Tom’s SFIFF56 Report: Day 6 and 7 – “Youth”, “The Last Step”, “Eight Deadly Shots”

Youth

Youth_03three-stars15The first feature film of Justine Malle, Louis Malle‘s daughter, is a good effort. In this very short feature, we follow a girl through her sexual awakening which sparks at the same time as her father acquires a disease which slowly destroys his brain.

It’s a promising film, but it has its flaws. The acting of the main male character wasn’t very believable, and at times the film drifts into over-sentimentality. The main character was quite good, however, and the film has some moments of extreme honesty about sexuality and dealing with death which juxtapose against the sentimentality of the score.

The Last Step

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What a refreshing, perplexing film!

The Last Step, by Iranian director, writer, and actor Ali Mosaffa, is certainly one open to interpretation, as demonstrated by the unsatisfying Q & A after the showing at the SFIFF – I swear some included questions such as “Why did you have so many characters that we didn’t always know who they were?”. However, I will talk about it as I saw it.

The film centers around a man’s death, as he, perhaps in his moment of dying or after his death, views the reactions of his death. That is to say, it is a vision of the moments of his death, those before his death, and the aftermath of his death, from the dead man’s perspective. As such, we see a pretty fascinating vision of a man’s self-loathing depiction of his death – the humor he sees in the irony of the exact circumstances, the negative impact he felt he had on his wife whilst living.

What is created is almost a sort of “nothing left to lose” scenario, augmented by his predicted death by his doctor while still alive, but retold after he is dead and certainly had nothing left to lose. In this way, the narrative is not necessarily dependable. What we see are subjective images told after death – further exemplified by the fact that alternate takes were used in the repetition sequences which build upon each other like puzzle pieces, establishing the complicated, contradictory post-mortem emotions.

Absolutely worth seeing, considering, digesting, enjoying, and ruminating upon.

Eight Deadly Shots

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Mikko Niskanen‘s 1972 Finnish television film-series “Eight Deadly Shots” is certainly a difficult one to sit through, but one worth its weight in celluloid. Over five and a half hours, we are led through a poor farmer’s life. We see him farm, make moonshine, and slowly grow desperate as debts wrack up.

Alcoholism is a primary theme here, and moonshine is seen as a way to both escape the harsh realities of life and possibly make a little more money to compensate for the immense taxes which are not balanced by the amount of available work or resources. Moonshining is quite illegal at the time in Finland, with all alcohol produced and regulated by the government, and so this habit, as well as the fact that he cannot help but drink as much of the grain alcohol as possible, end up making his problems even worse.

As the police begin to pester him more and more, and as his poverty makes his life even more uncomfortable, alcohol can only exacerbate his problems, while giving him some momentary mental escape. His heart begins to fail, his family runs away from his rages. Yet, much of the content that we view is him in the act of making moonshine, or him in the act of threshing his hay, and so on. The slow, deliberate pace builds the action up to the ultimate climax where, in the blink of an eye, he has shot and murdered four police officers and is sentenced to a lifetime in prison.

The greatest part of the film, and the one which made it most worthwhile in the end, was the final line, something along the lines of: “…is sentenced to a lifetime of penal servitude. Psychological evaluation for committing the action have been rejected.” All the while he stares, desperate and mad into the 4th wall. This official-sounding line is one of such great irony, as his entire life prior was essentially one of penal servitude just trying to survive, and the film was in a great sense a vast psychological evaluation of the act.

I cannot say I would recommend it to everyone (not that you will necessarily have the chance to see it anyway) but I am glad to have been able to see it. It’s a thoughtful, most humanistic portrayal of a man driven to the edge by society’s great weight.

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Categories: Festivals, San Francisco International Film Festival

2 Comments on “Tom’s SFIFF56 Report: Day 6 and 7 – “Youth”, “The Last Step”, “Eight Deadly Shots””

  1. Hossein
    May 11, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Only The Last Step , Absolutely worth seeing

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  1. Filmbalaya’s Guide to SFIFF56 2013 | Filmbalaya.com - May 6, 2013

    [...] Deadly Shots – “…I am glad to have been able to see it. It’s a thoughtful, most humanistic portrayal of a ma…” – [...]

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