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Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2013: XL and 11.6

Posted on Monday July 8, 2013, 16:49 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2013: XL and 11.6

The competition at KV can be quite erratic, a problem prevalent at most festivals that need to keep their high-end status by delivering a main strand of world premieres. In a busy calendar year, there simply aren't enough good movies to go round, but this year's line-up was perhaps the best in quite some time. I missed the winning film Honeymoon and wasn't around when Ben Wheatley's divisive A Field In England screened – but I did catch two interesting competition films, one from Iceland the other from France.

Marteinn Thorsson's XL was the former, a seriously dark black comedy that starts with an alcoholic politician, Leifur (Olafur Darri Olafsson), being confronted by his irate prime minister. Leifur is being sent to rehab, and what ensues is a bizarre fever dream that combines the events leading up to his committal and a wild party he arranges as one last fling. The resulting timeline is most disorientating – as is a subplot involving the girl he had with his ex-wife – giving a pretty convincing approximation of the effects of excessive boozing, especially the Icelandic kind.

As an IvansXTC-style portrait of an asshole, XL has a lot of atmosphere, especially in the sleazier and more anarchic moments, most of which can be attributed to Olafsson, who has considerable presence in a highly physical and often self-abasing role (one that brought him KV's Best Actor award). Ultimately, though, XL doesn't quite decide whether it is satire or character study, and a little more detail in the former department – Thorsson's film deftly skewers MPs who use their private-life dramas as political collateral – might have given it a bit more weight.

Another film resting on its leading man is Philippe Godeau's 11.6 (pictured), a visually quite mainstream yet unexpectedly gnomic account of the most celebrated crime in recent French history. The star is François Cluzet, of Untouchable fame, who stars as Toni Musulin, a security guard who made off with €11.6 million in notes without using force of any kind. Cluzet is a good 15 years too old for the role but his great, hangdog demeanour makes it hard to care too much about this (the real Musulin is a lot more fresh-faced). Instead of youth, Cluzet gives the piece a very real and grounded sense of Musulin's conviction, presenting him as modern-day Robin Hood figure who stole from his bosses as a warped form of revenge for cost-cutting and greed in the corporatised workplace.

11.6 is not a great title, and the film will struggle for release here, but it's worth catching. Godeau, a former producer, shrewdly leaves most of Musulin's motivation to the imagination, and, unusually for a crime story, it's what we don't see or find out that lingers longest in the mind.

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