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Locarno Film Festival 2017 Cocote, Prototype, A Skin So Soft, & Milla

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Locarno Film Festival 2017: Cocote, Prototype, A Skin So Soft, & Milla

Cinémadefacto

Locarno Film Festival 2017: Cocote, Prototype, A Skin So Soft, & Milla

The first days of the Locarno Film Festival were dominated by a heat so intense that it took great effort to focus on the challenging cinema for which the Swiss festival is renowned and not just on staying hydrated and fleeing to the next air-conditioned space. But as the warmth receded and proper concentration returned, several titles that screened on the opening weekend emerged from the fug as some of the most intriguing films of the year.

Unlike in Switzerland, the sweltering heat of the Dominican Republic inspires fervor, even hysteria—as in Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias’s Cocote, which opened the festival’s experimentally minded Signs of Life section, which this year became a competitive section for the first time and opened its doors to films of all lengths. Much like the filmmaker’s Santa Teresa and Other Stories, a very loose adaptation of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, Cocote proceeds by inserting enough flights of fancy into an established narrative that its through line often becomes thrillingly blurred. While this film’s plot doesn’t draw on any preexisting material, it does feel broadly archetypical, telling the story of how Alberto (Vicente Santos), a gardener working at a wealthy estate in Santo Domingo, returns to his home village following the death of his father at the hands of a local bigwig. Alberto’s smart attire and newfound respectability mark him as a prodigal son for his mother and sisters, who expect him both to take part in a nine-day burial ritual and avenge his father, neither of which are in keeping with his sense of urban rationality and poise.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011: Wavelengths 5: The Return/Aberration of Light, Wavelengths 4: Space Is the Place, & Take This Waltz

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Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>Wavelengths 5: The Return/Aberration of Light</em>, <em>Wavelengths 4: Space Is the Place</em>, & <em>Take This Waltz</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>Wavelengths 5: The Return/Aberration of Light</em>, <em>Wavelengths 4: Space Is the Place</em>, & <em>Take This Waltz</em>

Wavelengths 5: The Return/Aberration of Light: As unburdened, freely (dis)associative works, it’s barking up the wrong tree to assign meaning to a film by Nathaniel Dorsky, but his latest, The Return, with its recurring images of permeable or false boundaries (mesh, dirty windows, trees and shrubs) and final vision of the sun breaking both through and around a cloud seems to me a film of great hope; perhaps that’s what returned following the sadness, paranoia, and uncertainty of Dorsky’s trio at Wavelengths last year. It’s always a challenge to program films beside Dorsky’s, but Aberration of Light: Dark Chamber Disclosure, a live paracinema performance by Sandra Gibson, Luis Recoder, and Olivia Block succeeded precisely by working with the same intellectual energy drives Dorsky to find new registers to push cinema into. The presence of Block’s recorded soundtrack anchors this temporally, which allows Gibson and Recoder, working with filters, refractors, and appropriated commercial film, to build a dialectic between linear time and their light, which effectively lies outside of time. It should be noted that, as an act of pure creation, this was a far better tribute to the memory of those who died on 9/11 than the schlocky, sentimental, self-serving piece of hokum that the festival served up before all of the day’s public screenings (a blemish that was notably absent from the night’s two Wavelengths screenings).