ROME – The Locarno Film Festival has unveiled a rich mix of titles spanning many genres for its 70th edition, marked by a strong French presence that will include Isabelle Huppert playing a physics teacher who undergoes a major personality shift in “Madame Hyde” and Fanny Ardant playing a man who has had gender-reassignment surgery in “Lola Pater” (pictured).
Focus Features’ spy pic “Atomic Blonde” with Charlize Theron and Netflix’s sci-fi thriller “What Happened to Monday?” will also screen in Locarno’s open-air, 8,000-seat Piazza Grande, though without talent in tow.
As in past editions, the lineup of the Swiss fest dedicated to indie cinema combines potential discoveries with new works by known festival auteurs such as Noemie Lvovsky, Anup Singh, F.J. Ossang, Wang Bing, Annemarie Jacir, and a posthumous pic by Raul Ruiz. The official competition comprises 14 world premieres, four of which are films by first-time directors.
Lvovsky’s “Tomorrow and Thereafter,” a dark fable about a 10-year-old girl living with an unstable mother, will open the fest Aug. 2 in the Piazza Grande. The French director-actor, who plays the mother; Matthew Amalric (“Quantum of Solace”), who plays the father; and young protagonist Luce Saint-Jean will make an appearance in Locarno.
Four French world premieres on the Piazza Grane include Nadir Mokneche’s transgender-themed “Lola Pater,” which fest artistic director Carlo Chatrian said represented “a very interesting acting challenge” for Ardant; black comedy “Chien” by Samuel Benchetrit, about a meek man who becomes a dog, starring Vincent Macaigne and Vanessa Paradis; and boxing drama “Sparring,” which is actor Samuel Jouy’s directorial debut, toplining Mathieu Kassowitz (“Amelie”).
Indian megastar Irrfan Khan (“Life of Pi,” “The Amazing Spider-Man”) and France-based Iranian indie darling Golshifteh Farahani (“Paterson”) are expected to make the trek to promote Swiss-Indian director Anup Singh’s “The Song of Scorpions,” which mixes Bollywood tropes with harsh reality since its basic theme is “sexual violence against Indian women,” Chatrian said.
Locarno’s Piazza Grande titles will compete for the Variety Piazza Grande Award given by Variety critics to the film that best combines artistic excellence and commercial potential.
Serge Bozon’s “Madame Hyde,” starring Oscar-nominated Huppert as a mild-mannered physics professor in a provincial school who becomes the dangerous Madame Hyde after being struck by lightening, is among the standouts in competition. Another notable entry is late Chilean auteur Ruiz’s “La Telenovela Errante,” an unfinished film he shot in the 1990s, now completed by his widow and regular editor, Valeria Sarmiento. “The idea was to tell the story of post-Pinochet Chile by doing it soap-opera style,” said Chatrian who added that he put it in competition “because it’s very actual.”
Other competition titles include black-and-white thriller “9 Doigts” by France’s Ossang (“Dharma Guns”); “Good Manners,” a gender-bending pic by Brazilian directing duo Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas (“Hard Labor); and Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir’s “Wajib,” a drama with comedic elements about an estranged father and son, played respectively by prominent Arab-Israeli actors Mohammad Bakri and Saleh Bakri, working together for the first time.
U.S. director Travis Wilkerson’s film-theater hybrid “Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun” is world-premiering in competition. Also competing from the U.S. is indie director Jim McKay’s “En el Séptimo Día” (“On the Seventh Day”) about a Mexican immigrant delivery guy in Brooklyn. Pic recently bowed stateside at New York’s BAM CinemaFest to strong reviews.
Two films at South by South West – L.A.-set noir “Gemini” by Aaron Katz and “Lucky” by John Carrol Lynch – also feature in competition, as does “Freedom,” about a middle-aged couple in crisis, by German director Jan Speckenbach.
Italy is represented by dramedy “The Asteroids,” about alienation in the economic-crisis-ridden Italian provinces, directed by Germano Maccioni, in his feature film debut. Another first work is Romanian director Andrei Cretulescu’s black comedy “Charleston,” about two men with polar opposite characters bound by being lovers of the same woman, who dies.
Swiss director Dominik Locher is in the running for a Golden Leopard with drama “Goliath,” about a nuclear plant worker named David who starts taking taking steroids after he and his pregnant girlfriend are beaten up, and becomes a manic, violent body-builder.
“Goliath” has a companion piece of sorts in Canadian director Denis Cote’s latest feature doc “A Skin So Soft,” which follows six body-builders, filmed as people “with an innocent gaze,” said Chatrian.
China is present with prominent documentary-maker Wang Bing’s “Mrs. Fang” and visual artist Xu Bing’s “Dragonfly Eyes,” a montage of Chinese closed-circuit camera footage used to create a fictional story.
Chatrian said he chose for more audience-friendly works centered on “human emotions rather than visual language considerations.” “I think that’s important, given the [dehumanized] times we live in,” he added.
The closing film will celebrate Swiss hard-rock band “Gotthard” with documentary “Gotthard – One Life, One Soul,” directed by Kevin Merz.
French director Olivier Assayas is heading the main jury, while Egypt’s Yousry Nasrallah will preside over the Filmmakers of the Present jury panel.
The festival runs Aug. 2-12.
2017 Locarno Lineup
“Stories of Love That Cannot Belong to This World,” Francesca Comencini, Italy
“Atomic Blonde,” David Leitch, U.S.
“Chien,” Samuel Benchetrit, France
“Tomorrow and Thereafter” Noemie Lvovsky, France
“Three Peaks” Jan Zabeil, Germany, Italy
“Gotthard – One Life, One Soul,” Kevin Merz, Italy
“I Walked With a Zombie,” Jacques Turner, U.S.
“Iceman,” Feliz Randau, Germany, Italy, Austria
“Let The Corpses Tan,” Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, Belgium, France
“Lola Pater,” Nadir Mokneche, France
“Sicilia!,” Jean-Marie Straub, Italy, France, Germany
“Sparring,” Samuel Jouy, France
“The Big Sick,” Michael Showalter, U.S.
“The Song of Scorpions,” Anup Singh, Switzerland, France
“What Happened to Monday,” Tommy Wirkola, U.K.
“9 Doigts,” F.J. Ossang, France, Portugal
“Good Manners,” Juliana Rojas & Marco Dutra, Brazil
“Charleston,” Andrei Cretulescu, France, Romania
“Did You Wonder Who Fired The Gun,” Travis Wilkerson, U.S.
“Freedom,” Jan Speckenbach, Germany
“Gemini,” Aaron Katz, U.S.
“Gli Asteroidi,” Germano Maccioni, Italy
“Goliath,” Dominik Locher, Switzerland
“Good Luck,” Ben Russell, France, Germania
“La Telenovela Errante,” Raul Ruiz, Chile
“Lucky,” John Carroll Lynch, U.S.
“Madame Hyde,” Serge Bozon, France
“Mrs. Fang,” Wang Bing,” China, Germany
“Dragonfly Eyes,” Xu Bing, Cina
“A Skin So Soft,” Denis Cote, Canada
“Winter Brothers,” Hlynur Palmason, Denmark, Iceland
“Wajib,” Annemarie Jacir, Palestine, France
“En el Séptimo Día” (“On the Seventh Day”), Jim McKay, U.S.