Down with Political Correctness at the Movies

in 35th Montreal World Film Festival

by Giorgio Rinaldi

Death is ferocious, the non-seeing are blind, the disabled are crippled and lame. The films seen at the Montreal World Film Festival seem to be at war with political correctness, starting with the representation of illness, pain, and death. Returning to the images is their true significance, forcing the spectator to confront the facts. These films refute the conviction that pain must be sensationalized, emphasizing the color and quantity of blood or empowering the cries of the suffering with the force of surround sound; rather they propose a representation anchored in human dimension, quite intimate, but much more tearful. To the spectator they ask not for complicity in the sharing of a conventional language, but the acceptance of the naturalistic representation of the anguish, if not of the suffering itself, to be felt in body and mind. Many of the films seen in Montreal tell of the most tragic moments with a blank stare; essential, naked, that excludes dramatization even where it would have been simple to reach.            

The Passage by Roberto Minervini, presented in the First Films World Competition, is the most unspectacular film that can be imagined, even if it is apparently a road movie. Filmed in Texas, in English and Spanish, with an Italian director, the film follows a protagonist in her sixties, diagnosed with terminal cancer, as she travels across the state looking for a healer. Motels, diners, and hippy communes: America always reveals exceptional aspects and contradictions. Minervini knows well the atmospheres of Raymond Carver and the lights of Edward Hopper, but his camera is constantly glued on the face of the protagonist and the two outsiders that cross her path. It snaps between loneliness and solidarity — a dim light before the final ‘passage’.            

Death and disease return again on the screens of Montreal. Epilogue (Slot) by Belgian director Manno Lanssens, seen in the Documentaries of the World category, follows a woman of 50 years afflicted by an incurable cancer and shows her death by euthanasia. A Family of Three (Tage die Bleiben) by the German director Pia Strietmann, seen in the World Competition category, tells with insistence all the details of a funeral, once again of a woman. Chronicle of My Mother (Waga Haha Not Ki) by the Japanese director Masato Harada, also in the World Competition category, follows a woman’s progressive loss of contact with reality and therefore with her personal effects.              

A politically incorrect lesson on pain arrived from Belgium. Come as You Are (Hasta la Vista!) by Geoffrey Enthoven (also in the World Competition category), goes on vacation with three young men in Spain in search of women and wine. But the three youngsters are a bit peculiar: one is a quadriplegic, one is blind and neurotic, one has a terminal illness and restricted to a wheelchair. The road to the wines is lined with fine reds and at the end they have their first sexual experience (for pay), but the spectator is obligated to confront the handicaps in all their most gritty aspects, from deformities to the urgency of urination. We laugh at the prize of winning over adversity, but in the end the film hits a bull’s eye: the right to passion, says Enthoven loud and clear, it is a right for everyone.                    

Let’s recap, with all the partisanship of a personal vision, the lesson of the 35th World Film Festival: the sweetening of the language and the situations does not remove the problems but refrains from attempting to resolve them, therefore welcoming every politically incorrect operation and behavior.

Edited by Steven Yates