Call me by your name / Submergence / Fireworks – Movie Review [Zinemaldia 2017]

Zinemaldia, San Sebastian’s film festival, has already kicked off, and today we’ll be talking about the first three movies I’ve watched there. The experience has been great so far, with some interesting gems that took me by surprise. Stay tuned for more in the following days!

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Submergence

Wim Wender’s latest film was in charge of opening the festival. Starring James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander, the movie tells the story of a man held captive by jihadists in Somalia and a woman who is about to change our conception of life in a scientific expedition. The intense romantic relationship they had some months before the events depicted will definitely affect their way of handling tough situations, indeed.

While the film is dividing audiences, I must say that watching it was a pleasant experience. Albeit not being particularly creative, the direction was properly handled, resulting in a compelling movie. Told through a myriad of flashbacks, the romance between the protagonists can be felt through the screen at all times, even if it’s true their chemistry isn’t completely on point at times.

Cutting between the two radically different settings turns out to be a great idea, as it reinforces the harsh situation McAvoy’s character is living in Somalia. His bits are definitely the most interesting in the movie, and the work they’ve put into those segments is more than noticeable. The actor himself did a remarkable job, as he delivered an outstanding performance, as usual. I wish Vikander’s scenes would have developed their ideas further, since it playfully touches some metaphysical concepts that are promising, only to forget about them seconds later. Her performance isn’t bad, it’s just that she doesn’t have any opportunity to shine.

Submergence is definitely not Wender’s best, as weaker parts and features can be found everywhere. However, taking into account that the overall experience is compelling, interesting, and quite thrilling, I do believe the whole is better than the sum of its parts. 7/10

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Call me by your name

The biggest surprise of the festival so far is Call me by your name, an Italian movie directed by Luca Guadagnino. Elio is having a relaxing summer in a small town, but that tranquility is about to vanish with the arrival of Oliver, a young man who seems to charm everyone into liking him. Even if Elio will be jealous of him at first, he will soon start to feel his very first homosexual attraction towards him, resulting in a summer that will change both of them forever.

The Italy of the 1980s is the perfect setting for this story that touches all sorts of interesting topics, ranging from love, to religion, to family affairs. It does so with a subtlety not usual in film-making, which results in a very emotionally compelling film. Packed with long, challenging shots that last minutes in order to ensure an immersive experience, Guadagnino’s expertise can be found in every frame.

Those same long shots must have been a huge challenge for the protagonist duo, too, especially for Timothée Chalamet, who, as Elio, has sequences that kick off with him playing the piano and then evolve into deep conversations, only to come back to the piano – without a single cut. And he nails every note, and every word. His performance is jaw-dropping, incredibly emotional and complex, with no overacting at all. He is joined by Armie Hammer, who also delivers a great performance.

Both characters are incredibly well-written overall, but there are a couple of moments that, in my opinion, break the perfect balance that the movie almost achieves. Both of those actions leave all subtleties aside and unrealistically push Elio’s character in the direction the film needs him to go, which was quite a let-down considering the quality of the rest of the writing.

Cinematography is excellent throughout the whole movie, with some very natural-looking lighting all over the frames. The environments depicted are incredibly noisy, with bugs flying around, leaves on trees dancing with the wind… This adds to the immersion at times, but some of those noises are startling, especially when they happen right after a cut.

Call me by your name is an excellent piece of film-making that is having a huge success in many festivals, and for good reason. Sure, there are some weird situations scattered through the runtime (the title itself has a cringe-worthy moment), but the big picture is outstanding. Very rarely does a film depict a romantic relationship in such a transcendent and heart-wrenching way. 8/10

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Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?

The third and final film we’re going to cover in today’s little collection is a Japanese animated romantic comedy with a rather long title. Last year, Your Name was featured in the festival, so the hype to watch this year’s anime was pretty extreme. But I’m afraid Fireworks is a very poor film overall.

“What if…?” is the central theme of the movie, as a mysterious glass marble will give Norimichi, a high-school student, the power to relive his most recent actions in order to change his choices. He will need to use this ability carefully in order to elope with Nazuna, the girl of his dreams, as the reality around them will start to bend dangerously.

If you’re a gamer, the first thought that may have come to your mind is that the concept is very Life is Strange-esque. However, instead of resulting in a compelling experience, the narrative of the film falls flat, unable to hold the suspension of disbelief so necessary in order to make supernatural plot elements believable. The romantic comedy aspect of the film is terribly weak too, with unlikeable characters and nothing more than dumb decisions that are absolutely unrelatable.

Animation-wise, Fireworks is a weird one. Hand-drawn elements are quite beautiful, packed with rich animations, particularly when it comes to facial expressions. However, the excessive amount of 3D elements used to create most of the environments looks awful, and the lots and lots of digital effects, from light shafts to reflections on water, detract from the presentation due to their artificial and overstated look. I guess the title isn’t the only convoluted feature of the movie.

It’s been an unenjoyable experience, I’m afraid. Lots of inexplicable decisions make this film a dull feature that’s instantly forgettable. 4/10

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