After the eloquent protest against Iranian repression by Jafar Panahi and his fellow jurors with the green scarves, the whirling acrobats in the stage show preceding the Montreal World Film Festival's opening nightscreening came as a bit of jolt. Also, the film itself, Ricardo Trogi's autobiographical comedy "1981" seemed a change of pace. In 1981 Jafar Panahi was in the second year of the Iran-Iraq War. Trogi, on the other hand, was a misfit 12-year-old in Montreal dreaming about owning a Walkman and having a conversation with Anne Tromblay, the girl in his class he has a crush on. Somewhat incongruously, this coming-of-age comedy opens with the Waffen SS about to execute the inhabitants of a battered Italian village.
Nazis, as it turns out, are just one of the oddball leitmotifs that spring up in this festival, as is often the case with these things. In the Tony Gatlif film "Kokoro" Nazis pursue a band of gypsies in occupied France. The gypsies just want to live their nomadic life and play their music, but the Germans, abetted by the collaborating French authorities, want to put them in camps. One of the Roma men has embodied the freewheeling lifestyle of his people to the point where he is batshit crazy, falling into gibbering reveries and running around hysterically.
Which introduces yet another random theme, the holy lunatic or allegorical disturbed person. Such as in in Aron Matyassy's grim and powerful "Lost Times," a Mitteleuropean "Rain Man" in which a young man must take care of his autistic sister in a backward Hungarian border town while making a precarious living smuggling gas from Russia (not to be confused with Olivier Bernier's "The Sunset Sky," in which a young woman must care for her autistic brother in a backward Kansas town). Or in German director Thomas Sieben's (a grad of Massachusetts College of Art) stark and haunting "Distance," in which a mentally disturbed caretaker at a Berlin botanical garden discovers that having a girlfriend frees him up for his new hobby -- killing people.