Lewis, Clark, and Three Blonde Sisters: An MFCC Experience

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By: Juan Barquin

With a cold front moving in over Miami, there’s no place better for me to be than inside a dark movie theater full of people. So it seems the opportunity to be a member for the Miami Future Cinema Critics (MFCC) jury came just at the right time. Running around Downtown and Miami Beach has led to a strange little collection of films on these first few nights of the festival, two of which have left quite the impression. 

Blondie (Jesper Ganslandt, 2012)

The first of the two screams echoes of classic cinema from the very start. Whether the quiet sounds of Ingmar Bergman’s family dramas or the lively tunes of the Von Trapp family from Hollywood classic The Sound of Music, Jesper Ganslandt’s Blondie sets just the right mood for the unfolding story. 
Blondie tells the tale of three sisters (Carolina Gynning, Helena af Sandeberg, Alexandra Dahlström) returning home for their mother’s (Marie Göranzon) seventieth birthday. The reunion offers numerous chances for the dysfunctional family to reflect on their past and take their anger out on each other. Ganslandt never takes his focus off the sisters, their mother, and the strained relationships between them all. 
It’s a pleasure to see a film completely driven by a female cast that focuses on atmosphere, almost unfolding as a study of styles throughout its three acts. As Ganslandt himself mentioned in the Q&A, he was not aiming for originality but rather an abundance of references in an attempt to be present in the non-happening and melodrama, with Ozu and Almodóvar mentioned in addition to Bergman and Hollywood musicals, and it’s a successful endeavor.

The Discoverers (Justin Schwarz, 2012)
Coincidentally enough, the second stand out was another family-focused feature, but this time in the form of an indie comedy-drama. The Discoverers, the feature debut of Justin Schwarz, brings Griffin Dunne front and center in a role that truly makes the film. 
Having been a huge fan of his since watching Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, I was honored to chat with Dunne after the film. I enjoyed myself just as much watching him in the role of Lewis Birch. When tragedy strikes his family, Lewis and his children (Madeleine Martin & Devon Graye) dive into a Lewis & Clark reenactment expedition for the sake of helping repair his relationship with his recently widowed father (Stuart Margolin).

If it sounds like a strange way to lead into a comedy, it’s because it is, but it makes for an all the more entertaining experience. Familial relationships are exceptionally important, and Schwarz writes a particularly beautiful father-daughter dynamic. The chemistry that Griffin Dunne and Madeleine Martin share is a high point of the film, and she holds her own alongside him, delivering some of the best one-liners in The Discoverers.

Outside of the family themes Blondie and The Discoverers share nearly nothing in common, but each left an impact on me. I can only hope the rest of the films I’ll be watching throughout the week will surprise me as much.

Jaie Laplante

Jaie Laplante is the Miami Film Festival's executive director and director of programming. Learn more about Jaie on Programmers.