Berlinale 2018 – The Films. Day 6: Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot; Phook (Pig)

 

Day Six - 21 February.

Almost twenty-five years later, it’s about time for another Leaving Las Vegas. There are definitely too few alcoholism dramas in cinema these days. But how could you top the classic? ... What, if you added some, and even some more, comedy? Or the drunkard sitting in a wheelchair? Nicolas Cage is not available, but you can get Joaquin Phoenix to double as Jeff Bridges (The Dude drank too). And you (not tea- but:) totally need AA meetings, and a gay, rich, surfer-guru to lead the group. And please throw in Jack Black, just because!
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is a biopic based on the autobiography of cartoonist John Callahan (1951-2010). Judging from the examples in this movie, his cartoons are not overly funny, or only a couple of them. Humour never improves, no: is actually annihilated, as soon as somebody starts  explaining, like director celebrity Gus van Saint chose to do in the case of one of the (slightly) funnier cartoons. The joke in question might seem “controversial” (are there others?) to some, and I guess he wanted to make sure, nobody’s offended (a̶l̶m̶o̶s̶t̶ literally impossible); then camouflaged this as a joke on the interpreting “intellectual”, a patron of a bar.
John Callahan was the victim of a car crash, drunk with a drunk driver who got away unhurt (that’s Jack Black's role), carried on drinking when paralyzed, but had a career change from “songwriter” to cartoonist (without the “”), and finally stopped drinking when his mother's ghost touched him by the shoulder. Oh yes, and he was also a lousy stand up comedian. And adopted, despite many attempts he would never find his mother. But he married an air hostess, after his accident, and before becoming sober. That’s about all you’ll learn from this movie, so no need to watch it. Thank me later.
Udo Kier is in it. Udo Kier is in two films at Berlinale this year. And you know, when Udo Kier honours a press conference with his presence, but nobody poses him a question, Udo Kier just grabs the microphone, and expresses himself grateful for being here with two films at Berlinale. Because Udo Kier is f----ing badass. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is his second film in competition, the second small role, and Udo Kier nails it again. Udo Kier is awesome, as an actor, and a personality. Udo Kier should really be considered for a Supporting Bear, it doesn't even matter if for Figlia Mia, or Dont’ Worry...

The Iranian crime comedy Phook (Pig) is my second favourite for the Golden Bear. A (fictional) filmmaker, played by Hasan Majuni who has been banned from working for over two years is becoming increasingly stressed out by the situation – as stressed out as you can get as the “Persian Jack Black”: big, funny, addicted to Classic Rock. He just can's take it no more, when “his” female star, with whom he might have an extra-marital affair, or for whom he entertains some Weinsteinish feelings at least, wants to leave him (professionally), and work in another director’s film. Worse, even a serial killer serially beheading the nation’s film elite, consistently ignores him. And Hasan has a stalker, too, one scene casually quotes Two and a Half Men (Rose jumping the balcony).

Pig is an outstanding comedy, it’s truly hilarious! If you want your Iranian movies political – director Mani Haghighi actually expressed himself fed up with the politicisation of Iranian movies in interviews with Western journalists – think the killings a metaphor for the silencing of unruly artists. It’s certainly not wrong. To avoid persecution, Maghighi keeps it light, the authorities are your friend - even if Hasan is taken to interrogation at a secret place, blindfolded, disappearing for his friends and family, briefly becoming the main suspect for the murders. The film has been whitelisted in Iran, but the existence of a whitelist is itself horrible of course. Subversive humour may pass easier than open rebellion, and still give hope. From Mani Haghighi stems the best quote of this year’s Berlinale: “You can only take something seriously, what you laugh about.”
Yes. Just yes!
Most unusual for a (albeit funny) crime story, the killer’s identity does not even matter in the end. S/He stands for an idea, the idea of censorship, that has to be blown away, in which context or whose service it soever may raise its ugly head.

Not to tell a spoiler, let’s just say, the most traditional structures save the day (and the country?). Some may find it irritating to see Iranian women not in chains, but even driving cars and running the family; Pig grants unusual insights into the country. Finally, one humble question: Is it overinterpretation to interpret the pig – haram! - as a symbol for the west, and in these circumstances as another means to appease the Revolutionary Guards?
Prediction: In Don’t Worry,... the guru calls his followers “little piglets”. This grown up Pig is a much worthier contender for a bear. And as concerns Hasan Majuni: A bear for the bear, please!


Berlinale, 15-25 February 2018

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