Locarno 2018. Interfaces and Headspaces

The so-called ‘desktop movie,’ a film visually told predominantly or entirely through the setup of a computer screen, has had a couple of high-profile examples over the last few years. Among these are Nacho Vigalondo’s Open Windows (2014), Patrick Cederberg and Walter Woodman’s short Noah (2013), and, most notably in terms of mainstream success, Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended (2014). 2018 would seem to be a major year for the genre, if you can call it a genre just yet, with the wide release of sequel Unfriended: Dark Web, Timur Bekmambetov’s Profile playing festivals, and now the release, through Sony, of Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching. It is worth noting that Bekmambetov also produced the two of those 2018 titles he didn’t direct, so there’s at least one benefactor devoted to making the form catch on. With the exception of something like Kevin B. Lee’s essay film Transformers: The Premake(2014), the desktop movies that have gained critical or commercial traction have tended to stick to the mode of horror. Given that the Internet’s terrors seem endless, it’s an understandable creative instinct. Searching stands out, though, as it’s firmly in the mode of an investigative thriller: after his 16-year-old daughter disappears, a desperate father (John Cho) breaks into her laptop to find any clues he can in order to find her. At this year’s Locarno Festival, Searching played late at night to up to 8,000 attendees in the open-air cinema at the Piazza Grande. In the context of the festival as a whole, an interesting comparison to the film came in the form of an entry in the festival’s Signs of Life strand, devoted to experimental cinema…

Full feature for MUBI Notebook

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