Friday, January 7, 2011
Fridrik Thór Fridriksson's MAMMA GÓGÓ as the country's official Oscar entry.
Children of Nature (about Iceland's elderly) that is bombing at the Icelandic box-office, and for which the only hope would seem to be a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination. Meanwhile, the director's own mother is beginning to suffer from dementia of a particularly virulent and dangerous sort. Fridriksson, shown at left, is the man who also directed last year's fine documentary, A Mother's Courage: Talking Back to Autism, so the fellow is clearly knee-deep is the understanding of human beings facing difficult handicaps in both early- and late-life situations.
Hilmir Snær Guðnason, above, Iceland's go-to guy for roles that require a sexy young -- now actually approaching middle-age -- male, and who has scored big in films such as 101 Reykjavík and The Sea). Further, the movie appears to be taking place today (certainly within a year or two past), since events such as the Icelandic economic crisis, a possible new drug that might help Alzheimer patients, and a very large, wide-screen TV all make appearances in the film. Yet Children of Nature is now 20 years old. What is happening with the time frame here? Is the writer/director simply goofing on us? Or not-so-subtly telling us that this is just "a movie," so anything goes?
Kristbjörg Kjeld, above, in the title role. Ms Kjeld is terrific: smart and funny early on (watch her get out of a traffic violation!) and sad, dense and confused as the film (and her character's sickness) progresses. Fridriksson not only stars Kjeld as she appears today but also uses footage (below) from her debut film 79 af stöðinni (from 1962), in which she also played a character named Gógó, in what appears to be flashbacks within Mamma Gógó to indicate the young love affair with her now deceased husband. For Icelandic audiences this is probably gourmet catnip; for foreign viewers, however, it works mostly as sentimental overlay.
Writers’ Guild Theater, 135 South Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills. I don't think, so far, that any U.S. distributor has stepped up to the plate. But that could change, depending on which films the Academy chooses for its Best Foreign Language Film shortlist, then nominees and -- finally -- winner.