All You Can Eat Buddha; Canada, Cuba
The feature film debut of the French-Canadian cinematographer Ian Lagarde, All You Can Eat Buddha takes place on a Caribbean island resort called El Palacio. It was shot in Cuba, and what dialogue there is spoken is mostly in French.
The film concerns the life of a man named Mike, and his arrival at El Palacio. Mike is a big man. He enjoys eating, and does it with great aplomb. He’s also diabetic, very quiet, has powers of some kind or another, and attracts women to him with ease. Despite Mike’s steady and quiet deportment, his aura captivates the world around him and, for lack of a better way to put it, he becomes a religious figure on the island.
Forgive me for relying on the factual details in this review, but, All You Can Eat Buddha really has to be experienced to be understood. Somewhere between the second miracle and the first appearance of the talking octopus, I realized two things:
1. All You Can Eat Buddha had me totally mesmerized. Lagarde relies heavily on imagery and sound, and in doing so casts a hypnotic spell. I imagine what we experience in the film is akin to what the men and women pulled into Mike’s orbit experience as well. Uncertain about what exactly is happening but totally unable to look away.
Finnish film editor Mikko Makela makes his directorial debut with A Moment in the Reeds. The film is set at a remote lake house in Finland. A young man named Leevi returns home from his studies in Paris to help his father renovate the dilapidated old cottage. Leevi’s dad has called for help from a handyman service, and answering the call is Tareq, an asylum seeker from Syria who took the physical labor because it’s closest to the work he did back home as an architect.
Shortly after Tareq arrives, Leevi’s father gets whisked off due to reasons, and the two young men are left alone. What follows is a fast-paced and sweet romance between two people of vastly different life backgrounds, bonding over their shared experiences: isolation from conservative parents, education going largely unused, mutual attraction.
A Moment in the Reeds may sound like a straightforward romance, but Makela creates something special through the simplicity of the story he tells. Reeds is minimalist in every sense. The setting never veers from the lake house, the story never leaves Leevi and Tareq. No external forces arrive to influence the outcome. Only beautiful Finnish sunsets over still waters and forests. The drama builds in the couple’s surprise at the unexpected their encounter, and their eventual need to return from passion and desire to the real-world complications of their pairing.