SIFF 2008: Heat and ice

Our Rating

I present to you two of the hottest humans that I’ve ever seen in person:

Ah, yes, the extreme physical beauty of the two stars of Summer Heat (Zomerhitte) (6/8) graced the presence of the pale and pasty SIFF audience on this weekend matinee, along with the charming director Monique van der Ven, who has been a SIFF favorite as an actress in past years. Van der Ven brought her directorial debut to the fest, and it is an enjoyable summer thriller, taking place entirely on a vacation island in the Netherlands. A hot photographer (both figuratively and literally) named Bob (Waldemar Torenstra) is on assignment, taking pics of the local wildlife, and finds himself smitten with a lovely lass whom we first meet emerging from the waves stark naked. Beautiful Kathleen (Sophie Hilbrand) works at a bar, but mixes with some shifty gangster types who are involved in some shifty drug business. In the tradition of many thrillers past, the mix of a curious guy with a camera, plus lots of sexual tension, tends to get everyone in deep trouble. The film has the sexy feel of early Paul Verhoeven (whom Van der Ven collaborated with previously) or better Brian de Palma, and it truly sizzles with the fine chemistry of its lead actors who are, of course, a real-life couple. A funny note about the screening: Several audience members praised Monique van der Ven’s past work as an actress, lamenting that some of her films were very very hard to find here. She said, “Well, I’ll bring some of my DVDs next time, and give them to Scarecrow Video!” Of course, everyone loved that!

My next film of the day, the American indie Frozen River (7/8) has probably garnered the most buzz of the fest. I’ve heard people murmuring about this film left and right, and the first screening sold out. So I sacrificed the first sunny afternoon in weeks to check it out, and indeed, it is a fine film. Two women, a white woman and a Mohawk Indian, live on opposite sides of the reservation border. Because of their own independent desperate need for money (one to buy a double-wide after her husband took off to gamble the family’s savings, another to reclaim her infant child being raised by well-meaning relatives) they begrudgingly becomes partners in a smuggling racket. They drive across the U.S.-Canada border over a frozen river to pick up illegal immigrants–a highly dangerous job, not just for the legal reasons, but because of the dangerous ice and conditions. It is an intimate drama of two women, who may not be so different, resorting to desperate measures for their families. It is extremely well-acted, especially Melissa Leo’s fierce performance as a woman trying to keep her promises to her disgruntled kids who think she is going to work at the dollar store. Luckily, this film has been picked up for distribution.


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