Tuesday came and went by, taking with him some of the most expected highlights of Sitges 2023, namely J.A. Bayona’s awarded Society of the Snow (2023), in Cannes, lauded Malaysian coming-of-age Tiger Stripes (2023), and to finish the day the French terrifying dystopia of Acide (2023) [read our review]. A long day awaited us, so let’s start from the beginning.
The day started at 10 in the morning with Brando de Sica’s fantasy film Mimì: Prince of Darkness (2023) [read our review] screened at Tramuntana. There’s no more to highlight, than what we already did in the review yesterday. Vittorio de Sica’s grandson surprises with a movie full of childlike fantasy, sometimes innocent, sometimes dark, that results in a great homage to the vampire genre. In the same line, between darkness and coming-of-age that follows de Sica’s debut and other teenage narratives such as Club Zero (2023) [read our review] that are getting great protagonism this year, Tiger Stripes (2023) has its turn right after de Sica. This one is a wild coming-of-age that has left us with mixed feelings, but cannot be said to be less than promising.
Amanda Nell Eu’s debut tells the story of Zaffan, a fun, rebellious and somewhat precocious little girl in rural Malaysia. Being the first of her course getting her period, Zaffan will have to fight her classmates and even her parents and teachers as her body starts changing to be seen as “impure”. Between body horror and teenage drama, Tiger Stripes (2023) is a bold representation of how savage and terrifying growing up can be. It is worth to mention also the outstanding performances of such a young cast, especially of the main actress Zafreen Zairizal.
As the evening sets in, the queue at Auditori starts to fill slowly. Namely for the presentation of Society of the Snow (2023), where J.A. Bayona will receive the Time Machine Award. The movie has been selected to represent Spain’s Oscar contender too, but regarding Bayona, there is a long career to award, a trajectory that Sitges Festival has witnessed since his start with The Orphanage in 2007. Bayona shows himself humble and excited and refers to his first experiences in the Festival as an audience, watching Sam Raimi getting the same award he is receiving now. Raimi will be one of his colleagues congratulating Bayona for the award in a fun but emotional video, along with Naomi Watts, Belen Rueda, and Guillermo del Toro.
Regarding the movie, Society of the Snow (2023) delivers exactly what Bayona always promises. A solid narration that uses the most horrific moments to sink into human emotions. This time, Bayona reinterprets the infamous 1972 plane crash of the Uruguayan rugby team in the Andes to reflect about death and survival, about bonds forged in the most devastating isolation. Far from being a mere remake of Alive (1993), Society of Snow (2023) retells the story of the accident survivors putting the focus on their experiences as a group and shows the cannibalistic component as something rather casual, that gets diluted as the story develops. The movie ends up as a spiritual reflection about the meaning of survival, anguishing at times but rather relieving.
After a great ovation we need something to change our moods. There we are at Killing Romance (2023), a Korean comedy as bizarre as colorful. Hwang Yeo Raed is a popular actress, mocked by her poor acting skills. After her last movie failure, she marries millionaire Nathan and retires from show business, but a contact with a young fan will make her change her mind. Frustrated by her husband’s refusal to retake her acting career, we witness a series of frustrated murders combined with musical shows. Killing Romance (2023) is weirder than it sounds, this reflected in an audience that could hardly stop laughing. Not, just saying, if your dream is to witness a fight between a human and an ostrich, this may well be your movie.
The night ends, as it should be, with the darkest piece of the day. Director Just Philippot won Sitges Official Competition in 2020 with The Swarm. Acide (2023) follows a very similar aesthetic to bring us a dystopia where nature rebels against humanity, this time with an endless storm of acid rain. Philippot participates this year again in the competition, but the rather linear structure leaves us questioning if there is a possibility for him to get the award again.