Openingsfilm: Essential Killing, 4, Jerzy Skolimowski, Based on a newspaper article,
this almost entirely silent thriller concerns an Afghan captured by US forces and
transported to an anonymous European country. He manages to escape but has to survive
the harsh winter landscape. I liked this movie for the great landscapes and the original
theme. It deserved a better story and ending however.
Thursday 27 January
Invierno de los raros, 3, Rodrigo Guerrero, In the cold and damp winter in the heart
of the Argentine outback, far from the bustle of modern life, people routinely do
what they did yesterday too. In this beautifully shot, micro-kaleidoscopic debut,
the promising Guerrero follows six characters for whom something starts to change
one day. The film is ok but did not leave a lasting impression.
Winter vacation, 4, Li Hongqi, This hilarious minimalist film from poet/writer/filmmaker
Li Hongqi won the Golden Leopard. Deadly dry humour, inimitable dialogues and long,
sad silences depict the world of sharp-witted, layabout school pupils and their parents
in a wintry Inner Mongolia.
With his third film, Winter Vacation, the poet, writer and film maker Li Hongqi won
a Golden Leopard in Locarno. The film is largely set on the last day of the winter
holiday in a dismal small industrial town in North China. To say that little happens
is an understatement. A group of school children who are getting bored and hanging
around aimlessly do not even have the energy to cause trouble.
Generally fixed and distant camera angles are used by Li to record the slow, repetitive,
boring existence of the villagers. Maybe the least enviable is Zhou Zhangxin, a boy
who sits in the room with his depressed grandfather, who won’t let him play outside.
When a girl asks him what he wants to be later, he says: 'An orphan.'One of the pleasant
surprises of the festival!!!
Bad posture, 4, Malcolm Murray, The sleepy town of Albuquerque, encircled by high
mountains and dusty deserts, in a suffocating summer: the perfect backdrop for this
raw, realistic American indie western.
Two young men go off the straight and narrow when they steal a car. Flo, who has
just lost his job, feels more and more guilty about it. Certainly because he has
an eye on car's owner, the sexy and provocative Marisa. And he, unlike the husky
Trey, is pretty clumsy with women. Should he stay loyal to his friend or choose love?
It was a funny movie untill I had to leave due to bad crab or flu (still not sure).
Saturday 29 January
Breakfast, lunch, diner, 3, Singapore, Wang Jing, Anocha Suwichakornpong and
Kaz Cai. This film trilogy by female Asian directors focuses on love. The stories
from China (Wang), Thailand (Suwichakornpong) and Singapore (Cai) are varied in tone,
but all concentrate on mealtimes. Also, all the female protagonists are called Mei,
we keep hearing ‘Who wants to marry me?’ and in the background we hear the news of
the murder of Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan.
A young woman and her boyfriend have breakfast. She is visiting him in Nanjing. While
they roam around, they discuss their mutual past and the future. The lunch is lighter
in tone: two teenagers discuss life and love, bored as only teenagers can be. The
dinner is in Singapore. In this melancholy story, a man looks for love and a lonely
old woman reflects on her past. Ok, but not exceptional
Grande Hotel, 4, Lotte Stoops, Belgium, In the 1950s, a majestic Grande Hotel was
built in Beira in the former Portuguese colony Mozambique, as if it were the Côte
d´Azur. It was doomed from the start and has now been stripped of everything of value:
this film is a portrait of a skeleton and of some of the 3500 people who live there
now. It was once a five-star hotel with 110 spacious rooms, an Olympic swimming pool
and a luxury restaurant. It was a Grande Hotel designed as an undulating cake, situated
in Beira on the coast of Mozambique and, in all its pomp and circumstance, it represented
the haughtiness of colonialism.
Today it is a grey ruin. Over 3500 Mozambiquans have sought refuge between the wide
corridors and imposing staircases. Everything of value in the building has been demolished
and sold; only the concrete frame remains. Without water or electricity, the inhabitants
make the best of the situation. Small enterprises blossom, but there’s also violence
Lotte Stoops portrayed several of the present inhabitants of the Grande Hotel and
in Portugal visited a former guest who still has fond memories of her time in Mozambique.
A harrowing yet also fascinating and impressive story of a dream that was doomed
to become a nightmare. Great documentary!!
The extraordinary adventures of mr West, 5, Russia, This film marks the birth of
the Red Western. Made by Lev Kuleshov, teacher of the Moscow film school and pioneer
of Soviet montage, the actors included students Boris Barnet and Vladimir Pudovkin,
on the brink of their own careers. With live music by the Metropole Orchestra.
