DIFF 2018: Day 8

After watching a total of 13 films, the 2018 version of the Dallas International Film Festival is officially over! It has been a a week-long blur of terrific narrative films and documentaries, and I definitely look forward to next year!

Dead Pigs is an intriguing Chinese foreign language narrative that explores the confluence of traditional China with the rapid modernization of the society by dividing the film into five different story lines revolve around distinct characters that eventually overlap. We follow a desperate traditional pig farmer, a stubborn middle-aged woman who refuses to sell her family house to a developer, an American expatriate trying to make means as an architect, a struggling busboy who falls in love, and a rich spoiled girl who is the subject of the busboy’s affection. All of the stories are intertwined because of a rather unusual crisis that actually took place around 2013 in which thousands of pigs mysteriously died and ended up in the rivers of Shanghai. Although sometimes only tangentially connected to the events in the movie, the dead pigs situation is a larger metaphor for the complex issues facing a rapidly modern China while also putting a dark comedic and satirical spin on the rather remarkable film.

Madeline’s Madeline is a very avant-garde narrative drama directed by cutting-edge filmmaker Josephine Decker who has become a film festival favorite as a result of her rather bizarre yet artistic films. At times hard to follow and completely understand, the movie involves a young up-and-coming actress, played by brilliant newcomer Helena Howard, in the contemporary theater world who suffers from a mental illness and confuses her unusual dramatic performances with her own reality. The highly respected theater director, played by Molly Parker known for her role in the TV series House of Cards, pushes the boundaries by forcing the obviously disturbed protagonist to reenact her neuroses in order to make for a brutally honest theatrical production. It often feels like the viewer is themselves descending into madness just like the main character. Madeline’s Madeline is definitely the most quintessential indie film festival movie as a result of its creatively edgy vision that may not appeal to a majority of casual moviegoers.

McQueen is a terrific and mesmerizing documentary about the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen who was one of the brightest stars in the fashion industry in recent memory. Through a wide range of interviews with family members, those who worked with him, and other highly respected fashion designers, the film provides a comprehensive study of the notoriously provocative McQueen who embodied the rags-to-riches stereotype as he moved from being a young designer living on welfare to rapidly rising in the ranks of the haute couture fashion world where he would found one of the most influential fashion labels in the world. The film also illuminates his troubled personal life in which he was truly a tortured genius, suffering most of his life from depression, anxiety, and eventually substance abuse, which all lead to his tragic suicide in 2010 at the age of forty. The beautifully crafted documentary does an excellent job of presenting the truly remarkable designs that most often had elements of the Gothic and macabre and McQueen’s game-changing runway spectacles that were more than just fashion shows. Even if you are familiar with his biography, the film is a must-see simply for the footage showing his truly extraordinary runway shows enticing even for those who are not into fashion.

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