La Presse at the 74th Berlinale | Unforgettable and unbearable

La Cocina, by Mexican director Alonso Ruizpalacios, presented Friday in competition in Berlin, is a paradoxical proposition. It is at the same time an inventive but posing film, original but pretentious, singular but irritating, which registers in our mind, but not only for the right reasons.

Both unforgettable – for an anthology sequence shot in the kitchen and dining room – and unbearable. Ruizpalacios begins by quoting Henry David Thoreau and multiplies in the mouths of his characters muddy theories and counter philosophy. He shoots in black and white a wordy independent film which is not without charm, which made me think vaguely of Clerks, by Kevin Smith.

Rooney Mara is equal to herself in the role of Julia, an indolent waitress in a tourist trap restaurant in New York’s Times Square. The film mainly revolves around the character of Pedro (Raúl Briones), endearing and detestable, who is in love with Julia. He is a talented but irascible cook. A time bomb. When Pedro loses his temper, it’s spectacular. Think about the New savages, by Damián Szifrón.

Undocumented like all the kitchen employees, Pedro is suspected by an unimportant manager of being responsible for the disappearance of $870 from the cash register the day before. La Cocinaas its title suggests, relies on the raw intensity of work in the kitchen, as The plunger, by Francis Leclerc, or the excellent series The Bear.

It’s also a film that delves into the belly of the dragon in the basements of New York restaurants, where cinema rarely ventures. They speak Spanish, Arabic, French or Wolof and call each other names, sharing the same poverty and the same miserable working conditions. This is where Ruizpalacios’ film, Best First Film Award for Gueros at the Berlinale 10 years ago, is the most interesting: in its metaphor of the slavery of savage capitalism.

The Little Prince said it


Sebastian Stan, Renate Reinsve and Adam Pearson in A Different Man.

Comedian Sebastian Stan reprimanded a Bulgarian journalist at a press conference on Friday. The colleague had just used the word “monster” when talking about the disfigured character that Stan plays in A Different Man, competition film written and directed by American Aaron Schimberg. “One of the things the movie says is that we have prejudices,” he said. We are not well informed on how to understand or talk about this particular experience. »

A Different Man, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival (we’re not surprised), is the story of a severely disabled man who undergoes experimental facial reconstruction surgery and whose life is turned upside down, For better and for worse. Sebastian Stan plays this Edward, an aspiring actor, with and without prosthetics. Adam Pearson, a British actor with neurofibromatosis, plays Oswald, Edward’s friend and rival. They will argue in particular with Ingrid (Renate Reinsve), a playwright who appropriates Edward’s story to put on a play about a disfigured character.

“I am interested in the ethical questions of representation, but above all I wanted to make a personal film,” explained Aaron Schimberg, himself born with a cleft lip and palate, at a press conference. If we have the character played with a prosthesis by an actor who does not have a disability, we are accused of appropriation. And if we choose a disabled actor, we are accused of exploitation. It’s lose-lose. I chose to do both. »

The New York filmmaker, who had already been interested in this subject in his film Chained for Lifehas concocted a surrealist film which multiplies the mise en abyme and the ellipses, without ever finding a real balance of tone between the social drama, the psychological thriller, the body horror and the offbeat independent B-series comedy. There is a somewhat sluggish morality here: we only see clearly with the heart, the essential is invisible to the eyes. But the Little Prince had already told us that.

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