Borderlines Film Festival: 10 to watch

The annual feast of great cinema in the UK’s largest rural film festival is well underway: here are 10 recommendations still to screen.

10 March 2023

By Josh Slater-Williams

Pierrot le fou (1965)

Returning to 22 venues across Herefordshire, Shropshire, Malvern and the Welsh Marches, this year’s Borderlines Film Festival presents over 250 screenings of 65 feature films and events between 3 and 19 March: a mix of recently released gems, previews of upcoming titles and retrospective gems, including several silent films.

Here are 10 to look out for during the remainder of this year’s festival.

Pierrot le fou (1965)

One of two Borderlines screenings paying tribute to the late Jean-Luc Godard, the French pioneer’s fabulously colourful film from 1965 is both a perfect revisit on the big screen and an accessible starting point for anyone unfamiliar with the man’s work. The also recently departed Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina play a pair on the run from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea – he escaping the boredom of society; she being chased by hit-men from Algeria. The film – which combines road movie, romance, 1960s cultural commentary and existential despair – will be introduced by critic Christina Newland.

1976 (2022)

Operating in a similar mode to many of Pablo Larraín’s early films, debut director Manuela Martelli’s 1976 presents a refreshingly female-centric spin on the mode of thrillers about people navigating Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship. A bourgeois housewife (Aline Küppenheim) becomes a spy of sorts, after agreeing to a favour for a local priest while at her summer beach home, leading her to care for an injured young man who may be a target of the government.

Godland (2022)

Shot in academy ratio, Icelandic filmmaker Hlynur Pálmason’s follow-up to the acclaimed A White, White Day (2019) is a historical fiction epic where the storytelling is as slippery as the natural environments its beleaguered, stubborn protagonist encounters. That lead character is Danish Lutheran priest Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove), living in Denmark of the late 19th-century, assigned with travelling to Iceland – then a remote Danish colony – to construct a church at a Danish settlement. His guide for the trek, Ragnar (Pálmason’s regular star Ingvar Sigurðsson), happens to hate Danes.

The Bitter Stems (1956)

The Bitter Stems (1956)

An Argentinian noir from 1956, director Fernando Ayala’s The Bitter Stems is known for an evocative score by legendary composer Astor Piazzolla, which combines elements of tango, jazz and classical music. Adapted from an award-winning novel by journalist Adolfo Jasca, the film sees a washed-up reporter team up with a Hungarian immigrant to start a fake journalism-by-correspondence school, exploiting the hopes of aspiring journalists. But the arrival of a mysterious woman from the immigrant’s past sparks doubts in the newspaperman: could his con artist colleague also be playing him?

One Fine Morning (2022)

With a screenplay inspired by her own father’s experience with a neurodegenerative disease,
Mia Hansen-Løve produces another deceptively simple heartbreaker with One Fine Morning. Led by Léa Seydoux and Pascal Greggory, it sees the former deliver perhaps her most low-key performance to date, while the latter French acting legend plays against type in portraying a man whose vitality and eloquence have cruelly been taken away by fate.

Foolish Wives (1922)

Foolish Wives (1922)
© MoMA

Silent era visionary Erich von Stroheim wrote, directed and starred in this ambitious melodrama about a charlatan posing as a Russian count and cavalry officer, living by defrauding naive women staying in luxury hotels. Conceived by the multi-hyphenate filmmaker as a six-hour saga, he was obliged to squeeze his ambitions into a more conventional running time for distributor Universal. The recent restoration by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and MoMA returns the original sequencing, tinting and intertitles to provide the best possible impression of von Stroheim’s vision. The Borderlines screening at Ludlow Assembly Rooms will feature live musical accompaniment by Meg Morley.

Au bonheur des dames (1930)

Au bonheur des dames (1930)

Meg Morley returns to provide musical accompaniment for another silent cinema screening, this time for one of the very last silent films produced in France. Directed by Julien Duvivier, it stars German actor Dita Parlo, who would later appear in Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante (1934) and Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937). She plays an innocent country girl relocating to Paris, lured away from her uncle’s modest shop by the glitz of the department store. An adaptation of an Émile Zola novel, the film is both a celebration of Paris at the time and a critical look at the era’s rampant rise in consumerism.

Rodeo (2022)

It’s not her first rodeo, goes the famous saying, but in the case of French director Lola Quivoron and her debut film, it is. Previewing ahead of a general UK release from Curzon later in the spring, this exhilarating film first bowed in the Un Certain Regard competition at last year’s Cannes. Julia (Julie Ledru, leading a largely non-professional cast) is a young misfit who’s passionate about motocross riding. She meets a crew of dirt riders who perform stunts at illicit gatherings, with wild abandon and speeds. She’s intent on infiltrating their male-dominated world, though an accident jeopardises her potential to find her place.

Decision to Leave (2022)

Park Chan-wook’s elegant neo-noir has been on release for a while now, but any chance to catch it on the big screen should be taken up. One of its Borderlines screenings happens to be on the day of the Academy Awards, where the film was unjustly not nominated for such categories as best original screenplay, cinematography and editing, among many others. It’s the slippery tale of a happily married Busan-based detective (Park Hae-il)  getting a little too close to someone under his surveillance: a Chinese immigrant wife (Tang Wei) suspected of wrongdoing regarding her Korean husband’s mysterious death in nearby mountains.

Full Time (2021)

Following the recent sex-worker drama Her Way (2021), Call My Agent breakout Laure Calamy leads another acclaimed vehicle, this time a pulse-pounding thriller. A stressed, debt-ridden mother of two, her character Julie scrapes by on her job as senior maid at a Paris hotel, alongside the occasional alimony payment from her ex. So, when an interview for a better job coincides with a public transport strike, it’s a race against the clock to get there on time, against the odds.

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