Perhaps one of the most enjoyable films so far is Hans Petter Molland’s scandi coproduction In Order Of Disappearance with actors and funding from Norway, Denmark and Sweden. It stars Stellan Skarsgård – a snow-plough driver and the father of a murdered son who takes on the Norwegian drug baron and his heavies to exact his bloody vengeance. As its title suggests, the body count is high and the film wittily chalks off each new death with a short dedication, detailing the deceased’s gangster name, his real name and his religious symbol. With Skarsgård on the rampage with all the hard-hitting rage to rival Taken‘s Liam Neeson and with the Serbian drug rivals drawn into gang warfare and retribution, In Order Of Disappearance or Kraftidioten ends in something approaching a Mexican stand-off with the corpses chalking up astronomically. Its plot might not be new, but its a dark black comedy with Norwegian wit, and a great cast that brings this nouveau riche criminal elite coruscatingly to life.
Less sharp-eyed is Lou Ye’s Blind Massage, recreating a Chinese massage parlour almost entirely staffed by blind masseurs with a myopic vibrancy. With a blurry extreme shallow focus, cinematographer Zeng Jian creates an oneiric world of light and fading faces and Lou Ye creates a fascinating world of unrequited love sniffed out, tasted and felt. But with a sea of ideas gasping for air, Blind Massage belies its novelistic roots, the adaptation remaining a collage of images, moments and encounters rather than a narrative whole. Also adapted, but this time from Alan Ayckbourn’s 2010 play Life Of Riley is Alain Resnais’ Aimer, Chanter Et Boire. It’s the third Ayckbourn adaptation Resnais has brought to the screen after Smoking/No Smoking and Private Fears In Public Places, but Aimer, Chanter Et Boire marks a peak in theatricalness with painted backdrops and illuminated stage sets. There are some interestingly touches with mid-scene cuts and footage of Yorkshire roads and illustrations of the play’s locations to lead us into the fiction. But without the cinematic play of Lars von Trier’s stage-set Dogville, and even with some green-screen close-ups and a roving camera, Aimer, Chanter Et Boire remains in the proscenium of theatre.
And finally there’s Sophie Fillières’ Arrête Ou Je Continue. With dialogues brilliantly written by the director, it’s an elegant two-hander between Emmanuelle Devos and Mathieu Amalric as they squabble sarcastically, unable to stop themselves from backbiting. It’s a painful marriage kept alive by the hope that things might get better, but the film loses some of its energy when Devos’ character Pomme heads into the woods, heeding the call of the wild to rediscover herself and make a change in her life. But with brilliant dialogues that can’t help but remind its audience of its own domestic bad behaviour, the ending to Arrête Ou Je Continue feels unredeemingly hopeless. It’s funny, poetic and thought-provoking, and a terrifyingly sharp slice of life.