Film Scouts Diaries

2007 Festroia International Film Festival Diaries
The 23rd Festroia International Film Festival, # 4

by Henri Béhar

"Old?! Did you call me old?"

Setubal, Portugal, June 8, 2007 - Call it happenstance, coincidence or serendipity, but there is no doubt women - and middle-aged women at that - have been reigning supreme for the last two days.

The three women in Andrea Staka's Das Fraulein (a Swiss-German-Bosnian co-production) come from a country that no longer exists: Yugoslavia. Now living in Zurich, Ruza left 30 years ago and has done everything to suppress her Serbian roots. On the other hand, Mila hangs on to her dream of returning to Croatia. When young Ana bursts into the scene; her excessive lust for life (barely masking a terminal illness) upsets their painstakingly organized world (Ruza) and long-held dreams (Mila). A subtle friendship develops between the three women that will force them to come to terms with the choices they made and reassess – make that discover – their true inner worlds. An esteemable, though slightly predictable, movie.

As director Colin Nutley aptly puts it in the presentation of his Heartbreak Hotel (Sweden), "Whoever wrote the words for the wedding ceremony had a wicked sense of humor or an evil streak. 'Till Death Us Do Part' could just as easily have been 'Till You Reach 40' or 'Till I Reach 50', 'Till the Kids Leave Home', 'Till I Meet Somebody Else' or 'Till We've Been Together Long Enough For Me to Discover Who You Really Are'. (…) Talk to any divorced woman over 40 and you will hear stories of how hard the fight towards a new life is. (…) People's lives... it is serious business and yet so often we laugh..." Elisabeth and Gudrun are two Swedish divorcées, both over 40, who meet when Elisabeth parks her car on a loading zone and is ticketed by Gudrun. Despite this shaky start, a friendship grows between the two. A sexy and confident gynecologist, Elisabeth leads the shy Gudrun through "the dangerous waters of single life". But as, from dance floors to bars, they energetically explore Stockholm's night-life, they are led to a deeper examination of their relationships with men. By the end of the film, there is not one bit of scenery that hasn't been chewed, but actresses Helena Bergström and Maria Lundqvist are having an "Absolutely Fabulous" time, and so are we.

But the true gem is Bettina Oberli's Late Bloomers (Switzerland) which centers on four old ladies from the Emmental region. When Lisi, Hanni and Frieda convince their friend Martha (Stephanie Glaser, a Swiss firebrand, if you pardon the oxymoron) to fulfill her dream and turn her local corner shop into a chic lingerie store, the whole community is thrown into disarray. A tribute to old age, old craftsmanship and newly-found resources (watch those women tackle the Internet!), it's a hilarious, delightfully unBotoxed romp. Call it "Granny's Full Monty" and look for it when it comes out. Go one step further: fight, lobby, campaign, DEMAND that it be released at a theatre near you.

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