This week’s agenda selection is highlighting films that study some very particular identities, the desire for them or the excruciating lack thereof.
In Fargo (1996), the Coen brothers’ first mainstream success and already considered a classic today, the incompetent characters stumbling around in the Minnesotan Midwest (the Coen’s homeland) seem to have fallen victim to the eternal ‘American Dream’ but are completely incapable of moving an inch closer to it. A Clinton era black comedy about weird people that feels so surprisingly sincere it can hold up next to the Coen’s later, iconic works like The Big Lebowski (1998) or No Country for Old Men (2007). Not to forget Frances McDormand’s Oscar winning performance as the spirited, pregnant policewoman, Marge Gunderson.
At this year’s Berlinale, cinematographer Hélène Louvart won the Silver Bear for her “Outstanding Artistic Contribution” to Giacomo Abbruzzese’s Disco Boy (2023), which is currently being screened at (among other venues) flagey. While Alex, the Belarusian character, joins the Foreign Legion in France and clings to a confused sense of hope to find a new family and a European identity, Jomo, the Nigerian, fights for the survival and durability of his people in the Niger Delta and is ready to die to defend his ideas, all the while dreaming of becoming a dancer. With its choice of topic and of soundtrack, Abbruzzese delivers a brave homage to Claire Denis’s Beau Travail (1999).
Many would argue that Orson Welles also delivered an “outstanding artistic contribution” when he made Franz Kafka’s iconic 1925 novel The Trial into a film in 1962. Some would even say that he’s the only one who ever got Kafka right. Alienating social structures, claustrophobic bureaucracy, and an individual participating in his own destruction – what more could you want on a Sunday afternoon at Cinema Palace?