Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2018 2:30 pm 
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CYRIL SCHÄUBLIN: THOSE WHO ARE FINE/DENE WOS GUET GEIT (2017) - NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS

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A chilly world of security, and scams on the elderly

The Swiss don't normally make movies. This is a cold gray one, but it has a central theme that's human. It casts a light on despicable scams on older people, robbed of money. Two central sequences, all set in Zurich, focus on a young woman employed at a call center selling insurance or Internet service by day who uses her phone skills in her own time to bilk old ladies, claiming to be their granddaughter in desperate need of quick cash. Then she comes to collect it in a park pretending to be the relative's friend acting in her stead. The first time she succeeds. The second she has been tracked by police working with the old lady, and they take her away.

But in between is a lot of dry footage of security guards, and such, and a man acting as the gatekeeper to a bank, the other to an insurance company. And the call center, of course, and all this talk we hear is boring and borderline nonsensical. That's the point, I guess: to hint, partly, at the sheer alienation of modern life, but also at how many of the everyday details of money and identity and corporate gatekeeping are wearying numerical garbage everybody has to negotiate.

The spirit of Michael Haneke hovers over this short feature, but it hasn't the resonance or depth of characterization of his work; though its chilly style is accomplished and unified, it seems more like a needlessly, if skillfully, expanded short.

Which it may be. The 34-year-old Schäublin, his bio says, studied Mandarin and Film at the Beijing Central Drama Academy, which sounds pretty brave, and then attended the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB). Last year he and Silvan Hillmann founded the production company Seeland Filmproduktion GmbH. This first feature is an accomplished and promising one, if it seems somewhat in search of a unified shape. In Swiss German dialect rather than standard German, throughout. Jessica Kiang in her Variety review calls this a "clinically intelligent, laceratingly pessimistic feature debut."

Those Who Are Fine/Dene wos guet geit, 71 mins., debuted at Locarno Aug. 2017, receiving Special Mention from the Jury. Screened for this review as part of the MoMA-Film Society of Lincoln Center 2018 New Directors/New Film series.

ND/NF showtimes:
Thursday, April 5, 9:00pm [FSLC]
Saturday, April 7, 1:45pm [MoMA]

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