Sitges 2023 Chronicles: Day 5

Sitges 2023 Chronicles: Day 5
A still of She Is Conann (2023)

After the weekend madness, Monday starts smoothly. We haven’t been able to recover from the hangover, but are already waiting at 8 in the morning for the next round to start. The week starts with no crazy highlights. Rather than that we spend the day with the most unexpected pieces and discover some great gems. The first one is The Funeral (2023), a movie by Turkish director Orçun Behram that tells the story about a lonesome hearse driver falling in love with a dead girl that comes back to live. A horror one with a mix of zombies and vampirism, that unfortunately fails to get us hooked. We had no big expectations and get out of the cinema just as the day started. Yet, the next one does change our moods.

The Uncle (2022) (original title in Croatian: Stric) hadn’t made a big impact on us after checking the program, except from a very appealing 80s like poster and a reference to Haneke in its synopsis that could well point to a very unoriginal story. From the beginning we understand the reference, but also realize that what we are watching it’s something very different. The Uncle (2022) takes place in Yugoslavia during the late 80s, right before the end of Tito’s regime and the Balkan War.

The set-up is simple. The whole piece follows a family having a Christmas dinner with an annoying guest, see the uncle. Everything turns upside down when we realize that Christmas are never coming to an end, that we are no longer in the 80s, the family’s kid is not a child anymore and Yugoslavia probably does not exist. Yet, the protagonists are forced to have the same dinner over and over until The Uncle (2022), this mysterious but uncomfortable figure, finds the performance good enough to release them. The reason why they keep doing it, does not reveal itself until well into the story. Enough to already be enchanted with the piece’s beautiful photography and fascinated by a violent and
estranged language, that more than Haneke reminds me of Yorgos LanthimosDogtooth (2009).

The story ends open and some might point to plot holes and storylines that do not quite get solved. However, my gut tells me that the plot holes are not such. I rather think that the narrative gaps address a more sociopolitical context that does not easily get solved in one shot. Full of sex, violence, repression, patriotic and anti-patriotic references, the whole story can be read as an allegory of tyranny and authoritarianism, about the death of a country that ceased to exist decades ago, but whose shadow still lurks.

After The Uncle (2022) we head quickly to the highlight of the day: Monolith (2022) [read the review here]. Even with an exciting premise and a great cinematography, the movie does not completely fulfill our expectations. We want more. And so we get to the days great finale: She is Connan (2003) by French filmmaker Bertrand Mandico. The film has been sold as a “pop lysergic fantasy”, but oh, I promise you it’s much more than that. In fact, the movie has it all, everything, everywhere, all at once. Which then again, might be way too much. The could not ask for more aesthetically. It’s glittery even for the black and white. It’s pop, it’s metafilmic, it’s hardcore and it’s gore. Following a feminist and retro-futuristic reinterpretation of Conan the Barbarian, we get to know a female Conann, first fighting to be the most barbarian, then fighting for her youth, then fighting for love. She is Connan (2003) is a great piece of kitsch and intentionally pretentious cinematography. A must-watch for any fan of blood, neon and glitter. If you are so, the story is bizarre enough to have a secondary role.

We go to sleep delighted and ready for a week that will show some of the festival’s highlights starting from tomorrow. Stay tuned!

SM: The week started smoothly. Yesterday we discovered some hidden gems. Special mentions to Croatian drama The Uncle (2022) and bizarre glittery epic fantasy She is Connan (2003) by Bertrand Mandico. Check them out!