Locarno70, the Year of the Animal
The Locarno Festival’s imagery is always closely associated with the Leopard, the creature that also serves as the main award at the end of the ten days of screenings and encounters. Said animal is also an integral part of this year’s retrospective, a complete tribute to Jacques Tourneur: the French filmmaker made a name for himself in Hollywood with, among other titles, a series of low-budget horror films made for RKO, including the serial killer tale Leopard Man. Felines are also part of the charm of Cat People, released in 1942 and loosely remade in 1982 by Paul Schrader, with a quite literal take on the notion of animalistic sex (both versions are part of the Festival’s program).
Animals are also an important presence in the Piazza Grande line-up, starting with the opening film. Demain et tous les autres jours, directed by Noémie Lvovsky, is an inverted fairy tale where a mother and daughter exchange roles, with a special role reserved for an owl. Another French filmmaker, Samuel Benchetrit, takes it one step further by naming his latest work Chien (“dog”) and casting Vincent Macaigne as a man who loses everything, only to find a purpose in life again via our four-legged friends.
Canine creatures, albeit with a more Tourneur-like connotation, also feature in the Concorso internazionale, specifically in the Brazilian entry As Boas Maneiras with its female-oriented exploration of lycanthropy. Cineasti del presente entry Meteorlar, while not strictly speaking a genre offering, provides some eerie imagery of its own, with a striking combination of eclipses, meteors and, on the fauna side, mountain goats.
Finally, there are all kinds of creatures in Histoire(s) du cinéma, from the feathered protagonists of Der Kongress der Pinguine to the hawk that occupies the frame in the haunting opening sequence of Paris, Texas, from the birds that supposedly distracted Terrence Malick while filming The Thin Red Line to the watery inhabitants of Jean-Marie Straub’s L’Aquarium et la nation. Not to mention films that don’t feature animals per se but include them in their titles, like Raul Ruiz’s Tres tristes tigres or Eric Rohmer’s Le Signe du lion.Max Borg