The Montreal Film Festival concluded yesterday. At this time we were waiting for the start of our second film in a row, an Iranian production called "Penalty", about a group of people who had become homeless after the Iran-Iraq war and were squatting on the grounds of an old oil refinery; their only joy comes from playing soccer -- and their only hope of finding homes or a better life is to be chosen for the Oil Company team. It sounds a bit like "Rocky" in Farsi, but wasn't at all - it was much more a portrait of the wreckage left by that terrible war, which not only resulted in tremendous casualties on both sides, but rendered many people homeless and left many former soldiers irreparably damaged by chemical weapons.
The earlier film was "Solo quiero caminar", translated as "Just Walking," a Spanish thriller about international drug trafficking, with a twist: the evil but handsome head of the drug cartel is being set up by a gang of four professional thieves, all of whom are women. It was too violent, and I especially hate seeing women getting hurt, but I have to admit that I really liked the movie, and it kept me riveted to my seat. By the end, I was half in love with Diego Luna, as well as the leading actress, Ariadna Gil, and I really, really wanted her red tango dress.
We would have put the second-place film, "Weaving Girl," from China, ahead of the festival's overall winner, the film about the Roma I mentioned earlier. But our personal favorite, not chosen for the main competition, was a Mexican movie, "Caja Negra," by a young director (Ariel Gordon) who was present at the screening. It too was a suspense movie, about a hired assassin and political/corporate intrigue, but made on a small budget -- in his pre-screening remarks, the director said all the animation had been done in his own living room by a team of five people - and almost all the footage was shot using little surveillance cameras, and pieced together to seem as if the whole movie was captured on security videos. The screenplay was terrific, inventive, unusual -- what a pleasure to see something so different, so risky, and so good, and be able to tell the director in person! (This is a 2009 new release, not the 2002 film by Luis Ortega.)
And now we're glad to be able to enjoy the great early fall weather like normal people, instead of blinking mice emerging from their dark holes into the sunlight. Is that why film stars always wear dark glasses?