The film’s main comic target was the political divide between Soviet Russia and the
United States, caused, Kuleshov suggests, by international misunderstandings. Although
many Americans in the 1920s may have feared the intentions of Revolutionary Russia,
Kuleshov saw around him a Russian population that embraced America’s cultural exports,
especially its movies. It is telling that Kuleshov applied an American model of film
making to a Soviet film that he hoped might help bridge the political gap between
the United States and the USSR.
Great performance by Metropole orchestra and 13 composers. And even the movie was
Sunday 30 January
Kids programmae was extraordinary funny. 6 shorts where the kids could react after
Bleak niight, 4, Yoon Sung-Hyun, Korea, His film starts as a whodunit. A schoolchild
at a boys' school, Ki-Tae, has died. The father, who realises all too well how absent
he was in bringing up his son, wonders what happened. He has conversations with Ki-Tae’s
friends, but they do not seem eager to say very much. The fragile Hee-June, who to
avoid conflict has gone to another school, advises him to look for Dong-Yoon, who
has known Ki-Tae from childhood. But Dong-Yoon has disappeared without trace. The
film slowly reveals how the friendship broke down - and how mutual relationships
were not as expected. In the beginning the film is slow and it is difficult to distinguish
between all actors. But after all it was a good movie and worth seeing.
Tuesday 1 February
A Stoker, 5, Alexey Balabanov, Russia, The stoker is a veteran of the Afghan war:
a retired major and hero of the USSR who spends his life in an old boiler room, writing
a book and shovelling coal into the boiler. Every now and then, an old veteran friend
pays him a visit, to burn something other than coal. These things seem to be human
bodies, but the stoker doesn't seem to care. His friend tells him they were bad people.
His beautiful daughter, who stays in her father’s flat, comes to the boiler room
only to ask for money. The only people really interested in the stoker’s work and
writings are two little girls who visit and ask curious questions. The boiler is
a symbol present in all houses, and fire destroys everything in the end. Having made
a film about the 1970s (Cargo 200), Alexei Balabanov this time evokes the atmosphere
of St. Petersburg in the early 1990s. He does so in a straightforward yet uncompromising
and unsettling way, whereby gangland liquidations seem like the most common thing
in the world. But what a style and how beautifully shot. Agaian a masterpiece. Best
film of the festival.
Wednesday 2 february
19.30, 13 Assassins, 4, Japan, With 13 Assassins, a remake of Kudo Eiichi's film
from 1963, Miike Takashi makes a very successful attempt to match up to the granddad
of all samurai films, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. In 1844 Japan, the murderous
urges of Lord Naritsugu, the brother of the feudal commander, start getting out of
hand. In his sadistic excesses, he has for instance amputated all of a woman’s limbs
and her tongue. The noble samurai Shinzaemon Shimada is hired to remove the Lord.
That’s not an easy task because the target is protected by an equally merciless fighter.
Shimada persuades 12 brave samurai to take on this suicide mission. Together with
the inhabitants of a mountain village, they set one booby-trap after another. When
Lord Naritsugu arrives unexpectedly with 300 men, it turns into a David against Goliath
struggle: a heroic and bloody battle for life and death lasting no less than 45 minutes.
And 300 men died? Forget it, at least 3000 killings in 1 movie is a bit too much.
Kill Bill squared!
Thursday 3 February
Love in a puff, 3, Pang Ho Cheung, The best gossip, jokes and stories are passed
on during cigarette breaks. Since a law banned smoking in all buildings in Hong Kong
in 2007, nicotine addicts gather around public ashtrays that look like rubbish bins.
It is round one of these 'Hot Pots' that cosmetics salesgirl Cherie meets her match
in the cool Jimmy. After an exciting chat, they exchange telephone numbers. In the
week that follows, they talk and text while enjoying dozens of ciggies, feel increasingly
attracted to one another. Finally, a romance blossoms. Interviews in front of the
camera about smoking habits and relationships and conversations around the Hot Pot
are juxtaposed with this love story. Sometimes a bit funny, but not my kind of humour.
Tuesday after Christmas, 4, Romania, Radu Muntean’s fourth film once again focuses
in on a microcosm: this time the world of married couple Adriana and Paul - who have
an eight-year-old daughter - and Raluca, Paul's mistress. Adriana and Paul are not
happy together, but she is unaware of his long-term affair. It is only when the two
women meet by chance, that Paul understands that he cannot go on like this. Shortly
before the holidays, he tells his wife about the affair. This presents him with a
dilemma: he must decide before Christmas whether he wants to stay with Adriana or
carry on with Raluca.In long, considered shots Muntean shows, without commentary
or passing judgment, how people get into morally perilous situations without making
a conscious choice. And what kinds of dilemmas they face when a well-considered choice
has to be made. A classical, true-to-life drama about love, lust, guilt and jealousy.
