Day two and we hit the ground running (or should that be plummeting) with Alfonso Cuarón’s space chiller Gravity. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney it’s Hollywood blockbuster meets Mexican thrills, a white-knuckle rollercoaster of one woman surviving the blistering temperatures and oxygenless atmosphere of space. Equally bum-clenching is David Mackenzie’s Starred Up, a tense prison thriller as a bristling stallion (in a fantastic testosterone-fuelled performance from Jack O’Connnell as a “starred up” young offender is transferred to his father’s prison. A smouldering powder keg, where any spark could lead to a violent explosion, it’s a tense portrait of life behind bars that’ll leave you begging for mercy.
There are more emotional wranglings in the shape of the Golden Bear winner, Calin Peter Netzer’s Child’s Pose – an uncomfortable discourse on the power of money and a moving portrait of a mother’s love for her son. As well as François Ozon’s enjoyably perplexing Jeune Et Jolie, about a young schoolgirl who takes up a sideline in prostitution, with all the melancholy detachment and taboo-busting desire worthy of her teenage years. And Ivan Sen’s Australian outback police thriller Mystery Road, which loses its way somewhere in the criminal underworld with its aborigine cop bringing justice to his community.
Of the more delicate, wistful pleasures, there’s Hong Sangsoo’s Nobody’s Daughter Haewon – a walky-talky through the streets of Seoul on love and growing up, Emir Baigazin’s Harmony Lessons – uncovering the life of a Kazakh schoolboy, but which turns abruptly from delightful observation to sociopath. And Anne Fontaine’s flawed Adore, which despite great performances from Naomi Watts and Robin Wright, as well as a taut story about mothers falling for each other’s sons adapted from Doris Lessing’s The Grandmothers, loses its footing with a wooden script.
Of the documentaries, there’s Chloe Ruthven’s The Do Gooders, which although at times uncomfortably virulent against volunteering gappers, offers an enlightening insight into the politics behind aid in Palestine. Luca Guadagnino’s Bertolucci On Bertolucci is a lesson in the politics of cinema, charting the leftist director’s chronology from Before The Revolution to the more sexual, religious and youthful pleasures of Last Tango In Paris, The Sheltering Sky and Stealing Beauty. But perhaps the best is Claude Lanzmann’s addendum to Shoah, lifting the veil in The Last of the Unjust on his interviews in the Seventies with the Jewish Elder Benjamin Murmelstein who survived Theresienstadt but was put on trial for collaboration in Czechoslovakia after the war. A well-timed rebuttal to Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt, it’s an important document setting the record of history straight, and a humbling reminder of the documentary worth of film.