50th SITGES FILM FESTIVAL (2017)
“International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia”
Fifty editions may seem too much, but when we talk about the best fantastic film festival in the world, recognized as such in all corners of the planet, perhaps for all the faithful followers (we are legion) of this contest we may seem few. What is undeniable is that the past october 5 to 15, 2017, the wonderful Catalan coastal town dressed up to celebrate all the big golden weddings of its flagship festival, the Sitges Film Festival.
We had, another year, the honor of being accredited in this special edition, not only for a half century of unconditional bet for the genre film, but also for the leitmotiv for this occasion: the figure of Count Dracula, myth par excellence of fantastic cinema, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the premiere of Francis Ford Coppola’s film “Dracula of Bram Stoker” (1992), with the great British actor Gary Oldman playing the Romanian prince Vlad Tepes, better known as Count Dracula.
A spectacular edition that featured illustrious names of the cinema, being the master of ceremonies of the Festival the great Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, a kind of Joel Gray to the “fantastic”. We talked about stars like: William Friedkin, Susan Sarandon and Frank Langella who received the Grand Prize Honorific of the contest, the ill-fated Vincent Price, mythical figure in the history of fantasy cinema, receiving his daughter Victoria Price the Time Machine Award in his honor, in addition to the mythical actor of German origin, Udo Kier who together with the outstanding Spanish director of photography Juan Mariné, the Hong Kong producer Fred Tsui or the Italian cult director Sergio Martino, among others, who were also recognized with the Maria Honorific Award. They were also awarded important figures of national cinema as: Santiago Segura, the legendary Madrid actor Tony Isbert or Leticia Dolera in addition to the comic book artist Juan Martinez or the young Hungarian director (43 years), of very interesting filmography, Kornél Mundruczó. Not surprisingly, the latter was also the one who in this edition took, with his excellent film “Jupiter’s Moon”, the big prize of the contest, the Best Film in addition to the Best Special Effects.
Our “exhausting”, although wonderful, happened during several days for the Festival included the viewing of approximately 12 films, as well as 2 interesting press conferences and some other party already classic on the nights of the contest, like the Bacardi House that He gathered the best of the festival with its director Ángel Sala at the helm. Of all this, and some other things, we give details below.
Once we have collected our accreditations, including the official catalog and bag of the festival, we began our journey of marathon projections:
THE ENDLESS (2017) by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
It tells the story of two brothers, Justin and Aaron (the directors themselves who play the leading roles), who after escaping a sect in which they were held captive since they were children, receive a mysterious videotape that “forces” them to return to the camp where the sect is still to try to leave its traumatic past.
We are facing an American feature film from the official section that handles an interesting initial premise that combines fantasy with time travel, temporal paradoxes and even metaphysics, with the enigmatic world of sects so common in the United States. Throughout the twentieth century. The pity is that the plot is complicated to infinity, in fact this is how the film is titled in Spanish, in a disjointed and disconnected way. The lack of budget does not help either, a real pity.
As a nice anecdote comment that the two directors, invited to the contest, presented the film in the classic Cinema (Casino) Prado in the first pass of the morning after a night of farra, not to blame for it since the magic of Sitges invites everyone to do it.
THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017) by Guillermo del Toro
Undoubtedly, the main attraction of the entire festival that was the première in Spain of the latest and award-winning film by the Mexican director, always so linked to the Catalan contest. We are facing an authentic jewel of many carats that is a tribute to all those classic American science fiction films of the 50-60, with a clear close to the mythical title “The Woman and the Monster” (1954) Jack Arnold
The story tells the life of Elisa a cleaner, beautifully played by Sally Hawkins, who was silent as a child and works in a secret laboratory of the state in Baltimore, in the middle of the Cold War in the 60s. To the laboratory comes a strange humanoid amphibian creature that has been captured in a river in South America (nod to the Amazon) with which Elisa will establish a close relationship that will become a true love story in full force, it will not matter that the two are of different species, or maybe not…
With an absolutely spectacular casting; a bad bad Michael Shannon (brilliant in his interpretation), the always good Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins that makes the only friend, hidden gay, Elisa, Michael Stuhlbarg who plays a scientist who is also a double agent and under the skin of the monster is a regular-fetish in the cinema of Guillermo del Toro, the American actor Doug Jones who does such a good job always in this kind of roles.
