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47th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival - Day Four: Garrone’s 'Reality,' Loznitsa's 'In the Fog' & Hillcoat's 'Lawless'

Photo of Meredith Brody By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood July 5, 2012 at 1:29PM

“Piazza Fontana” is a relentless investigation of the events surrounding a politically-motivated explosion at a bank in Rome on December 12, 1969. It’s reminiscent of Hollywood docudramas such as “Call Northside 777." I feel guilty, as in this is a stylized movie that actually has commercial prospects outside the art house and festival circuit.

I am not surprised when she turns out to be playing a thoroughly deglamorised, harshly-shot depressive in the movie, proprietor of a small shop where people intending to commit suicide off a spectacular nearby cliff stop to purchase a roll and a container of milk as a final ritual act. The film was introduced with an allusion to “The Shop on Main Street” (1965) the famous Oscar-winning Czech film from Jan Kadar, but I find it more like “The Little Shop of Horrors,” in that suicide is not my favorite subject (I note from the program book that it’s a topic that will crop up again in the ensuing days).

Lawless, Hardy & Chastain

The final big screen epic of the day is “Lawless”, a big new American film from protean singer/songwriter/screenwriter Nick Cave and his fellow Australian, director John Hillcoat. I missed their previous collaboration, the well-reviewed 2005 Western “The Proposition” (hey, you can’t see everything!), but I did see Hillcoat’s grim Cormac McCarthy adaptation, the apocalyptical “The Road” (2009). 

For almost an hour before the film, waiting in the inevitable rush line, I chatted with an enthusiastic film student from Prague, Jana, a real wild-eyed cinephile, who’s attending Karlovy Vary for the sixth time and tells me she either sleeps in a tent “or in a room with fifty other people,” surviving on a couple of hours’ sleep a night. She tells me that she’s a big fan of Shia LaBeouf. “Lawless,” a violent Prohibition tale set in backwoods Virginia (where somehow Chicago gangsters still turn up with machine guns) looks fabulous on the big screen.  The lead actors, especially chunky Tom Hardy, Colin Clarke (an Australian familiar to me from the Irish-American TV series Brotherhood), and to a lesser extent LaBeouf, have made the brave decision, not unlike Benicio del Toro’s performance in “The Usual Suspects,” to talk in accents that are nearly unintelligible. (Hardy gets a number of laughs by merely grunting.) I find myself wishing I could read the Czech subtitles.

Guy Pearce has also decided to invent a (somewhat more intelligible) accent, along with a flamboyant dandyism that would serve him well in any production of Oscar Wilde’s or Noel Coward’s work. It’s a performance I watch with some open-mouthed amazement – calling it “over the top” doesn’t quite do it justice.  The women glimpsed along the sidelines, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska, both shot so they glow, give more naturalistic performances.  

An improbably domestic coda sends me out into the night chuckling.  I’ll be back in the same room in just about eight hours to see a Greek black comedy (with some suicide thrown in). 

This article is related to: Guest Blogger, Festivals, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Foreign, Lawless, In the Fog, Reality

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.