Genre films spice Karlovy’s lineup

10th year of <I>Variety</I> Critics' Choice shapes up

LONDON — You’d never realize it from the selections at most fests, but genre cinema is alive and well throughout Europe.

Unlike most programmers, we don’t look for a certain type of film: Freshness is the main thing, a first or second movie always an advantage, and pics that have flown relatively low on the festival radar are certainly de rigueur. But arthouse or mainstream? It’s all the same to us.

Within that criteria, the titles in Variety Critics’ Choice: Europe Now! can differ radically from year to year, as the selection is more a reaction against the programming patterns many festivals have fallen into rather than an unchanging mission statement each year. As the festival circuit more and more spins off into an arty orbit of its own — conveniently garnished with Hollywood crowdpleasers — this year’s 10th VCC has shaped up into a de facto celebration of European genre cinema, in all its different forms.

Selections are again drawn from — and supported by — European Film Promotion’s 28 member countries, repping 27 promo orgs.

The Swiss “Parting Shot,” with a knockout, obsessive performance from Isild Le Besco; Polish chiller “Hyena”; Spanish noir crimer “The Distance”; French murder mystery “Fissures,” already skedded for a Stateside remake with Joe Dante producing; and Austria’s first slasher movie, “Dead in 3 Days” — all are psychothrillers of various kinds. Skirting the borders between psychodrama and claustrophobic thriller is VCC’s first entry to fly under an Irish flag, “True North,” by British-born, German-based actor-director Steve Hudson, assembling coin from all three countries.

Three other titles can be loosely described as slacker comedies. Norway’s “Cold Feet” bristles with alternative Scandi humor, the German “Hotel Very Welcome” is entirely set in Southeast Asia, and the British “Someone Else” intermingles the genre with romantic comedy.

And the 10th entry, “Prague”? Directed by a Dane and set in the Czech capital, this quirky, darkly humorous chamber drama about a decaying marriage and a missing corpse is almost unclassifiable — but European to its core.

(Derek Elley is Variety’s London-based film critic and programmer of Variety Critics’ Choice.)

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