East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

SFIFF '06~!: One Long Winter WIthout Fire [festival note]

Switzerland/Belgium, 2004
Starring Aurélien Recoing, Marie Matheron, Gabriela Muskala, Blerim Gjoci
Written by Pierre-Pascal Rossi
Directed by Greg Zglinski

Aurélien Recoing + Swiss snow + some harrowing familial tension + lots of empathy for the collateral damage of New Capitalism in the New Europe = Time Out, my favourite movie of the last, oh, 30 years.
Aurélien Recoing + Swiss snow + lots of harrowing familial tension + some empathy for the collateral damage of New Capitalism in the New Europe = One Long Winter Without Fire, a pretty good movie.

Named best first film at Venice 2004, this at first seems like yet another middle-aged grief-fest, and it is, but there's more to it than that. Still in mourning, and with his wife (Matheron) in a psychiatric ward, nth generation farmer Recoing has to take on factory work to make ends meet. The movie becomes complex when he befriends brother-and-sister Kosovar refugees nursing their own tragedies, and though you can guess what unfolds, it's done with sensitivity towards all parties (even the icy sister-in-law). And it's set in the Swiss Alps, so of course it's going to look great.

The main reason to see this, though, is Recoing. He uses his largeness well, usually standing in a slumped, defeated posture, contrasting neatly with the upright brittleness of Matheron as well as the compact resolve of Muskala. His timing is dead on; when an old friend calls out to him, he employs just the right delay before letting recognition flow into his face. And it's that face that's the clincher -- he doesn't seem to have been gifted with the most malleable features, but does more with less; his smile is so close to his frown that when he shows a flicker of happiness it seems it could disappear in an instant. Which it often does.


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