The plot not only narrates in a delicious way a love story surrounded by science fiction, but also touches on issues as important as the radical racism that existed towards the black race in that dark era of the USA, as the theme of covert homosexuality before the fear of rejection in society or the Cold War with the Soviet Union that lasted a whopping 40 years.
This feature film was commissioned to serve as the opening film of the festival on its 50th anniversary. Impossible to have chosen a better film for it, not in vain has been the most awarded during 2017, including 4 Academy Awards, including the Best Film and Best Director, a fact that we have celebrated with great joy all the followers of the fantastic genre. In addition to, among other awards, the Golden Lion of Venice, Golden Globe or BAFTA Awards. Undoubtedly, the best movie of the past year with a wonderful soundtrack by the Frenchman Alexandre Desplat.
As an added value for us, we have to comment that we could see the film in the mythical cinema El Retiro with the presentation of the Mexican director, the best framework for a first viewing of this wonderful film is simply impossible.
LABORATORY CONDITIONS (2017) by Jocelyn Stamat
In our first session at dawn of the festival in the Auditorium we started with this striking American short film, mostly because of its well-known female cast; Marisa Tomei and Minnie Driver. Since her plot tells how a doctor is witnessing an illegal experiment with a corpse that, apparently, had disappeared. It does not stop being like a sugar that is dissolving as they advance their 16 minutes of footage until they become just a few fireworks by means of excessive special effects. A shame.
MAYHEM (2017) by Joe Lynch
In the official section, he contested this fun and “excessive” American film starring South Korean actor Steven Yeun, my highly esteemed Glenn from The Walking Dead.
A virus that prevents impulse control is detected in a law firm and with the building in quarantine, a real inferno is unleashed inside. Derek Cho (“Glenn”) is an angry employee, since he has recently been fired by the company, which in the middle of the zombie apocalypse allies with a furious client to try to get to the executive floor, all this in a hellish time trial, to be able to quench their thirst for justice.
Nice proposal that was a fun time in the armchair and admire the liters and liters of blood that spilled on the big screen of the Auditori, a real gore show not without a black humor full of bad slobbering. Pure and hard fun without pretensions.
TRAGEDY GIRLS (2017) by Tyler MacIntyre
Crazy comedy of terror but not without quality and interest, the story tells the story of two teenagers in high school, Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) who are obsessed with social networks, to the point that they have decided to create a macabre plan; with the help of a serial killer, who will act as their teacher, they will try to become the so-called “Tragedy Girls” in order to become influencers with millions of followers on social networks.
A brilliant adaptation by the Canadian director of the genre of horror comedy to the incessant topicality of social networks that affect us so much today. Although it was the last film of an exhausting opening day, it is necessary to recognize that this North American feature film, which competed in the Official Section, is a nice proposal that supposes an exaggerated criticism of the now addictive world of social networks that take us so far away from life real.
It shows the good hand in the direction of the young filmmaker originally from Alberta who already gave very good feelings in his previous length which was his debut, “Patchwork” (2015). Very interesting and fun.
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (2017) by Yorgos Lanthinos
We started a second day with another of the highlights of the festival, the new wonderful madness of the Greek director Yorgos Lanthinos with his “animal” so particular that he always drinks, in a masterly way, from the sources of Surrealist cinema. Not in vain and gave a good feeling in his previous adventure in the feature film, “Langosta” (“The Lobster”) of 2015.
This “sacrifice of a sacred deer” has a great cast led by Colin Farrell (repeats with the Greek director after “Langosta”), Nicole Kidman, the “disappeared” Alicia Silverstone and a brilliant young Irish actor, Barry Keoghan, who is immeasurable in his secondary role, for whom he writes is the best of the long film, is quite a discovery although he worked last year under the command of Christopher Nolan in that wonder called “Dunkirk” (“Dunkirk”) which, by the way, so much like the director of the contest, Ángel Sala.
