'Mamántula' and other films seen in Gijón 2023

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‘Mamántula’ and other films seen in Gijón 2023

“It’s over!”. Thus, like María Jiménez, the mayor of Gijón, Carmen Moriyón (Forum), announced her break with Vox. The trigger was the attempt by the far-right group to exploit the Gijón/Xixón International Film Festival (FICX), to turn it into an event of “values” for “all audiences.” The irony is that this supposedly exclusive and exquisite festival, full of films that no one understands, has surpassed the historical record of spectators in this 61st edition.

The satire ‘Don’t expect too much from the end of the world’ (Radu Jude) and the documentaries ‘De Facto’ (Selma Doborac) and ‘The remains of the pass’ (Luis Soto Muñoz and Alfredo Picazo) have been the winning films in each of the official sections: Albar, Retueyos (dedicated to emerging filmmakers) and Tierres en Trance (for Ibero-American films). Below we review ten of the most outstanding films of the festival (to which we should add the dazzling and already reviewed ‘Disco Boy’ and ‘Fallen Leaves’, Aki Kaurismaki’s new masterpiece that we will analyze at its premiere at the end of the year.

‘Don’t expect too much from the end of the world’: laughter against precariousness
The unclassifiable Radu Jude is a regular at FICX. After winning the best director award five years ago with ‘I don’t care that we go down in history as barbarians’ (2018), his latest film has won the festival’s top award. The Romanian filmmaker returns with another provocative satire on the miseries of late capitalism and its impact on contemporary Romanian society. As in the previous ‘Unlucky Dust or Crazy Porn’, ‘Don’t Expect Too Much from the End of the World’ is a very bold and unorthodox mix between comedy of manners, socio-political essay and cinephile experiment. The film follows a production assistant during her endless workday aboard a van. From this plot axis, the film advances along unexpected roads: it dialogues with the film ‘Angela merge mai departe’ (1982), about a taxi driver in Ceausescu’s Bucharest; satirizes alter egos on social networks with a character who owes his success to his sexist and racist insults; and recreates the filming of a spot in a way that is as scathing as it is hilarious. 7’9

‘The zone of interest’: off-screen horror
Jonathan Glazer’s films have become cinephile events. The most Kubrickian of current directors does not lavish himself on feature films, only four in more than twenty years, but every time he does he delivers a masterpiece (not to mention his music videos, of course). Like the impressive ‘Under the Skin’ (2013), his new film is a literary adaptation. Glazer starts from the famous Martin Amis novel ‘The Zone of Interest’ (Anagram) to make an off-screen portrait of Nazi horror. A voice-over look at the Holocaust through the story of the daily life of the family of the Auschwitz commander, Rudolf Höss (impressive Christian Friedel and Sandra Hüller), in the chalet attached to the camp where they lived. The banality of evil that Hannah Arendt spoke of exposed in all the hideous rawness of it. 9

‘Fremont’: this is indie cinema
It has been one of the most pleasant discoveries of the festival. A truly indie American film (not like the “indie sensation” ‘Past Lives’, produced by none other than Killer and A24), from a director, Babak Jalali, highly awarded at festivals (Rotterdam, Karlovy Vary) but very little distributed internationally (nothing has been released in Spain, not even on platforms). Its unexpected nomination at the British Independent Film alongside heavyweights like ‘Anatomy of a Fall’, ‘Fallen Leaves’ and, yes, the rather sappy ‘Past Lives’, promises to give it visibility (also influenced by the presence of Jeremy Allen White ) that he hasn’t had until now. Through a very stripped-down staging, influenced by the early Jim Jarmusch, ‘Fremont’ tells a melancholic story of loneliness and uprooting starring an Afghan translator who works in a fortune cookie factory after having fled from the Taliban. 8’3

‘The last summer’: in the arms of the mature woman
Remake of the excellent Danish film ‘Queen of Hearts’ (2019) by the French queen of transgression: Catherine Breillat (‘Romance X’, ‘A Real Girl’). The first thing that surprises about this new version – coming from who it comes from – is that it is much less sexually explicit than the original film, it is more sensual than sexual. The second is that it is a more successful film in its reflection on lies and manipulation in relationships than in the display of female desire and the taboo of sex with teenagers, which strangely lacks strength and capacity for transgression. What is not surprising is the performance of Lea Drucker (‘Shared Custody’, ‘Close’), who has become one of the fittest actresses in current French cinema. 7

‘The red sky’: the worst person in the world
The new film by the always interesting Christian Petzold (awarded at the Berlinale) is a wonderful summer comedy starring an unbearable character: a young writer (fabulous Thomas Schubert, nominated for the European Film Awards) full of himself, incapable of seeing more beyond your navel. With such an unpleasant protagonist, a selfish, arrogant and grumpy guy, the German director has made a film that is the complete opposite: fun, bright and full of psychological and emotional depth. A delicate Rohmerian summer tale on the shores of the Baltic that, little by little, like the fire seen in the distance (hence the title), transforms into something much more dramatic. Also worth highlighting is the performance of Paula Beer, who seems to have replaced Nina Hoss as Petzold’s favorite actress. 8’1

