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TIFF: Euphoria and Zama disappoint

We've got a a few more adventures from TIFF to get through. Here are two pictures Euphoria and Zama that I was greatly looking forward to for disparate reasons (the lead actors and the director, respectively). But neither one did it for me and I sincerely hope other future eyeballs will enjoy them more...

Euphoria (Sweden | Germany)
The Swedish director Lisa Langseth has now made 3 features and Alicia Vikander has starred in all of them. They go way back. Euphoria, which is about two estranged sisters (Vikander and Eva Greene) reuniting for a week long stay at a mysterious resort, is her first English language film. The acting is, it won't surprise you to hear, subtle and involving, with Vikander playing a closed-off narcissistic artist and Greene her older more emotionally raw sister who wants to reconcile. Charlotte Rampling and Charles Dance, a host and a fellow resort-guest are the two main supporting players.

Despite the strong cast, the film is asking an awful lot of its audience. The story moves from curiously intimate and mysterious but extremely repetitive to utterly unrelatable with its focus on über wealthy people -- a focus that hardly seems necessary given the themes. Eventually it plays like a particularly somber episode of Fantasy Island for those with millions to burn. Euphoria has heavy material about life, family, death, and purpose swirling around in it but it might have worked far better as a short-film given its heightened premise and the awkward sense that it hasn't quite worked out how literally it wants to take itself.

P.S. The search continues, meanwhile, for Eva Greene to find film projects worthy of her inimitable gift.


Zama (Argentina | Spain)
Lucrecia Martel, who previously directed critical darlings like La Cineaga, The Holy Girl, and the Headless Woman has a masterful voice. For her latest picture she's taken on the true story of the titular Spanish officer (Daniel Giménez-Cacho) in 17th century Paraguay who is desperate for a transfer to Buenos Aires. That transfer is a Sisyphean dream and will obviously never come. If you're well versed in 17th Century Spanish and South American politics, colonialism, racial oppression, and history this might be completely  fascinating but without that knowledge it's a slog. As it turns out intriguing images, amazing sound design, and formal control are not enough. Especially if your movie is plotty. (Please to note: I do not need plot in movies. Plot is overrated. But if there is a "story" -- and this film has a lot of it -- it needs to be legible.)

P.S. An Actress note: The cast is almost entirely men but there is a brief appearance by the always excellent Lola Dueñas who plays the promiscuous wife of a government official. She's a rare bit of comic relief in this miserabilist epic without feeling like she's in a different movie. A neat trick.


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Reader Comments (11)

I hope Argentina chooses Hunting Season for the Oscars next Friday. Not Zama. I even prefer Hunting Season to The Summit.

September 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Argentina has such a tremendous amount of terrific independent movies (you have no idea the incredible talent that you're missing, people). Some are not really promoted here and/or people are simply not interested and/or economy does not allow it (I'm in one of the biggest cities in the country and yet, at the last one I've got to see, "Nadie nos mira", we were only three people in the room).

September 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

I still want to see Zama as I've seen Lucrecia Martel's other films as they're all very intriguing and provocative.

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I love Lola Dueñas. She's done four Almodovar movies but he needs to give her a main role.

(But sometimes he only sees certain actresses as supporting, like Rossy de Palma)

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Nat, sorry you didn't like Zama!

Just to let you know, FUC it's the most succesful Film University in Buenos Aires and it's causing strides with its former alumni. You want a list? Here we go!

Lucrecia Martel (La Cienaga, Headless Woman, Holy Girl, Zama)
Pablo Trapero (Lion's Den, Carancho, The Clan, etc)
Fede Alvarez (Don't Breathe)
Andy Muschietti (Mama. It)
Damián Szifrón (Bottom of the Sea, Wild Tales)
Daniel Burman (Empty Nest, Broken Embraces, etc)
Lisandro Alonso (La Libertad, Liverpool, Jauja, etc)
Matis Piñeiro (Viola, Hermia and Helena, etc)

Among others. You might think there's no connection within their filmography and you were right.

Szifrón , Muschiett, Alvarezi might be the most commercial succesful so far. Martel and Alonso the "experimentalists" and more elusive. Piñeiro the intellectual. Burman "our Woody Allen". It's an impressive crop nonetheless.

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterchofer

I forgot Santiago Mitre! (The Student, The Summit). There are many independent ans well known filmmakers too from that school.

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterchofer


Temporada de caza (Hunting Season) will surely get in. It has a broader appeal and certainly it is better than The Summit! Zama will break in and top the polls of Cahier du Cinema, Slant Magazine, Sight and Sounds, Film Comment and other well revered highbrow magazines. They love Martel.

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterchofer


One more thing: When talking about possible "outsiders" in the Actor's Category, please don't forget about the mighty Nahuel Perez Biscayart, from BPM. He was shot dead at Cannes when there was tremendous buzz he was going to win instead of Joaquion Phoenix. I know you love that film, so make a FYC for his riveting work as an AIDS activist. He surely deserves to be in the conversation. Plus, he's Argentinian, too:)

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterchofer

@chofer Oscar wouldn't touch that performance in a million years. Not that is not good, but he doesn't even dominate the movie until the second half of it. It's too much of an ensemble movie. And I don't remember Oscar going ever for an effeminate gay men role that is not larger than life.

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

" I don't remember Oscar going ever for an effeminate gay men role that is not larger than life".

Agree with the rest of your post, but THIS is why I hate Oscars!!! EVRYTHING in this sentence feels SO WRONG it makes mi sick on my stomach! Ughh.

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterchofer

poor eva green (without the E at the end!)... she needs better movies, she's too good!

September 21, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

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