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A Moment in the Reeds (Tämä hetki kaislikossa) - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
Steve's Livejournal
A Moment in the Reeds (Tämä hetki kaislikossa)
10 am Finnish Sound about a second ahead of the visuals Periodic bang sounds. Thought it was hunting, but I think just a problem

SIFF's capsule summary: "When literature student Leevi arrives at his father's summer home, he meets Syrian refugee Tareq who is working on the house. Their weekend affair exposes generational and cultural chasms in an outwardly peaceful setting in Finland's first gay romantic feature." (Finland, 2017, 107 minutes)
SIFF link: A Moment in the Reeds

Leevi (Janne Puustinen) is on break from art school, and his father Jouko (Mika Melender) picks him up to drive him to his summer cabin. Jouko knows that Leevi is gay, but doesn't approve; the film's one funny moment is Jouko's snarky, disdainful remark about Leevi's sexuality. Jouko has work for Leevi, helping to renovate his summer cabin in the idyllic Finnish countryside, but he doesn't have much confidence in Leevi's competence at the task: he had requested a handyman from an agency to help with the work too.

Besides his disapproval of Leevi's sexuality, Jouko doesn't think much of immigrants, particularly immigrants who don't speak much Finnish. So when the handyman, Tareq (Boodi Kabbani), arrives, Jouko is quite annoyed to discover that he's an immigrant who speaks only a few words of Finnish. But to Leevi's delight, Tareq is gay and into art, poetry, and theater just like Leevi. Stereotype much?

Jouko isn't entirely disappointed with Tareq; at least he knows which end of a hammer to use when pounding nails.

But when Jouko has to return to town, both Leevi and Tareq find themselves too distracted to get much work done.

5 Fair Writer-director-editor Mikko Makela has a script with few surprises; last year's God's Own Country covered the same territory better. (An aging British sheep farmer and his gay sheep farmer son hire a Romanian laborer, and the Romanian turns out to be gay too.) This film's script is almost good. The directing is very good when it's admiring the Finnish landscape, but barely almost-good when telling the characters' story.

Sex scenes were abundant, and right on the boundary between softcore and explicity. Some ran much longer than necessary to advance the story. I'm not sure whether they were an artifact of a director whose sense of pacing was shaky or an intentional decision to titillate aficionados of gay sex scenes.

The place where the film really fails is the audio. I kept hearing loud crack noises that I initially thought might be hunters shooting in the distance. But after hearing a lot of the cracks, I recognized them as audio artifacts from bad splices in the audio track. That's really sloppy; I could have fixed that myself with Audacity in about three hours. Besides the cracks, the loudness varied erratically, and the balance between dialog and ambient sounds was inconsistent. The overall loudness would also have been easy to fix. However, the balance between dialog and ambient sound may have been a problem with the original sound recording; if so there would have been no easy fix.

Another problem with the audio is that it was not synchronized with the visuals. I observed a door that closed about a second before the door-slam sound. Some people I discussed the film with thought that the dialog that was in English had been dubbed over Finnish. I couldn't tell whether that was the case, or if it just looked wrong because the audio and visual were too far out of sync. I rate the audio poor.

The technical distractions often made it difficult to concentrate on the actors' performances. (It helped when they spoke Finnish, because then I was reading the subtitles instead of getting distracted by the out-of-sync dialog and lips.) But I'd rate all three actors good, maybe better.

It's difficult to give the film an overall rating when there's so much variation between the different elements. But overall, I rate the film fair.

Languages: Finnish with English subtitles, and English (occasionally subtitled, when Jouko's fractured English was unclear).

Rating: I don't think this film has a US rating (yet), but I'd guess it would rate a "R", for lots of sex scenes (and they're gay eex scenes, which make the MPAA particularly squeamish).

Screening: 10 am, Pacific Place (room 4).
Audience: a typical SIFF press screening crowd, around 100, about 285 seats (estimated capacity).

Snacks: none.

Ads and announcements: no ads at press screenings; SIFF volunteer "R" provided announcements.

Notes to myself:

SIFF statistics: 66 films (39 features, 27 shorts), 42 time slots, 5 parties. ("J": only three parties, and 20 shorts.)

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