‘Evil does not exist’: Hamaguchi does not disappoint
There was a lot of curiosity to see what Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s new film was going to be like after the excellent and Oscar-winning ‘Drive My Car’. The origin of ‘Evil Does Not Exist’ (the film is part of a short film made to accompany Eiko Ishibashi’s concerts) suggested that it was going to be a minor or uncommercial film. Nothing of that. After a beautiful prologue that could remind us of a less narrative, more poetic cinema, the Japanese director displays his usual talent for narrating complex dramas presented with calm, subtlety and hypnotic lyricism. On this occasion, the conflict between the rural and the urban, between the ecological balance and the destructive logic of capitalism, helps Hamaguchi to draw an excellent portrait of characters and reflect on our relationship with nature. His unpredictable and disconcerting ending will give a lot to talk about. Foolishness or genius? I still don’t have it clear. 8’2

‘Anatomy of a fall’: a slightly smaller Palme d’Or
After having seen two masterpieces from Cannes such as ‘Fallen Leaves’ and ‘The Zone of Interest’, my expectations regarding this year’s Palme d’Or were enormous. ‘Anatomy of a Fall’, directed by Justine Triet (‘Sibyl’s Reflection’, ‘The Victoria Cases’), is a brilliantly written and acted courtroom drama (Sandra Hüller is a marvel), which unravels the complexities of a relationship as a couple laterally, through testimonies and documentation provided in a trial. The problem is that this trial, very similar to that of the famous staircase case (told in the wonderful miniseries ‘The Staircase’), is so noticeable that it serves as a mere excuse to talk about what really interests the director: the trial. moral, the anatomy of a marital crisis. A film that is watched with great interest (the 150 minutes fly by), but that hardly leaves any substance. 7’4

‘Linda wants chicken!’: another animation is possible
It is not easy to shake off the stylistic dominance imposed by Disney and Japan in animation aimed at all audiences. Breaking out of those chart patterns carries a trading risk that not everyone is willing to take. That’s why it’s great news that a film as formally against the grain as ‘Linda Wants Chicken!’ has been released in France and will have life beyond the festivals (it swept Annecy and is the main rival of the Spanish ‘Robot Dreams’ at the European Film Awards). Directed by Chiara Malta and animator Sébastien Laudenbach (known for ‘La jeune fille sans mains’), the film is a charming musical comedy full of tenderness, crazy humor, childish rebellion and some great songs by Clément Ducol (Camille’s partner ). All of this articulated through a brilliant animation style, with a very creative and symbolic use of drawing and color. 7’7

‘Scrapper’: a “fighty” debut
‘Scrapper’ is an example of how the FICX organization takes care of a section as emblematic and massive (schoolchildren come from all over the north of Spain) as Enfants Terribles, intended for children and youth, and which is also the origin of the festival ( was born in the sixties with that purpose). The debut of the British Charlotte Regan, awarded at Sundance and with 14 nominations at the British Independent Film Awards, could perfectly have been part of the official section. The fact that it has been included in a “minor” section is a sign of the commitment to the quality of the films selected in that category. ‘Scrapper’ (already released in theaters) is a beautiful story about childhood grief and teenage parenthood, told with delicacy, tenderness and a sense of humor. 7’6

‘Mamántula’: funnier if they tell you about it
After passing through San Sebastián, the medium-length film by Ion de Sosa (a regular collaborator of Chema García Ibarra and López Carrasco) had aroused a lot of interest. The FICX session was filled with a mostly young audience, eager to see what promised to be a sticky mix between ‘The X-Files’, the science fiction of the early Cronenberg and the aesthetics of Bruce LaBruce. On paper, the premise is irresistible: a giant alien spider dressed in leatherona spreads panic in the underworld of Berlin by sucking the life out of its victims through deadly fellatio. On the screen, it doesn’t work as well. Although plastically it is quite attractive, ‘Mamántula’ lacks humor (the police couple led by Lorena Iglesias is very wasted in that sense), narrative ingenuity and the capacity for transgression. In the end everything remains little more than a happy but simple occurrence. 6

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Simon Müller

Simon Müller is the driving force behind UMusic, embodying a lifelong passion for all things melodious. Born and raised in New York, his love for music took form at an early age and fueled his journey from an avid music enthusiast to the founder of a leading music-centered website. Simon's diverse musical tastes and intrinsic understanding of acoustic elements offer a unique perspective to the UMusic community. Sporting a dedicated commitment to aural enrichment and hearing health, his vision extends beyond just delivering news - he aspires to create a network of informed, appreciative music lovers. Spend a moment in Mueller's company, and you'd find his passion infectious – music isn’t simply his job, it’s his heartbeat.