Elements of crime drama, unrequited love story and mother/daughter melodrama add up to an oddity in French Riviera (L’Homme Que L’On Aimait Trop), the latest work from André Téchiné, which reunites the veteran director with one of his actrices fétiches, Catherine Deneuve. Silver-haired here and as subtly compelling as ever, Deneuve plays Renée Le Roux, a casino-owner in ‘70s Nice who’s fending off business propositions from seemingly unscrupulous rivals.
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The closing ceremony and prize-giving of the 39th Gdynia Film Festival took place on Saturday night on the Main Stage of the city’s Musical Theatre, the site of many of the memorable screenings and premieres held across the festival’s jam-packed, exhilarating six days.
Punctuated beautifully by live orchestra performances of Wojciech Kilar film scores (as a tribute to the iconic composer who died last December), the slickly-staged two-hour event proved most delightful. Not all of the decisions made by the international jury were what I would have hoped for myself. But the results certainly reflected the panel’s intention to reward as wide a range of films as possible: an appropriate approach, perhaps, in a year which yielded no one masterpiece but rather a selection of diverse, interesting and sometimes provocative works, from the traditional to the wildly experimental.
The Main Competition selection at this year’s Gdynia Film Festival has been highly diverse, with films ranging from the low, low-budget (Aleksandra Gowin and Ireneusz Grzyb’s disarming Little Crushes); Krzysztof Skonieczny’s disturbing Hardkor Disko) to the super-lavish (Warsaw 44).
More towards the latter end of the scale are Wladyslaw Pasikowski’s Jack Strong and Waldemar Krzystek’s The Photographer, two highly enjoyable, polished mainstream thrillers which also probe Polish-Russian relations in intriguing ways.
In Michał Otłowski’s Waterline (Jeziorak), Jowita Budnik plays Iza Deren, a no-nonsense policewoman who’s investigating a girl’s death. The decidedly put-upon Iza has more than this case on her plate, unfortunately.
She’s pregnant, for one, and the father of the twins she’s expecting has disappeared under mysterious circumstances with another police colleague. Meanwhile, the investigation turns up some long-buried secrets from Iza’s own past.
As demonstrated by the recent success of films as diverse as In Darkness (2011), Aftermath (2012) and Ida (2013) (to name but three), Poland’s turbulent and often traumatic history remains a topic of great concern for contemporary filmmakers. This interest is evident again in a large number of the films screening at Gdynia this year, of which Jerzy Stuhr’s picaresque comedy, The Citizen (Obywatel), must rank as one of the most curious.