THE ARAB revolt against the Ottoman Empire, the facility reconstructed woman gets one up on her former husband; model families in crisis; and Spanish detectives coming up against a town where dictator Franco is still very much a hero - there is a world of stories to delve into at the Galway Film Society autumn/winter season.
The season, which runs from September 20 to November 29 at the Town Hall Theatre, opens this Sunday with French comedy-drama Gemma Bovery, starring English actress Gemma Arterton as a modern day reincarnation of Flaubert's famous heroine. Directed by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel ), it sees English couple Gemma and Charles Bovery move into a small Normandy town, to the delight of Flaubert fan Martin who cannot believe these two people seem to be acting out the lives of his favourite fictional characters.
Scandinavia has been home to some of the finest TV drama of recent years, and it also has a long history of quality film-making. Swedish film, Force Majure, to be screened on September 27, is a black-comedy about a family holidaying in a ski resort. However an avalanche causes the husband to bolt, leaving his wife to rescue the children, and nothing is simple after that. Indeed everyone has to negotiate physically and emotionally uncomfortable territory. This film took the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
Post-war Germany is the setting for Phoenix (October 4 ), where Nelly (Nina Hoss ), who has survived the concentration camps, returns to Berlin. Surgeons have managed to reconstruct her damaged face, but she now looks entirely different. Later she meets Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld ), her treacherous husband, and allows him to think she is a stranger who faintly resembles the woman he may have betrayed. The Irish Times has called it an "extraordinary, shameless melodrama", and compared the plot of the film to "Vertigo, the setting calls up reminders of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s work".
In Italian film, The Wonders (October 11 ), Gelsomina dreams of escape from his surroundings and of a new life. He would also like son. Then he comes across the filming of a TV competition hosted by the glamorous Milly Catena, with whom Gelsomina becomes intrigued (she is played by Monica Bellucci, so you can hardly blame him ). The film won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes 2014.
During Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy, two detectives investigate the mysterious disappearance of two sisters in the south of the country. The detectives find themselves in a town still very much pro-Franco and not that bothered by the vanishing of girls, who, supposedly, had 'reputations'. This is the thriller Marshland (October 18 ) which examines an isolated community and society in flux, and with a plot twist that has been much praised. It won Best Film, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay at the Spanish Cinema Writers Circle 2015.
It is back to Italy again with Mi Madre (November 8 ). Margherita, a director, is midway through shooting a movie about factory workers staging a protest against the new owner’s planned layoffs. The drama on set is mirrored in her own life as she is recently divorced; her teenage daughter has just broken up with her boyfriend; and her mother is in hospital. Film-making at least represents a chance to get away from the stresses of real life.
The current GFS season concludes with a film from the same country that opened it - France, with the box-office hit The Bélier Family (November 22 ). Everyone in the Bélier household is deaf except Paula (Louane Emera ), who acts as interpreter for her parents and siblings - very important now her father has decided to run for mayor. Paula though has become distracted of late. Then there is that good looking young lad in school, and when he joins the choir, Paula thinks she should too.
Films from Asia
The Galway Film Society screenings venture outside Europe twice this season, to present films from the opposite ends of Asia. The first is Theeb (November 1 ), made in the UAE, Qatar, and Jordon. Directed by Naji Abu Nowar, it won numerous awards including the FIPRESCI Prize for Best Narrative Film at Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2014.
Theeb, a young Bedouin boy is unwittingly pulled into the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire by an Englishman (Jack Fox ) passing through their camp with his Arab agent. Set in the same time and place as Lawrence of Arabia, it is something of an antithesis to David Lean’s celebrated epic. That film saw the Arab uprising against the Ottoman Empire during WWI as the birth of Arab nationalism, a rapid process of unification midwifed and nursed by the English. Theeb offers a different view, insisting on the importance of preserving cultural difference against the totalising vision of racial and religious hegemony.
Japan is the next stop as regards Asian films, with Uzumasa Limelight (November 15 ), concentrating on the talented extras who featured in the chanbara films, the Japanese sword-fighting films and TV dramas. Kamiyama (Seizo Fukumoto ) is a professional extra who has devoted 50 years of his life as performer before being faced with redundancy. When the studio decides to discontinue its chanbara productions, he is at a loss. He still goes to the studio each day in hope of a new role, but there are none. Then along comes actress Satsuki (Chihiro Yamamoto ), who wants to be Kamiyama’s pupil. With her star on the rise, and the studio deciding to take another chance on an old fashioned chanbara, will Kamiyama find work again? The film won best feature and best actor at the 2014 Fantasia Film Festival.
All films are screened on Sundays at 8pm. Non-English language films will have subtitles. Tickets and booking is through the town Hall on 091 - 569777 or www.tht.ie