Back from Locarno which was surprisnigly good this year. I may expand on some of these if I have time, but hese were the higlights:
Surprisingly, the competition yielded no less than five movies I wholeheartedly recommend (in ascending order). In Revengers Tragedy
(yeah, that´s the correct spelling), Alex Cox enters the realm of modernized play adaptions (drama-turning-farce in protofuturistic Liverpool industry quarters with ye olde punks): the first half is, as per genre, way too static, if nicely ornamental and at least has some of Cox´ irreverent trademark humour which lingers unpredicatbly somewehere inbetween childish and fiendishly clever. But in the second half it all comes together, speed and wit increasing, and the modernization begins to make sense (I especially liked the sarcastic Lady Di analogies). Makes for a very fun, but not outstanding film - weren´t it for the best opening credits sequence I´ve seen in years. Tan de repente/Suddenly
, a black&white debut by Diego Lerman once more proves that Argentinia has the world´s best cinema at the moment: an offhand realist tragicomedy that never hits a false note. Szép Napok/Pleasant Days
, another amazing first film from a very young director, this time from Hungary, reminds me of Austrian master Ulrich Seidl in its extreme physical presence and alternation of distancing, precisely framed, static shots and involving, unmediated handcamerawork. Chronicling the lives of a handful of doomed, semi-Bressionan youths, it´s just a tad too long, but an uncomfortably raw experience, nevertheless. If Caroline Ducey, the talented lead of Romance
, doesn´t get the actor´s award for her unpretentious, difficult (mostly close-ups) portrayal of the heroine of La Cage
- a woman undertaking a slow, meticulously choreographed journey of repentance that quietly reaches dizzying intensity - it would be a disgrace. Alain Raoust, yet another feature debutante, was the second best film of the festival for me (for some, it was the best), and, coincidentally it evokes what might possibly become the double feature of the decade (with the Dardennes´ Le fils
). Still, the real wonder is the new Gus van Sant, Gerry
, wildly controversial among critics - like Assayas´ equally notorious Demonlover
at Cannes, it´s a totally daring move. It mainly consists of Matt Damon and Casey Affleck going through the desert to Arvo Pärt music or natural sound and it´s funny and beautiful at first, exhausting and beautiful afterwards and disturbing and beautiful towards the end. Psychological explanation attempts and rebuttals abounded, but didn´t interest me at all: I appreciate this for picturing an experience: it´s more about landscape and rhythm than about its deliberately enigmatic story pieces.
In sidebars, the videocompetition offered intervention documentarist Nick Broomfield´s best film in years, Biggie & Tupac
, which profits greatly from a reduction of his intusion strategy shtick - the hilarity of the odd occasion feels more earned; of course it also has a great conspiraby-buff storyline and fascinating characters in interviews. But the big deal was Guy Maddin´s: Dracula: Pages From The Virgin Diaries
, a b/w silent with occasional sound effects that is based on a perfomance by the Winnipeg Ballet Group, but is transferred into an amazingly lyrical Maddinverse - another silent classic full to the brim with amazing compositions, fluid Russian montage and Maddin´s typically weird sense of humour. His use of video is as assured as his use of film; he even applies little tinted effects, most prominently of course red blood.
