Falling in love in Courted and falling apart in fear in Frenzy.
Doesn’t time fly? We’re now over half way through the festival, and many of the big hitters have had their moment in the Venice sun. Certainly, the big Hollywood names have come and gone, soaking up the rays before heading off to Toronto to continue the long road to awards season. We’ve already seen a few contenders, now let’s settle in and enjoy the rest of the show.
It was a much quieter day for me with only two films, both in the competition strand. The first started eventfully, as around 15 minutes into Courted a phone started beeping. This lasted a good couple of minutes until the culprit, who happened to be sat directly in front of me, was pinpointed. He was then promptly marched out by security, and only reappeared briefly with a police escort to pick up his jacket.
That little drama out the way, attention returned to the film, a delightfully low-key romantic drama set around a French criminal court. Fabrice Luchini in his traditional role as a cheeky misanthrope plays the judge presiding over the alleged murder of a seven month old baby. The court proceedings play out in lengthy scenes, at times humorous, building up a fog of confusion on all sides.
Gradually, the emphasis switches away from the trial, and onto one of the jurors, played by Sidse Babett Knudsen. The Danish actor must have the most infectious smile in the world at the moment. It’s impossible not to melt when she turns it on, which is pretty much what happens to Luchini, who had previously courted her (oh the hilarity of the English title) months before, and is delighted to find her in his court. To be honest, I preferred the court action, and the film tails away when love takes over. Still, Knudsen can do no wrong, and it’s great to see her getting more film roles.
With that done, a mad dash to Turkish political thriller Frenzy followed. The second feature from director Emin Alper, it’s gruelling stuff in an impressive way. In Istanbul, the threat from terrorists is mounting, and Kadir (Mehmet Ozgur) is released from prison to gather intelligence on bomb makers. He also happens to be assigned to the same region his younger brother Ahmet (Berkay Ates) lives in where he’s employed by the state to shoot stray dogs.
From here, they both sink into increasing paranoia, suspecting threats at every turn. As events around them draw closer, it becomes clear there’s a reckoning coming for the brothers, and not one likely to end well for either of them, or the stray dogs currently being massacred for that matter. I stumbled out of the film feeling slightly shell-shocked, and more than a little sick from the constant state of dread Alper left me in. It’s going to take some processing, but I’m pretty sure it was good. Ask me again when my hands stop trembling.