Vienna International Film Festival, part 3

First, a word about Lou Reed and the special screening here of his first film, the 27 minute "Red Shirley," a documentary about his100-year-old relative of the title who came to New York from Poland via Canada at the age of 19, worked in the garment district, became a firebrand union leader, had her family back in Poland wiped out during the Holocaust, marched on Washington with Martin Luther King in the 60s -- in short, a wonderful person whose life is essentially a microcosm of a crucial part of 20th century history.

Unfortunately, the film is more about her cousin Lou. Why unfortunately? Isn't he the idol of millions, myself included, a symbol of rebellion and transgression, whose  music has inspired generations? He also might be the world's worst interviewer, and at times a bit of a dick. Like during the brief q & a that followed the screening.

So, a disappointment. Though it does back up my observation that a ubiquitous premise in the films in this festival is the plight of the outsider, the stranger in a stranger in a strange land, the exhausted travellers from Boston who arrive in Vienna with barely a lick of German and are pursued by a talking armchair.

Such is the case certainly in the competition films. Remember "Morgen," the Romanian film about a guy who's entered the country illegally? Oddly enough, there's another Romanian film called "Pereiferic," from first time director Bogdan George Apetri, which is about a young Romanian woman who wants to LEAVE the country illegally. And it's a significantly better movie.

The woman is Matilda, a tough cookie who's been released from prison on a 24 hour furlough to attend her mother's funeral. She gets a cold welcome from her brother's family when she arrives at the old homestead, especially from her sister-in-law, who oozes resentment. And, as the latter suspects, Matilda comes with ulterior motives in mind.

The story might be familiar, but that's because its theme of social alienation -- ranging from the basic family unit to the overriding system of society -- is a universal one. But Apetri also makes it unique and particular, through the carefully edged charactersand  its specific and detailed Romanian setting. I doubt if the Hollywood version, if there is one, will include a scene in which a mother and her estranged 8-year-old son bond over a couple of smokes.

Finally, the film succeeds because of Ana Ularu as  Matilda. She looks like Hilary Swank in her "Boys Don't Cry" days, and her piercing eyes, charisma, and intensity mark her as an actress to watch.

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