Friday, October 30, 2015

24th Philadelphia Film Fest, Days 7 and 8: Gloomy Wednesday, 'Taxi' Thursday

Oy, what a wet day Wednesday was. It just seemed to rain all darn day. So what better way to lift the mood than to see a movie about teenage suicide!?

"Bridgend" was my only selection for the festival's seventh day, and it's a fictionalized account about
a real town in Wales where 79 teenagers committed suicide from 2007 to 2012. A girl named Sarah moves there with her police officer father, and the quiet, horse-rider soon falls in with a group of rambunctious teenagers who aren't total normal underneath their partying ways.

The premise is eerily intriguing: a "cult" of teenagers who one-by-one kill themselves in a secluded forest. What is so damning about this film is that instead of focusing on the teenagers, a young, quiet protagonist girl is inserted into the story and it turns into a coming-of-age bit, so much so that her father asks her "What is happening to you?", a line almost always said by a parental figure to the main character in a film like this.

Sarah's adventure with this dark group isn't anything new, and barely holds a flame to films like "Kids" and "Thirteen", it's just a way to break into the story of why are these kids committing suicide?

Like in real life, the film has no answers for it.

I wasn't taken by the story, but the visuals are so damn powerful and striking. From the opening dolly shot on train tracks moving into the forest, to pale women's bodies floating upright in a murky, leaf-covered lake, I can't say this film didn't provide some of the most grotesquely gorgeous images I've seen in film this year.

The following day, I trekked downtown to see "Taxi", the latest by Jafar Panahi the Iranian director banned from leaving his country and from making movies in general.

While I've heard of Panahi, this is the first film of his I saw. It's a story about Panahi playing a taxi driver as we see the colorful characters he picks up from a bootlegger, to a hysteric woman whose husband was in an accident, and two older women with a goldfish. It was shot entirely inside the titular vehicle.

This movie was such a joy. An 80-minute film taking place completely inside a taxi is unheard of, and for the bulk of it I wasn't sure if it was a documentary or a work of fiction. The conversations were so fluid and engaging, from the punishment of thieves to what the Iranian government believes to be acceptable content for film.

I'm glad this was the first film I got to see of his. Panahi may be forbidden to make films in the country he's forbidden to leave, but he proves that freedom still exists if you want it bad enough, even if it means driving a taxi.

I'm not doing the film justice with a quick scribble of words in this post, but if you love movies, love life, and love creativity, see "Taxi". Probably the best film to show at the Philadelphia Film Fest this year.

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