The plot has no waste; Steven (Farrell) is an eminent surgeon married to Anna (Kidman), a respected ophthalmologist. They live happily together with their two children, Kim and Bob. When Steven becomes friends with Martin (Keoghan), a sixteen-year-old fatherless boy, whom he decides to protect, suddenly, the events take a sinister turn. Steven will have to choose between committing a shocking sacrifice or risking losing everything. Pure masterful essence of Lanthinos…
Not in vain did he come to the Official Selection of Sitges, awarded with the Best Screenplay Award at the Cannes Film Festival and also in the final list of the Catalan competition he won a well-deserved Critics Award. I did not fall in love as much as his previous “Lobster” but we are facing a simply magnificent film.
WILLIAM FRIEDKIN’S PRESS CONFERENCE
A sense of privilege may be the most appropriate words to describe what this press conference was supposed to have been about by the American director born in Chicago, William Friedkin. Known worldwide as the director of the cult film for some and masterpiece for many, “The Exorcist” (1973), which was the adaptation to the big screen of the novel by New York writer William Peter Blatty.
Director, among others, of feature films already classic in the history of the seventh art as; “The French Connection” (1971), wonderful and incredible anecdote about the erroneous contracting of the great Fernando Rey for the film when the director really wanted to have Paco Rabal after seeing him in “Belle de jour” by Luis Buñuel, “Sorcerer” (1977), remake of “Le Salaire de la peur” by Clouzot (1953), “Cruising” (1980) with an immeasurable Al Pacino or “To Live and Die in L.A.” (1985).
More than a presentation press conference on the occasion of his Grand Honorary Award, it was an authentic Masterclass since he reviewed the best directors, in his opinion, of the history of modern American cinema and even dared to give his opinion to the regarding current political issues such as the current turbulent situation in Catalonia.
SUSAN SARANDON’S PRESS CONFERENCE
From a real chill with emotion, in my personal opinion, this press conference could be considered with the great New York actress, Susan Sarandon. For a server is one of his favorite actresses ever and we must say that the meeting exceeded all expectations, in excellent shape and beauty at age 71, there is nothing, gave a talk nearby in a crowded press room in which He reviewed some of his most outstanding films of his prolific career.
Telling succulent anecdotes about the filming of the classic, among the classics, rock musical “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975) by Jim Sharman, who shot in England with a beautiful 29 years. He also had words for already classic fantasy films such as “El Ansia” (1983) by Tony Scott and, of course, “Thelma & Louise” (1991) by Ridley Scott, where he played a masterly Thelma Dickinson.
Although curiously commented that the film that had marked him most in his career was “Death Penalty” (1995), which also worked for the first time as a producer, directed by Tim Robbins who was then her husband. As an anecdote cite that in the absence of questions about it, she asked to be asked about the new president of the United States, Donald Trump, and his answer, no doubt, her words had no waste… In my opinion one of the greatest artists of the seventh art actually.
LE SERPENT AUX MILLE COUPURES (2017) by Eric Valette
Interesting and adrenalinic French thriller of good invoice that flows with good sense in the field of action film genre, not in vain outside the borders of Hollywood are the French who do better this type of cinema, many better even at the same height than the Americans themselves.
Currently, a wounded biker leaves the scene of a massacre in which he seems to be involved. The mysterious fugitive will take refuge in the house of a family of farmers who he takes as hostages. They will not be long in going in search of hired assassins of the Colombian posters and even an elite hitman, very well played by the actor of Asian origin, Terence Yin.
Feature film of the Órbita section that successfully combines an amalgam of different genres at the same time but that achieves a good overall result, personally I thought it was one of the “covers” of the festival, with a powerful beginning, a correct development and a final climax that It is not going to lag behind. Unknown but very interesting film.
