Oil Rocks, Complaints Choir, The House of Branching Love, and Mother

[This post is about the final day of last year’s Cinequest film festival, and was mostly but not completely written then. I figured I better post it before I post anything about this year’s festival.]

Oil Rocks is a documentary about a city built in a shallow area of the Caspian Sea, hours from shore, during World War II. Originally it had 300km (about 180 miles) of roadways, though many of them have fallen into disrepair or disappeared completely due to years of exposure to waves and storms. The city is not open to anyone but the workers who live there, and the director spent 10 years before finally getting permission to visit and film.

The documentary was interesting, especially when it’s about the people who live there. The most memorable was a woman who has been there essentially from the beginning, which means 60 years. At one point she caught a fish for the local cats (I don’t think they were specifically her pets, though I’m not sure). But other than the curiosity factor, there wasn’t quite as much here as I hoped. I’ll give it  out of . Unfortunately there was no filmmaker at the screening, though I understand there was at an earlier screening.

Complaints Choir is about a Norwegian couple who have started complaints choirs, where the choir sings real complaints, in a few places in the world. It specifically shows them creating such choirs in Chicago and Singapore.

It had its moments, but not many for me. I’ll give it  out of . An earlier showing was the North American premiere.

The House of Branching Love is a Finnish film that is hard to categorize. It’s about a couple, Juhani and Tuula, that is divorcing. The opening scene is of them burning things like pictures of them together. There is a lot of built-up anger and resentment, though it was played at least partly for (mostly cringe-worthy) laughs. I don’t remember it all that well, but if I had to guess it would be out of .

The actress who played Nina was there to answer questions (there may be spoilers below):

  • Based on a book by the same name, but the book actually came out (in Finnish) after the movie
  • It was shot in Helsinki in 6 weeks
  • She was born in Finland, but she had been away long enough that she needed an accent coach (this was her first film in Finnish)
  • The leads and others in the film have won the Finnish equivalent of the Oscar
  • The film was #2 for the year in Finland–people call her Nina in the street
  • She sent her head shot to the Finnish agent and she got a call

Finally there was the closing night ceremony and the closing movie. I had some notes from the ceremony, but they don’t seem very interesting a year later, other than to note that Applause won the top prize (the jury prize for best narrative feature film).

The closing film was Mother. It is about a mentally-challenged 20-something who is accused of murder, and his take-no-prisoners mother who gives her all to prove his innocence. As for the previous film, I don’t remember it all that well, but if I had to guess it would be out of . I think I just don’t get Korean films, since many people speak quite highly of this film.

All seen on 3/6/2010 at Cinequest.

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