Etrange Festival
Days 1 to 3

Monica Belluci starring in two movies, a revolutionary Bollywood, Zhang Yimou finding the secrest of the flying daggers… The best of the three first days of the strangest of festivals

By Michael Patin

Reading Time 4 min.

12 days, 80 feature films, up to 12 screenings a day…Every year is the same ritual when opening the schedule : we study it, we compare movies, we tick boxes, we scratch what we wrote, we balance everything out… in order to finally make some difficult choices (everything is attractive on purpose) so we can have the perfect course. There is only one step, one risk to take, between the good rerun and the bad Z-movie, the deserved weirdness and the bad buzz, the untraceable masterpiece and the forgotten micro-oddity. And this vertigo is what makes the charm of the Etrange Festival.

For the opening, we bypassed Nekrotronic, despite the presence of Monica Belluci on screen and in the 500 person, and we sat in a 300 person room to discover Tumbbad, which caught our eyes with its grade 8,2 on IMDB, and the feeling the Bollywood is getting crazier (It already was at the Etrange Festival that we discovered the crazy Eega in 2012). Inspired by Indian mythology, this saga of a cursed family where greediness runs in the blood, put us in a state of unknown horror. The camera runs under torrential rains, travels into the dark night and creeps in tight bowels (all in natural light), where monsters hide and children get lost. Darker than Pan’s Labyrinth, angrier than The Strangers, it is Adesh Prasad’s first feature film, and we are not about to let him go.

After such a high, we are scared of one thing : the cold shower we might take in front of Bruce McDonald’s Dreamland, which seems to fit too perfectly this festival. There is cast for nerds (Juliette Lewis, Henry Rollins and Stephen McHattie playing two parts), a gallery of psychotic and cartoon-like characters (an assassin in a crisis, a trumpet player addicted to heroine, a fascist countess, a pervert vampire), a foul and dystopian atmosphere…And yet, it works, thanks to the rythm of the Canadian director and his absurd humour sneaking in the smallest details ( we are into the idea of making Luxembourg look like a freak show). Even if we had brainstormed, we could not have found a better way to feel better after Tumbbad than this mean little movie. A —cool— nightmare superseding another.

Day 2 : we are sitting at the front of the big theater for our reunion with Zhang Yimou, epic painter of chines martial arts, that we have loved (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) then lost a bit ( The Great Wall). Shadow is based on an inviting graphic concept : everything is in black and white, except for organic matter (skin, flesh, blood, a few weeds). It is so beautiful that we never get bored when following the intrigues of the palace, waiting for weapons to be drawn. The plot is clear — which is rather rare in the genre— and takes us to several minimalistic combative choreographies, in slow-motion under the rain, until a finale full of bloody plot twists. We are not fat from thinking it could be Yimou’s best movie; either way it certainly his soberest.

We are prepared for the second expected choc : Monos, from the Colombian-Equadorian director Alejandro Landes, whose hype is big enough to —almost— fill up the 500-person theater. With a first impression of a welcoming movie (it looks like a modern tale, visually wonderful, in the Colombian mountains, with a group of teenage soldiers raised to accomplish a mysterious mission), the movie actually becomes darker and darker, before shifting into horror when the children are left on their own in the Amazonian jungle. It reminds us of Lord of The Flies, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Apocalypto, and even Come and See, the colossal references of a cineast who is (too much ?) aware if his own — admittedly undeniable — virtuosity. The last gaze straight in the camera leaves us both astounded and puzzled …It is for these kind of unsettling experiences that we came her ein the first place.

On Friday, it’s Noé and chill. We never built up the courage to see Irréversible a second time since it’s release in 2002 but, as time heals anything (even movies that state the opposite), we finally recovered from our sufferings. We even said that, after all, it was not that terrible. So, few days after the Venice Film Festival, we are almost gleefully cheering for Noé, Belluci, Dupontel, Prestia and Nahon on the scene of the crowded 500-seats room. Everything seems to try to tell us that everything is going to be okay, that it is only cinema (« We are all here and healthy » jokes Monica Belluci), but Dupontell gives us the best punchline, as a warning « It is very dangerous to applaud a movie before seeing it ». When the movie is over, we are indeed not clapping anymore. We thought that the chronologically reversed original edit was the reason it was so traumatizing, and we were wrong. This « integral inversion » stings even more. Knowing hell is coming does not prevent it from coming, and he is coming fast with frenetic long shots. Asphyxia, nauseous whirlwinds, slides toward the worst. When the end credits come, the shot of Monica lying on the grass is long gone.

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