5 in­ter­na­tional film picks

Over­whelmed be­cause there are al­most 200 movies at the fest? Carsten Knox of­fers the must-see choices from AIFF’s global of­fer­ings.

The Coast - - AIFF GUIDE -

Ash Is The Purest White Sun­day, Septem­ber 16, 3pm, Park Lane 7

Ciao (Zhao Tao) is a gang­ster’s moll in a crum­bling Chi­nese city. When she uses a pis­tol to pro­tect her boyfriend from a gang­land at­tack, she takes the fall and spends five years in prison. Get­ting out, she finds her coun­try, her re­la­tion­ships and her life have all changed. Di­rected by prom­i­nent Chi­nese film­maker Zhangke Jia ( Still Life), the pace is me­an­der­ing, but Zhao Tao’s pow­er­ful per­for­mance is all the re­al­ism the film needs to bal­ance out a streak of melo­drama that ar­rives in third act strokes, acupunc­ture and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

Gur­ru­mul Monday, Septem­ber 17, 4pm, Park Lane 3

Ge­of­frey Gur­ru­mul Yunupingu was a blind Aus­tralian In­dige­nous mu­si­cian who, af­ter years of play­ing in prom­i­nent groups such as Yothu Yindi and The Salt­wa­ter Band, found global suc­cess as a solo artist. Stock footage of Gur­ru­mul’s com­mu­nity feels un­com­fort­ably Na­tional Ge­o­graphic, but the more con­tem­po­rary ma­te­rial, fol­low­ing him on tour (in­clud­ing one awk­ward gig with Sting), is fas­ci­nat­ing. It’s hard to know whether the doc’s western lens does jus­tice to its sub­ject and his cul­ture, but the best out­come here is a broader ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Gur­ru­mul’s con­sid­er­able gifts.

Tran­sit Monday, Septem­ber 17, 6:10pm, Park Lane 2

It’s a gutsy con­ceit: Chris­tian Pet­zold ( Phoenix) adapts an Anna Seghers World War II-era novel, but puts it in con­tem­po­rary France, where the fash­ions are strangely vin­tage but the set­ting is to­tally 21st cen­tury. His hero steals a writer’s iden­tity in or­der to se­cure let­ters of tran­sit and es­cape from Mar­seilles to Mex­ico, but winds up fall­ing in love with the writer’s wife. If it all sounds heav­ily in­debted to Casablanca, the fun­da­men­tal things ap­ply as time goes by. Tran­sit is a fit­fully ef­fec­tive dra­matic ex­er­cise, sweet­ened by sea­side ro­mance.

3 Faces Tues­day, Septem­ber 18, 6pm, Park Lane 2

A self-ref­er­en­tial fea­ture from the im­per­ti­nent Ira­nian film­maker Ja­far Panahi, who keeps mak­ing new films de­spite be­ing in­structed by the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment not to. Here he plays a ver­sion of him­self, driv­ing Behnaz Ja­fari, the Ira­nian star play­ing a ver­sion of her­self, to a re­mote vil­lage on the Turk­ish bor­der to in­ves­ti­gate the pos­si­ble sui­cide of a young woman. Panahi ex­plores class and the ru­ral/ur­ban di­vide, the cul­tural dif­fer­ences be­tween the Ira­ni­ans and the Turks, and sex­ism, pumped up by a strong vein of ab­surd hu­mour. If it peters out a lit­tle by the end, it’s still cu­ri­ously charm­ing. Or charm­ingly cu­ri­ous.

Cli­max Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 19, 10pm, Park Lane 3

The Ar­gen­tine-French sour sen­su­al­ist Gas­par Noé’s new film is very much of a kind with his ear­lier work—one part hal­lu­ci­na­tory dream­scape, one part de­scent into hell. He never fails to de­liver vis­ceral mo­ments, but his merely pass­ing in­ter­est in char­ac­ter and nar­ra­tive co­her­ence means many of his films tend to fade in the mem­ory, like the finer de­tails of last night’s acid trip. That anal­ogy is par­tic­u­larly apt here, where a tal­ented but frac­tious dance troupe par­ties into the night un­til spiked san­gria and mid-movie cred­its turns their good time into para­noia and self-harm, while Noé throws ni­hilist procla­ma­tions up on screen like, “life is a col­lec­tive im­pos­si­bil­ity.” Great dance moves, oth­er­wise hol­low.

Ash Is The Purest White

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