. In the woods outside the cabin she suddenly see a big guy with a bag over his head starring at her from a distance. She wakes up, and tells the others about the dream, and the guy who dragged them out there says That's their movie. They're gonna make a slasher about a guy, with a bag over his head, killing a bunch of friends in a cabin in the woods. Again, if you've ever talked to an amateur film maker, of if you are one yourself, you should recognize this. Things take a turn for the worse though when they find out that there may actually BE a guy with a bag over his head out there, stalking them in a very Michael Myers / Jason Voorhees kind of way. Like I said, there are a lot of twists and turns in this, and you don't really know where it'll go next, which is good because with a plot as thin as this, virtually no production value and no budget, you still get a helluva lot out of it. It's entertaining for what it is, and it's impressive what you can do with so little. In the beginning, when the director of that other movie they watch has the Q & A, he makes a point about how Hollywood has us convinced it takes millions of dollars to make a film, and how he feels that's absolute bullshit. He goes on to say you can do anything you want, and money, production value or connections will never keep you from creating a work of art. As he says this, the audience sneers, because it does make him look high and mighty over his own film - but you know what? He speaks for the director of BAGHEAD here, who then goes on to do just that. It's the movie equivalent of getting up on stage in a tuxedo and a top hat, bow to the audience and say 'I will now pull a rabbit out of my hat, and you will be astounded and think it's amazing.' - and then do just that and get that result. That is a cool thing to do in my book. MARTYRS France Directed by Pascal Laugier I've known about this film for a long time now it seems. Not like years or anything, but for as long as it's been showing in festivals at least, because that's for how long people have been talking about it. You've probably heard about the same things I have - that's is a gruesome torture film with LONG scenes of just dragged out torture and stuff that's really fucked up and depraved and sick and shit. So how can I resist seeing something like that, right? BAGHEAD ended around 10pm, and MARTYRS wasn't about to start until 11pm, which meant I had some time to catch my breath in between shows. Sometimes during this festival I have to get up out of my seat and stand by the door for the last five minutes to see the end, and then get out and run for a couple of blocks so I can get in just in time for opening credits of the next movie I'm watching. I need to eat more popcorn or I'm gonna end up losing weight doing this. So anyway, I've got an hour until the screening and I'm a few blocks away from the cinema when I'm looking at the pocket schedule and see the symbol for Q & A, which means the director Pascal Laugier would be in town and would attend the screening. I made a quick call to the festival's press center and asked them if they could set up an interview for me, and they promised to call me back. Sure enough, 30 minutes later, when I'm sitting there at the cinema waiting to get in, I get a call from them saying Pascal is leaving in the morning, but if I want I could do an interview during the screening. I tell them I haven't seen the film yet, but if it's what I can get I'll take it, but then they put Pascal on and he tells me no, he wants me to see the film. Great! We can sit down afterwards. So I get in, there's a short introduction, and Pascal explains how people always have strong reactions to MARTYRS, a lot of people hate it and he thinks that's okay. The important thing here is to create some sort of emotion with the audience. And the film begins. A young girl, Lucie, is captured in an abandoned slaughter house. She is beaten, cut, tortured... But she escapes and runs away. She's saved and put in some sort of nursing home, where she befriends another girl of her same age, Anna, who's been abused, or something, we don't really get background on that. But she can relate because she's been abused as well. They become friends, but something is wrong. Something is after Lucie, and she's not the one cutting her arms, she says. Whatever it is that is after her, it's nasty. 15 years passes, and Lucie has finally found her former captors. She takes a swift and bloody revenge with the aid of Anna, because she believes that's the only way to get rid of what's haunting her. The rest... You know I don't wanna give away anything more. I totally love this movie. Totally. It's got so much going on beneath the surface - it's about how evil (although I always hesitate to use that word) is transfered from people to people via bad actions, how if something really bad is done to you, you take it out on someone else to make the bad go away. How if you've suffered for long enough, good things happening to you will actually make you feel bad, and you start doing bad things to yourself in order to soothe the pain from too much goodness. It's about how all that shit that's going on in your life, all the bad things that give you anxiety and guilt and stuff... You can transcend that shit. You can come through on the other side and things will get better if you do because if you've gone through enough shit you can just deal with anything. I have to strongly disagree with almost everything I've heard about MARTYRS. First of all, it's not as cruel as people make it out to be. HOSTEL was worse, and had a lot less to say at the same time, it seemed. Also, all the suffering that goes on in this film is totally warranted because it's really needed by the story. And it COULD have been A LOT more graphic and violent. That wouldn't have made the film any better than it is though, I think it works great and it's become one of my favorite horror films this year just like that. If HELLRAISER is about pain and pleasure, MARTYRS is about pain and relief. Speaking of which, Pascal is helming the remake of HELLRAISER, and after seeing MARTYRS, I totally believe he's the right guy for the job. This is someone who understands the subject and who can write in metaphores. Not only that, but it should also put a stop to all those HELLRAISER sequels that have been coming out. Which one are we on? HELLRAISER 17 - HELLRAISIN? HELLREAGAN? HELLRAKER? HELL RACER?? They never tire of coming up with new clever titles for those films... Well guys, that was it for this time, I got that interview so be sure to look out for it once it's been transcribed. Looks like I got some use out of that voice recorder afterall. Good thing I brought it. /TheNorthlander
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