PFF: Happy as Lazzaro, The Party's Just Beginning, The Wind
Happy as Lazzaro (dir. Alice Rohrwacher)
After ruminating on this one for a few days, I feel like it is kind of a mixed bag. On a technical level, this film is pretty well made, with great camerawork and a strong sense of environment, which is necessary given the bifurcated nature of the film. The goal of the film seems to be drawing a line between historical, agrarian exploitation of labor and industrialized people who aren’t even exploited for their labor but by a system stacked against them reaching any sort of economic stability.
Rohrwacher attempts to do this through the central character of Lazzaro, a farmhand who is downright saintly with his work ethic, lack of complaining, and near-lack of selfishness. Lazzaro doesn’t speak much, and while others don’t seem to be able to take advantage of him because he is just so gracious he sometimes unsettles those around him with his nature. Or maybe Lazzaro just doesn’t understand how to act in the self-motivated ways of others? The character is an enigma that is never explained, but provides a window into the suffering of others.
The film’s demonstration of its ideas aren’t all that engaging, and it is too easy to let this wash over you, when the film feels like it should be a call to action.
The Party’s Just Beginning (dir. Karen Gillan)
This is a film with a lot on its mind, and weaves those ideas and points-of-view into a moving story. Written and directed–as well as starring–Karen Gillan, the film is chiefly concerned with suicide and those left behind.
The film unfolds in parallel across multiple timelines, evoking how invasive memories can feel. Lucy (Gillan) is a woman who needs healing and escape, but has zero outlets. Not only goes Gillan capture the tragedy of suicide (and its ripple effect onto others), but also how we expect women to be good listeners and take on everyone else’s problems. Lucy is taken for granted by seemingly everyone in her life, and her own emotions have no outlet.
The Party’s Just Beginning is a strongly made film that is empathetic, thoughtful, and a bit angry. Each of the supporting cast feels like a real person despite small amounts of screen time, and the amount of tiny details in the film just add to the verisimilitude. That kind of attention to detail makes a huge difference in making something feel true. Looking forward to more from Gillan as a filmmaker.
The Wind (dir. Emma Tammi)
Although I still consider myself a genre novice, it still feels like period horror is an underserved aesthetic. The VVitch and Crimson Peak are recent examples that I’d like to see more of, and I am happy to say that The Wind is a satisfying entry. While not as masterful as those two films, this Western-horror hybrid is an effective little movie. At 86 minutes, the film is able to make us sympathetic to its characters, provide a few very effective scares, and wrap up its tale in a way that never feels rushed or cheap. Part of that is due to the excellent performance by Caitlin Gerard, who basically carries the whole film.
The idea of living nearly alone, with only one other house within sight is scary enough, and knowing that this was inspired by real frontier women hearing voices on the near-constant wind of the upper plains makes this film even more chilling. There’s nothing revelatory here in terms of genre, but this film is quite effective in executing its aims. More like this, please.