MOM AND DAD (2017) by Brian Taylor
Nice craze of the Official Section for greater brilliance of a histrionic Nicolas Cage who is well accompanied by Selma Blair and a great Lance Henriksen who plays the role of his father. The truth is that nowadays when it comes to putting expressive faces on the verge of madness like the original actor of Long Beach (California), there are very few actors, maybe the Jim Carrey of his good age and few others.
Suddenly in a city in the United States appears a mysterious epidemic in the form of massive madness that causes parents to violently attack their children in a deadly manner. The children will try to survive the brutal attack of their parents to preserve life at all costs but we must not forget that in turn these also have father and mother…
Vista in a Tramuntana room filled to the flag, it must be recognized that although the film is a bit loose in its entirety, of course, which brings a very happy laugh, the film is created for the great actor Nicolas Cage showcase from start to finish and the truth is that it fulfills its purpose. Funny without more.
LES AFFAMÉS (2017) by Robin Aubert
The Canadian director himself presented this ambitious film in the auditorium of the Auditorium Tramuntana, and I say ambitious because according to his definition we were before “a zombie movie of author’s cinema”, the truth is that although I consider myself quite a fan of the so-called zombie genre there is that recognize that they are, almost, two totally incompatible terms this of “Zombie” and “Cinema of author”, I believe that little or nothing they have to see in his group and this is the case of this pretentious largometraje.
The story takes place in a small remote town in Quebec where things and the daily routine have changed. The people of the locality are not the same, their bodies are decomposing and they are attracted to human flesh. All this will end in a continuous struggle for survival that will culminate in a morning with a lot of fog and a mysterious giant tower of chairs…
Film with very good intentions, at least according to the words of its director, but that stays halfway, as I want and I really can not in addition to a rhythm at times soporific. It can not be considered a bad movie but, of course, that’s not good either.
MUSA (MUSE) (2017) by Jaume Balagueró
We started a new day with the awaited new film by the Catalan director Jaume Balagueró, architect, among others, of key features of the rebirth of the Spanish fantasy genre such as “The Nameless (Los sin nombre)” (1999), “Darkness” (2002) or the already classic “Rec” (2007). It would be unfair to deny the good things that this film has, that really has them, but in its final set, luckily or unfortunately that’s how a film should be judged, it suffers from a continuity at the same quality level, there is a lot lack of rhythm throughout the footage and too many lights and shadows as a whole. Maybe it’s too irregular.
A professor of literature, he does not attend the university since the tragic and unexpected death of his girlfriend and suffers a recurring nightmare every night where a woman is brutally murdered through a strange ritual. Together with a mysterious girl who also has her same dream, they will do everything possible to discover the identity of the mysterious woman, submerging in a dark world ruled by the cruel muses that have inspired the poets of all times.
It is undeniable the great work as screenwriter of Jaume Balagueró, the plot of the muses in the film is simply brilliant and innovative, pity that this is not enough to lift the set of the film. Very interesting casting with the British Elliot Cowan in the title role accompanied by a female cast of flashy, Franka Potente, Leonor Watling, Manuela Vellés and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer. Unfortunately, a love and I can not.
HOUNDS OF LOVE (2016) by Ben Young
Australian film that competed in the Noves Visions One section, personally I think it was with “Thelma” by Joachim Trier, of the Official Selection, one of the best feature films of the entire event. Furthermore, in the case that concerns us about this film from the oceanic country, it is shown that many times in the cinema it is not necessary a great amount of means to get a good film, it only takes a solid script, good interpretations and a great sense of cinematographic rhythm. If we add to this a powerful ending, we are facing a purely indie production that is, without doubt, a great movie.
A teenage girl in a schoolgirl uniform called Vicki Maloney is kidnapped in the street by a middle-aged couple with apparently normal looks but who really are a couple of psychopaths. As he observes the dynamics of the relationship, he realizes that he must generate a conflict between them in order to survive.
