The 58th Cork Film Festival (9 – 17 November)
Matt Micucci takes a look at The Red House and In the Name Of , which both screened as part of the 58th Cork Film Festival.
The Red House (Alyx Duncan)
The intimate domestic drama of Yasujiro Ozu meets the poetic narrative and visual structure of Terence Malick in this impressive directorial feature debut by New Zealand director Alyx Duncan.
The Red House paints the picture of Lee and Jia, a married couple in their sixties still madly in love despite their cultural differences. But when Jia has to return to her homeland to take care of an ill parent, this forced momentary separation threatens the balance of their idyllic relationship.
The film has slight imperfections and some slight carelessness in the screenplay as well as an occasional feeling of sparseness in the message that sometimes feels unfocused particularly when dealing with the afore mentioned cultural differences,
However, Duncan’s film still comes across as a deeply moving and heart-warming tribute to long lasting unconditional love and to the joys and sorrows of devotion. On top of that, its remarkable photography with a penchant for landscape and lyrical imagery makes it look very refined. Duncan’s bravest and ultimately recompensing choice was to cast her own parents in the lead role, hence adding an intense passionate realism in their chemistry and romance.
In the Name Of (Malgorzata Szumowska)
Adam, a Polish Catholic Priest who has embraced the religious life to fight back his homosexuality, works in a rural village with teenagers with behavioural difficulties. Even though Szumowska’s In the Name Of is certainly provocative and often even uncomfortable, it never descends into tastelessness. However, the film constantly struggles to battle off this awkward feeling of being dishonest due to a lack of believable and truly compelling emotional depth – perhaps unaided by the lack of chemistry between Andrzej Chyra who plays Adam (admittedly a tough part to play) and Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, who plays his young lover Lukasz.
There are certain notably impactful elements that particularly lie around the Priest’s own internal struggles, sadness, anger and psychological torment – such as the impending shadow of a hostile reaction that hovers more menacingly over his head as the film progresses. As well as that, there is a little sensorial charm in its warm lighting and summertime setting that not only evokes sentiments of ‘sad young men’ of the forties and fifties, which usually dealt lightly with homoerotic themes, but also creates an intriguing contrast with the darkness in the soul of the film’s central figure.
Nevertheless, it may not be enough to save the film from being essentially weak or even disappointingly forgettable for better or for worse.