CIFF Coverage: Apples, Striding into the Wind, Summer of 85

The 56th Chicago International Film Festival continues until the 25th, and I’m back with some more highlights from the festival to watch. This time around, we’ve got a fictional amnesia-inducing pandemic, a film student on the edge of eternal ennui, and a gay romance that might not have been as rosy as one half remembers it to be. 


It’s bad enough that we live in a pandemic where an infectious disease that shreds your lungs and annihilates your body has taken control of the planet. Now imagine if the virus instead destroyed your mind, and took away every precious memory you held dear. That’s the premise of Apples, the debut feature from director Christos Nikou. Nikou got his start as an assistant director on fellow Greekman Yorgos Lanthimos’ explosive debut Dogtooth, and his coworker’s influence shows strongly here. He couldn’t have anticipated premiering Apples in the age of COVID-19, but the film’s subtle yet madcap antics find a new and powerful resonance in light of our new existence.

The premise is rather simple: a lonely man named Aris (Aris Servetalis) is found on a bus without any documents to identify him, and he can’t remember a single thing about himself. With no family to claim him, he’s entered into the neurological hospital’s “New Identity” program and begins to rebuild his life and his mind from nothing. Nikou is an assured director, and the clear tone of the film—which lands somewhere between deadpan comedy and sincere heartache—rings true in a world where we all have to wear masks and stand six feet apart. 

Apples is a strong directorial debut from a unique voice who won’t be going away any time soon. Keep an eye out for Nikou; we may be looking at the rise of a new star. 


Striding into the Wind

First of all: film students everywhere are going to watch this and then be deeply emotionally affected for a day or two. An existential crisis about wanting to be an independent filmmaker in a world that is increasingly unfriendly to that world? Aimlessness and anxiety about the future is at the heart of Wei Shujun’s feature length debut, which matches the wandering and restless mindset of its characters to create an all-too familiar feeling for so many, though its aimlessness becomes an eventual drawback in the third act.

Zuo Kun (Zhou You) is a senior in film school and everything seems to be going wrong, including his relationship with his girlfriend and his job on his friend’s film project. Staring down the gun barrel of post graduate life, Kun gets his driving license and buys a ‘97 Jeep to take life to the road and throw his cares to the wind. Inspired by Shujun’s personal life, the film explores the gap between the personal goals in Kun’s life and the cold embrace of reality, one which threatens to make his dreams nothing more than just that: dreams. There’s a fascinating comparison between Kun relying on a foreign vehicle and his favorite filmmakers being Taiwanese or Hong Kong citizens, though the film doesn’t explore it with as much depth as you’d expect. 

Ultimately, Striding into the Wind is a solid debut, though one hopes for a more steady and assured film from Shujun next time he’s in the director’s chair. Still, the film’s pleasures are more than enough to offset most complaints.

Summer of 85

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: a summertime gay romance set in a sunny European locale during the 1980s. Francois Ozon’s latest drama (based on the 1982 British young adult novel Dance On My Grave) explores the gloomy space that exists in a person’s mind after a summer fling comes to an end, and all that’s left in September are the crackling embers of a great love. 

Alex (Félix Lefebvre) is a 16 year old with a death obsession living in Northern France. He’s the loneliest person in the world, but that changes after he’s saved from a capsized boat by David (Benjamin Voisin), a slightly older teenager who doesn’t fear death at all. Friendship gives way to passionate romance, but the clues Ozon sets up (he’s trying to work in thriller mode at times here, and it’s an interesting position) tells us that something inherently tragic happened between the flashbacks of their romance in the dog days of August and the colder present day, where Alex is alone.

As Alex is pressured by the police to remember the last few months before David’s death—in which he is a prime suspect—Ozon tackles nostalgia and the idea of rose-tinted glasses head on, questioning whether the realizations that come from the end of an relationship are more important than the happy memories of love. Summer of 85 is a well-crafted, moving story of young heartbreak that will resonate with many. 


Chicago International Film Festival

coleduffy View All →

21, born and raised in Boston. Mamma Mia wine mom personality. Jerry Gogosian of the film world.

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