The Piazza Grande section, as usual chock-full with suspicious crowd-pleasers, but uncomparable for its audience feeling (up to 10.000 in an open air on the town´s square - I might almost kick my ass that I didn´t see Lagaan
there last year, but it was the chance in a lifetime to see Fuller´s House of Bamboo
: it paid off), had all kinds of clunkers: For instance Novo
, an entertainigly paced, carefully crafted, soulless Memento/Amelie/Run Lola Run
-style film by Jean-Pierre Limosin, that, altough it didn´t take the Adrian Lyne trappings too seriously, petered out rather quick nevertheless. (Eduardo Noriega has no short term memory so a lot of desirable young women want to fuck him, including Nathalie Richard.) Birdseye
, a Swiss/American co-production plays like The Usual Suspects
for the thinking impaired: cheap, ugly jokes in tv format - the latter almost literally, which is probably why the makers, seeing it doesn´t work, tried incompetently to label it a media satire. Nevertheless it provided my favourite film from the festival: Leaving in the middle of the press screening of the slick, familiar Iranian competition entry, I entered the toilet where Fred Ward, who´d starred fearlessly in that sorry mess, was casually greeting me with a frendly "Hi!" and waving one hand while urinating. (In keeping up with that topic, my second favourite experience was when an Austrian collegue strolled out of Mac Donald´s where he´d been foor a leak convulsing with laughter: If you pissed, an advertisement for Pearl Harbor
began to glow.) Still, there was L´Armata Brancaleone/For Love Of Gold
, Mario Monicelli´s still fresh, inventive comedy about the middle ages: a weird mixture of Don Quichotte, Monty Python (before there was Monty Python), comedia de´ll arte with stunning comic perfs by Vittorio Gassman and Gian Maria Volonte, the occasional SF-nun-outfit and its very own sense of humour, including, palpably, but unfortunately not translatable in the subtitles, much Italian wordplay. (Chosen by the old Cahiers du Cinema - who had presented Miller´s Crossing
last year - competitor Positif who got one of this year´s Leopards of honor - Sydney Pollack the other - for its 50th birthday. Incidentally, I met the editor, Michel Ciment and he raved about Ulrich Seidls Dog Days
- Zur Lage
whose strongest segment Seidl made, played at the Cineastes de Present section.) The animated adaption of Corto Maltese
gets the Pratt look, feel and colors right and sent me off into trippy, mysterious memories of my late teenage years, when I´d discovered the comics, but objectively it´s probably not much more than well done. It´s nice to see a respectable cartoon for adults that´s not from Japan for once, though. I have several minor misgivings about Insomnia
, many of them because of the script and not so many about the mechanical aspects Nolan´s filmmaking which may be the reason why this was the first film of his that has entertained me throughout.
That it´s still an embarrasingly correct version of Touch of Evil
was brought to mind constantly by the sensaton of the festical: the retrospective dedicated to Allan Dwan. They managed to get over 40 films together; due to evil programming I managed to see only about 15. I didn´t see any of the silents, but most of his remarkable, ultra-cheap B-work in the 50s. Masterpieces among them: The Woman They Almost Lynched
, a delirious, almost deconstructive western (Dwan: "I didn´t tell the actors of the comedy aspects in the material") - a similar delirious effect is achieved by the pure speed of the´ 46 farce Getting Gertie´s Garter
;The River´s Edge
an ultra-taut psychological suspenser with Ray Milland and Anthony Quinn at ther best; Slightly Sacrlet
, a technicolor (master DP John Alton almost always on board) noir compendium. And of course the ever-amazing Silver Lode
, the film that dwarves High Noon
, not only has one of the greatest scripts ever, but is the pefectly orchastrated model of Dwan´s incredible economy that puts him alongside Hawks: when you see a film of his it´s impossible to imagine it done any better, more concise or more resonant - always given the circumstances which range from the super big-budget Tyrone Power vehicle Suez
(´38) to Enchanted Island
, a cheesy, yet poetic and irresitstible South Seas potboiler with shades of Taboo
and Mutiny on the Bounty
in which Dana Andrews carves the autobiographical hero of Melville´s "Typee" in Mexican settings and iconic, cheap decor (´58, his penultimate film). Alas, his last one, which I always wanted to see, The Most Dangerous Man Alive
, is playing as I type; on the good side, I finally caught another one of those rare finds, George Miller´s magnificent early short Violence in the Cinema - Pt. 1
in which a quasi-academic monolouge on movie violence by an expert referencing then recent works - A Clockwork Orange, Straw Dogs
- as well as classics like Battleship Potemkin
goes hand in hand with mutilations he effects or are effected upon him; the result is both creepy and hilarious. After four minutes or so the narrator has one half of his head blown off, but soon he mumbles on; ten more minutes to go before ´he shuts up when he´s finally set on fire - all this made even more disturbing because of the intersection with the text.
Which means I only caught one film of the retro with Indian films (Sholay
on the big screen the day before I arrived. Arrrgh!): Ardh Satar/Half Truth
a protracted, realistic psychological portrayal of a violent cop. Two things stand out: its unflinching insistence on abusive, institutonal violence - the way the police comes off here, you might mistake this for Pakistani propaganda - and a brilliant lead performance by Om Puri who even looks like James Woods in this one (it made him a star).
Prizes will be announced in 16 hours - fearfully I´ve picked up the rumour that Bela Tarr likes the reportedly awful German entry (Ian Dilthey who had a 60-minute shot film in competition that was heavy enough aleready, thouh it was not an unsympathetic work). Oh yeah, and I missed that Sundance winner thing by Rebecca Miller, Secretary, Signs
and The Bourne Identity
, but I was assured that James Spader rocks in the only one I would have cared about to catch hadn´t I benn infected with Dwan fever.