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Byron Shire
February 26, 2021

Cinema review: Transit

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Beaucoup de bouquets are once more in order for J’aimee Skippon-Volke and the crew that bring us the Byron Bay International Film Festival. Because cinephiles cannot rely entirely on camp Marvel violence and cheesy rom-coms for stimulation, J’aimee has made it her mission to celebrate the art of film by screening original and provocative, weird and wonderful features from around the globe. German director Christian Petzold’s Transit is a bit like Groundhog Day meets Franz Kafka. The place is Marseille, the time is now – or maybe the day after tomorrow. Paris has fallen to neo-Nazis and those who can have fled to France’s second city in the hope of finding a passage by sea to safety in the West. Among the refugees is Georg (Franz Rogowski – a dead ringer for Joaquin Phoenix), assuming the identity of a novelist who has committed suicide. In Marseille, he inadvertently comes into contact with Marie (Paula Beer), the novelist’s wife, and Richard (Godehard Giese), a doctor who is Marie’s current lover. All three of them are hoping to obtain visas that will allow them to sail to Mexico. Officialdom and missed boats leave them stuck in existential limbo, with Lyon taken by the unnamed putsch and time running out. Despite the contemporary setting, the movie has a claustrophobic, 1940s feel and a pungent hint of Ilsa and Victor before they arrived at Rick’s Bar in Casablanca (it might easily have been shot in B&W, and there is no suggestion that there might be flights out of the city). With the rise of the Right in an increasingly unstable world, this is an edgy movie that never lets you be certain of anything. And then there is the mystery of the narrator – who is he? And how does he know so much about Georg? Or is Georg merely a character in a story by the novelist whose name he has taken? The Festival opens on Friday 12 October – check screening times and dates and try to fit this one onto your list.

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