Not very much happens in this film, but it is very well shot.
If the seed doesn’t die, 3, Romania, Sinisa Dragin, Romania about 200 years ago.
Peasants drag a wooden church across a frozen lake to their village. They’re not
allowed to build one, because they are Orthodox Christians. The Balkan region in
the post-communist era. A Serbian man is looking for the body of his son, who died
in a car crash in Romania. A Romanian man wants to find his daughter, who was forced
to work in a brothel in Kosovo. They meet by the illegal border crossing on the River
What follows is a depressing, black tragicomedy in which there is plenty of drinking
and prostitution, corpses are sold for a thousand euros and corruption flourishes.
All against the background of the turbulent political history of the Balkans with
continually fragmented nation-states and a Babylonian mix of languages.
That the region has always been the site of fierce and often bloody conflicts is
made clear by Sinisa Dragin (Tiger Award winner in 2002 with Every Day God Kisses
Us on the Mouth) in this incomparable succession of absurd dramatic situations.
A bit overdone, especially at the end, but still a very entertaining Balkan Baroque
Friday 4 February
Paraisos artificiales, 4, Yulene Olaizola, Mexico, Luisa - 25 and addicted to 'chiva'
(heroin) - retires to a hotel by the sea near Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico. During
her stay - for more than a week - she meets the old, mysterious, heavy-duty cannabis
user Salomon, in whom she thinks she recognises a fellow soul. A bond develops between
the two of them.
Artificial Paradises, named after an anthology by the French poet Baudelaire from
1860, is a melodrama imbued with drugs and drink. Not much is explained: dialogues
are scarce (although there is a bit of singing). The young Mexican director Yulene
Olaizola, who had previously made short films and documentaries, tells her story
with very atmospheric images. The photography is beautiful, although the landscape
is not the Veracruz from holiday folders.
Totos tus muertos, 4, Carlos Moreno, Colombia, The story is gruesomely simple: a
simple farmer finds an enormous pile of corpses early one Sunday morning in his corn
field. Shocked and furious, he reports it to the local authorities, but they have
good reasons not to want to acknowledge the affair. You see: it’s election day.
Afraid that a national scandal could take place in their backyard, one that could
disrupt the elections, the mayor and the police chief try to deny the affair and
shrug it off. But a mountain of corpses doesn’t disappear of its own accord, even
in Colombia. And news like that is not easy to keep secret.
Moreno uses this brilliant idea for a worrying allegory about the situation in the
countryside of Colombia, which is still plagued by a lengthy civil war. But the lesson
can also be applied to many other places where poverty, violence, lawlessness and
power politics go hand-in-hand. The aptly surreal and satirical tone, audible on
the expressive soundtrack and visible in the beautiful visual inventions, does not
get in the way of the thrills. On the contrary.
Surprise film, 2, was rabbit hole with Nicole Kidman. This film only showed how good
the other films of the IFFR actually are. Pure hollywood cliche!
Saturday 5 february
My Perestroika, 4, UK, Robin Hesman, The two history teachers we hear in the documentary
My Perestroika know all about this. In their late 30s, Borya and Lyuba Meyerson
now teach their students a completely different version of history from the one they
learned when they were at school.
Together with three classmates from back then, they reminisce about the unusual times
in which they grew up. Their sheltered childhood, in which they sang the national
anthem in front of the TV, is mentioned in passing, as is the collapse of the Soviet
Union while they were teenagers. They are children of a world that has disappeared.
Hungry for information, they consumed piles of books, but political confusion makes
the soul feel empty. What remains of their fatherland?
Surviving Life, 5, Jan Svankmajer, Chech republic, At the beginning of Surviving
Life, director Jan Svankmajer appears on screen. He didn't have enough money for
a completely live-action film, he says, so he occasionally added some animation.
That's a joke, of course, because the surrealist Svankmajer (1934) is world famous
for his idiosyncratic mixture of animation and live action. This is where Terry Gilliam
and the Brothers Quay found their inspiration.
Svankmajer’s first film in five years, since the death of his wife and regular co-worker
Eva Svankmajerova, takes a slightly biographical approach. The protagonist Eugene
lives both in the real world and in his own, lucid world of dreams. Both worlds are
characterised by Svankmajer’s unmistakable black humour and surrealistic settings.
Eugene falls in love with a woman from his dreams and asks for help from a psychoanalyst,
seated under the quarrelling figures of Freud and Jung.