Sitges Festival Day 4: Criminal cinema turns ultraviolent in ‘Limbo’

On today’s (carnivore) menu: ‘Limbo’ by Soi Cheang, ‘Cryptozoo’ by Dash Shaw and ‘Barbaque’ by Fabrice Eboué. We crossed, still alive, the festival meridian.

Follow the avalanche of screenings in Sitges. Juicy insane, true to form. In these chronicles I am avoiding talking about films that I have seen (and commented on) in other festivals, but just in case, dear reader, you want to know (for example) what I think of the brutal The Innocents by Eskil Vogt, here you can see my video in Cannes, or one of the hits of the Spanish cinema of 2021, Tres by Juanjo Giménez, here I wrote about her in Venice. And now, let’s go with what was seen in Sitges.

Hong Kong filmmaker Soi Cheang, the very coffee-makers of the Festival, had it under control of other thrillers loaded with hemoglobin presented here. I think about Dog Bite Dog (2006), I remember Accident (2009). In his latest film, Limbo, screened in the competitive official section, Cheang presents us a thriller with the usual overdose of despair and adrenaline, common in Hong Kong cinematography, to which he adds two elements of great interest: a black and white photograph on ornate decorations, almost post-baroque, and four more cups of unnatural violence. Film with psycho-killer rapist, mutilator and murderer of women and a couple of policemen in the old-fashioned film noir: there is the veteran, heavily traumatized by the accident that left his dying wife, and the beardless, just out of school and with no experience when it comes to being kicked in the streets; two ways of dealing with police ethics that will eventually find themselves on the darker side of it. Limbo presents the action in a Hong Kong portrayed as a large kitschy garbage dump, continually battered by rain – one of the many references to Seven (1995) – where even the stench of the hundreds of garbage bags can be felt from the armchair. The twist, almost the transmutation, that would make the film something really striking, is when the high violence present in it – the number of ignominies that befall the former drug addict who helps the police partner is incalculable, including beatings of the detectives themselves! – becomes the main narrative pattern of it. Not suitable for delicate stomachs, Limbo ends up being a horror tale that seeks redemption by way of murder, in addition to the best film that we have seen its director.

Another of the great surprises of this Sitges Festival has been the animated film Cryptozoo, the jump to feature film by the North American cartoonist, comic book artist and illustrator Dash Shaw. Your movie, a Jurassic Park (1993) of mythological creatures, imbued with Post-hippy esotericism, where unicorns go goring humans while they blow their heads off with stones -literal quote-, it is as amazing as it is grotesque, with a handmade animation that mixes multiple different styles of understanding the cartoon -almost one per creature-, in an anachronistic finish that works in opposition to the accumulation of violent scenes that appear in it . The artisan movement of characters and creatures framed on screen scenes of cannibalism, sexual bacchanalia, poisoning mutations and all kinds of bizarre deaths, all while proclaiming a very new age meaning of life, as wacky as it might be to see Rick and Morty sneaking into a hardcore version from Adventure Time (2010). I don’t know, it makes me laugh as I write. This is crazy! Only in Sitges do these things happen! Me: I recommend it, although it is probably as crazy as the images of Cryptozoo.

We close with Barbaque by the French director (and main actor of the same) Fabrice Eboué. Anti-vegan plea in the key of comedy-gore where some ruined butchers decide to start hunting, murdering, butchering and selling vegans – as if it were an ‘Iranian pig’ – as a means of recovering their love and their business. The movie only has one joke: the indiscriminate killing of the aforementioned, always depicted as moralizing abnormal extremists and Eboué decides to repeat it until exhaustion. If it weren’t for the fact that he also charges against billionaires, I would tell you that this is ultra-right cinema. I have not been very amused that we say, eat what you eat. Leave the people alone!