Although the film has some tremendously harsh and unpleasant sequence, it is necessary to emphasize the great interpretation of the three protagonists, Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings and Stephen Curry, actors not very well-known outside the Australian borders but who perform all three brilliant interpretations. Brilliant debut of the young Australian director Ben Young who was one of those little jewels that gives us so much pleasure to discover in each edition of this festival between festivals.
THE RITUAL (2017) by David Bruckner
Interesting British film although somewhat irregular as a whole, although it is true that it contributes different elements to such hackneyed themes and used in genre films such as sects, witchcraft and supernatural monsters of mythological origin. The plot also provides metaphorical elements to explain as a moral the interesting start of the film although, unfortunately, it does not maintain the same rhythm in its outcome.
A group of friends from the university meet to undertake a hiking trip through the mountains of Sweden, in order to pay tribute to one of them, killed in a violent way in a robbery at a gas station a few months ago. When they enter the forest, a threatening presence begins to persecute them…
It is worth highlighting the excellent performance of the British actor Rafe Spall, not in vain was he awarded the Best Actor of the Official Section award. It is not surprising then that the Catalan director J.A. Bayona is going to count on him in an important role in the impending “Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom”. Nice movie to see with quality brush strokes although intermittent as a whole.
50 EDITION LIST OF WINNERS
Official Fantastic Selection Sitges 50
Best Feature Length Film: JUPITER’S MOON, by Kornél Mundruczó
Special Jury Award: THELMA, by Joachim Trier
Best Director (sponsored by Gas Natural Fenosa): Coralie Fargeat, for REVENGE
Best Actress: Marsha Timothy, for MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS
Best Actor (sponsored by Autolica – Mercedes Benz): Rafe Spall, for THE RITUAL
Best Screenplay: Joachim Trier & Eskil Vogt, for THELMA
Best Special Effects: VFX Team, for JUPITER’S MOON
Best Cinematography: Andrew Droz Palermo, for A GHOST STORY
Grand Audience Appreciation Award (sponsored by La Vanguardia): MATAR A DIOS
Best short Film: R.I.P, by Pintó & Caye
A SPECIAL LADY, by Lee An-kyu
Special Mention: MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS, by Mouly Surya
Best Feature Length Film: TEHRAN TABOO, by Ali Soozandeh
Best Short Film: HYBRIDS, by Florian Brauch, Matthieu Pujol, Kim Tailhades, Yohan Thireau and Romain Thirion
Noves Visions One
DAVE MADE A MAZE, by Bill Watterson
Special Mention: KUSO, by Steven Ellison, David Firth & Zack Fox.
Noves Visions Plus
Best Feature Length Film: DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME, by Bill Morrison
Noves Visions Petit Format
Best Short Film: HOISSURU, by Armand Rovira
CREEP 2, by Patrick Brice
Audience Appreciation Award for best film: 78/52, by Alexandre O. Phillipe
THE BATTLESHIP ISLAND, by Ryoo Seung-wan
José Luis Guarner – Critics’ Award
Ex aequo: AS BOAS MANEIRAS, by Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, by Yorgos Lanthimos
Citizen Kane Award for Best New Director
Coralie Fargeat, for REVENGE
Best Feature Length Film Discovery
BRIGSBY BEAR, by Dave McCary
Carnet Jove Jury
Best Feature Length Film: A GHOST STORY, by David Lowery
Best Feature Length Film in the Midnight X-Treme Section: ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE, by John McPhail
Paul Naschy Brigadoon Award
CUERNO DE HUESO, by Adrián López
Samsung Sitges Cocoon
Best Virtual Reality Film: KNIVES, by Adam Cosco
Special Mention: RAY, by Rafael Pavón
Audience Appreciation Award for best virtual reality film: ALTERATION, by Jérôme Blanquet
Silver Méliès Award for Best Feature Length Film: THELMA, by Joachim Trier
Silver Méliès Award for Best Short Film: EXPIRE, by Magalí Magistry
MADRAZA, by Hernan Aguilar
Special Mention for Best Actress: Isabél Zuaa, for AS BOAS MANEIRAS
Traducido por: Eduardo Llorente.