Tuesday Night Movies: Oslo, August 31st and Gerhard Richter Painting

Get your art cinema and air conditioning on with melancholy Danish drama Oslo, August 31st and/or art doc Gerhard Richter Painting.

Oslo, August 31st

Danish director Joachim Trier (in case you’re wondering, he’s only distantly related to Lars) brings us this low-key drama, a contemporary adaptation of the 1931 Pierre Drieu La Rochelle novel Le feu follet. After a documentary-like intro full of reminisces of the titular city, the story begins. Recovering addict Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) wakes up in a hotel next to a smiling naked woman and promptly walks out, going directly to undertake a failed suicide attempt. With that out of the way, he leaves his rehab centre to revisit some of his old friends and haunts over the course of a day.

Films about recovering addicts have a certain sad inevitability to them, as though we know what’s going to happen, what needs to happen, for dramatic purposes. Which is not to say this film is predictable. The camera keeps intriguingly lingering on people who Anders passes in the street, as though threatening to leave him behind and suddenly start following them à la Slacker. Through his awkward conversations with old friends, Anders’ former life appears only in glimpses, letting the viewer fill in the blanks in the old-school European way.

Anchored by solid performances, an understated but beautiful aesthetic and a melancholy tone, the angst-filled and atmospheric drama is a sad story for sure, but worth checking out.

Gerhard Richter Painting

German documentarian Corinna Belz offers this glimpse into the working methods of the eponymous painter, who’s remained stunningly prolific through several decades of work. Much of the film takes place in his studio, where we see him creating a series of abstractions using a large tool that what one of his assistants calls a “giant squeegee.”

Judiciously using archival footage of Richter being interviewed through the years, Belz contrasts his young self — articulate, self-confident almost to the point of arrogance — with the old master of today who struggles to explain his paintings, stating that “they do what they want” and that he simply works until “nothing is wrong anymore.” At a media appearance, where he takes on a red-carpet level of celebrity, Richter humbly demurs on his massive media presence: “It’s wonderful, but you have no time to paint.”

Belz herself seems to have little interest in the artist’s personal life — his much younger wife appears only peripherally — and much of the doc is, indeed, simply footage of Gerhard Richter painting. If you’re not interested in his work or abstract art in general, you’ll no doubt find it boring, but if you’re a fan it’s essential viewing, and even for the merely curious it’s an intriguing look at an artist at work.


Olso, August 31 and Gerhard Richter Painting are currently screening at Cinéma du Parc (3575 Parc).



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