If you have seen endless queues of people waiting patiently outside Lasipalatsi in the centre of Helsinki, do not be surprised. The annual Helsinki Film Festival (Rakkautta & Anarkiaa) is here one more year, and although there are not huge big international stars visiting this remote part of the globe (Richard Gere, George Clooney and alike people seem to prefer these days to visit San Sebastian´s festival in the north of Spain), the inhabitants of Helsinki love their festival.
An opportunity to enjoy good cinema for 10 days, with an eclectic selection that varies from mainstream Hollywood movies, winks to neighboring countries like Estonia, a focus on some of the best features coming from southern European countries like Spain or France, the passion for Asia and anime or the rescue of previous classics features in other editions of the festival to be re-visited at Orion theatre.
As stated before, this is not a mega glamorous festival, but maybe that is its biggest charm. Even for being held in the capital of Finland, it still has a sense of family. The staff that organize the festival are very friendly and eager to help you, the cinema theatres are pretty geographically close ones from the others around the city centre, so it is very easy to move around, the prices are affordable and they even give away free condoms in the information point located in Lasipalatsi (after all the name of the festival is Love & Anarchy…), so what else can you ask?
Well, added to all that, the list of guests is pretty interesting with some highlights like Icelandic director Hafsteinn Gunnar Siguroson, the Serbian actor Goran Jevtic or the French director Jacques Audiard.
FREE Magazine´s 5 tips to enjoy during the festival:
Killer Joe (Director William Friedkin)
Many critics can say that Juno Temple is the shining star of this movie, but I disagree, could not fall less than captivated by the strong performance given by Matthew McConaughey in what is undoubtedly one of the best roles of his career. As the professional killer Joe, Matthew transforms into that kind of likeable villain that you are not sure if you should hate or imitate. His character exudes charm and confidence, the same qualities that the family living in a caravan in Texas with whom he interacts lacks of. A great movie with amazing dialogues and a couple of great twists.
Unit 7 (Director Alberto Rodriguez)
If Alberto Rodriguez already gladly surprised me some years ago with his previous movie 7 Virgins, here he does no less than reaffirming that he is one of the best Spanish directors nowadays. He totally masters in recreating the atmosphere of the poor neighborhoods of Sevilla at the beginning of the 90s. A story based on true fact by policemen that are not a perfect example of morals and villains who are sucked into the spiral of drugs. An exercise that proves once more than the border that separates the good and the bad people is thin. Very solid performances by main characters Antonio de la Torre and Mario Casas (who shows that apart from being a target for teenage Spanish girls who fall in love with his looks, he is also a good actor).
In my opinion, one of the strongest Spanish movies not just of the year, but probably of the last decade, able to mix drama with the unavoidable sarcastic sense of humor that runs all over the cities of Andalucía.
Good Vibrations (Directors Lisa Barros D`Sa, Glenn Leyburn).
Belfast in the 1970s was not exactly the place where hippies and happy love would flourish under every corner, but Terri Hooley was able to open a record store in the heart of the most dangerous area in the whole Ireland and give a push to the native punk scene in an allegation of love for music and peace. Good Vibrations is a simple but wonderful movie that shows how determination can overcome problems, although there is always a personal price to pay when you put all your efforts in what you love the most. Richard Dormer gives a great performance as Hooley himself while the movie counts with great secondary actors like my all time favorite Dylan Moran (many will recognize him from the series Black Books) or Liam Cunningham (Davos in Game of Thrones).
Whore ‘s Glory (Director Michael Glawogger)
For nearly 2 hours, director Glawogger transports us all over prostitution scene in three locations around the world, in Bangkok, Thailand, Faridpur, Bangladesh and Reynosa, Mexico.
Prostitutes, clients and pimps talk honestly in front of the camera about the business of prostitution. Without wanting to position himself, Glawogger lets the camera do the talk and leaves the spectator extracting their own conclusions, but here and there, there are a lot of brushes of sad stories, with prostitutes that seem defeated by the weight of life and clients that regard them as a piece of meat to bring happiness for a couple of hours to their monotonous existences and marriages.
I personally found heartbreaking when very young prostitutes, clearly underage, are able to give powerful monologues of how life is hard and full of pain but they try to light their worries with a bit of laughter here and there. Touching movie, where clients and sex professionals seem to be linked by a chain of deep sadness that even an orgasm achieved after some money changing hands cannot make disappear.
Rust and Bone (Director Jacques Audiard)
French director Jacques Audiard, who will be also present in Helsinki as special guest, features a strong and emotive story of love between an orca trainer by always delightful actress Marion Cotillard and a lowlife boxer, Mathias Schoenaerts, which takes the pulse of current French cinema in a product with a lot of resemblances with the typical Hollywood story of characters haunted by bad luck trying to find a glimpse of hope through love. The movie will be the closing one for the current Helsinki Festival, putting the cherry on top of the cake to 10 days of great emotions in the big screen. A must see!