Berlinale 2018: Day 8

By Sascha Krieger

Museo (Competition / Mexico / Director: Alonzo Ruizpalacios)

Juan is not very popular with his family. They mock him as a failure or because of his shortness. His response is hostility, the refusal to even conform to the most basic of agreed social behaviour. Ab true pain in the ass, one might say. A man void of any clear-cut identity. Like his country. The plundering of Mexico’s cultural heritage is the second layer of the film – an act Juan both detests and repeats as he robs the archeological museum with a friend. Why never becomes clear. They go on a road trip, first to sell the artifices, then to run away. Gael García Bernal plays Juan as a childish tyrant, an extremist who regards making compromises as the ultimate treason. Everything must be unconditional which makes him an outcast – among his family but also in a country based on compromise, blurring its conflicting level of heritage so as not to confront them, a faceless country and a faceless man not accepting this. Museo constantly changes its mode of expression – from the restless handheld camera chaos of a Christmas dinner where Juan is the disturbance so nobody has to face their own dysfunctionality to a serious of comical freezes during the robbery, a disconnection from reality to disjointed sound and images all narrated by the friend’s voice over. Juan is a memory, a puppet, everybody’s scapegoat which finally, he gives himself up to be. In order to function, society has to remain unconscious, preserve its apologetic narratives, must not face the truth. What does the truth matter if there’s a good story to be told he asks. And a good story he provides. The film is a thriller, a comedy, a satire, a road movie. One after the other, all at the same time. Playful, entertaining, cheekily subversive. Pick your story. Avoid the truth.

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Museo (© Alejandra Carvajal)

Touch Me Not (Competition / Romania, Germany, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, France / Director: Adina Pintilie)

At the beginning, a male human body, naked. The camera eye moving along, uncomfortably close. Then a camera set-up, a face appearing, speaking through the prompter. Touch Me Not sets out to explore modern human’s obsession with and fear of the body through a film within a film scenario. Laura, a woman in her fifties, is afraid of intimacy and talks remotely to the film’s real director Adina Pintilie. Or is it her who’s in charge? Laura hires various helpers with whom she tries to get to terms with herself, her body, her desires. She films some sort of therapy in which handicapped and non-handicapped explore their bodies. Handicapped Christian seems a lot more comfortable with his that non-handicapped Tomas. She follows the latter who in turn follows an unknown woman to an SM club. Clinical images and an abstract soundscape produce a disturbing atmosphere which constantly tests the viewer’s boundaries of what they’re comfortable with, a perspective they share with Laura and Tomas. There are hints of childhood trauma, the documentary blurs into the fictional and vice versa. Nakedness abounds, in close-up, in your face. How much can you bear, the film asks, and how much do you want to? Unfortunately, the endless parade of baring ones self, of naked skin and talk about sexuality, the obvious play with taboos is little more than tiring, the setting with its clever ambiguity much too self-sufficient. The result is a hermetic film that shuts its audience out if it doesn’t downright repel it, a film as obsessive and one-dimensional as its characters. Is becoming comfortable with oneself, accepting intimacy and allowing love really just about facing nakedness. aren’t we missing something. The only thing Touch Me Not shows love for is itself, Not the people it depicts, not the viewer.

Tinta Bruta (Panorama / Brazil / Director: Marcio Reolon, Filipe Matzembacher)

Porto Alegre is a city that you leave when you get the chance. „For rent“ signs line its buildings, the film begins and it ends with somebody leaving. Left behind ids Pedro, a young gay man who has to set a countdown on his cellphone in order to be able to go out for at least five minutes. He feels a lot more comfortable when he covers his tall, skinny body in neon paint, switches on his webcam and „performs“ for a paying audience. The paint is his mask behind which he feels as free as he can. Outside, everyone seems to watch him even when he isn’t followed and beaten up. Shico Menegat plays „NeonBoy“ as he calls himself as a super shy boy with a closed face that only opens when he cannot hide his suffering. Everything is depressing as one thing after the other goes wrong in this dying city. The film repeats the pale gray look as in their 2015 Panorama entry Beira-Mar, this time combined with a discoloured night screaming „no way out“ at the viewer. The pace is slow, painfully so, accentuated only by strongly illustrative crescendi of the soundtrack, to make sure dramatic high- or Rather lowlights aren’t missed. The film is at its strongest when he allows bodies to speak, Pedro’s, his temporary boyfriend Leo’s, his fellow dancers. It is then that the judgemental outside world seems far away, the hopelessness that awaits gay men in this society (carefully spelled out in rather wooden dialogues) forgotten for a few moments. At most other times, Tinta Bruta plods along at a snail’s pace and at a fairly low temperature in a film that just like the earlier one never really leaves the ground. Thus, it remains more of a sketch than a full fleshed out portrait of a young gay man in a world that has no place for him.

Marilyn (Panorama / Argentina, Chile  / Director: Martín Rodríguez Redondo)

Marcos is a teenager who lives on a farm somewhere in rural Argentina. He’s into wearing dresses and likes boys – not a particularly popular thing in those parts. He is bullied, beaten, raped by other youths who call him Marilyn after his favourite song. His brother detests him, his mother does everything to prevent him from being who he is, especially after the untimely death of his – of course – mild and supportive father. When a budding relationship is thwarted, he takes desperate measures. Walter Rodríguez plays Marcos like a blank page, matching the expressionless to hostile faces around him. At the carnival, he dances, dressed like a girl, happy, carefree – and pays the price. The camera stays on his face but doesn’t find much. The episodic narration that avoids connecting scenes, emphasizes the stagnation that has gripped this society with its oppressive values and patriarchal structure. Together with a very bare realistic imagery and reduced cinematographic arsenal as well as a pronounced dusty and dry scenery, it contributes to the monotonous atmosphere of the film. The dreary gloom is overpowering and soon affects story and characters in their entirety. Even Marcos‘ brief summer of love seems strangely bloodless as if just a necessary ploy to be discarded with. The character whose struggles and thwarted growth the film alleges to depict remains distant, a closed book. Marilyn goes through all the motions if a stereotypical coming out story in a restrictive rural environment. But it remains paper and never becomes flesh right through its drastic ending.

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