Thursday, May 22, 2008

Day 8

Friends: I was looking forward to "The Delta," a Hungarian film about incest in an isolated waterland, as much as any film on this year's schedule. The director's previous film, "Joanna," was easily the most audacious film here two years ago, an operatic tale of a nurse in a hospital who cures terminal patients by having sex with them. And the early word on "The Delta" was that it was another exceptional effort having won awards at Hungary's recent film festival,

In contrast to the outrageous excesses of "Joanna" this was restrained, minimalist film-making with little dialogue and not a great deal going on, just a lot of nail pounding as the young brother and sister, who've only just recently met, build first a long pier in the waterlands of "The Delta" and then start in on a house. Their affection is much restrained and mostly just suggested. Their living together in isolation disturbs the locals. Sometimes such minimalist fare works and often it doesn't. This is more dull and dreary than poetic and poignant. It was a disappointment, not only in tone, but with its occasional flares of violence.

Mike Tyson wasn't the only titanic athlete to attend this year's fest and to be featured in a documentary. Soccer great Maradonna was also in attendance with Serbian director Kusturika's documentary on him. And next year Michael Jordan could be here as Spike Lee announced plans of doing a documentary on him. Lee is here seeking funding for it a WWII pic he just finished, showing eight minutes of it to buyers. He says there will be African Americans in his war movie, unlike Clint Eastwood's Iwo Jima pair.

Kusturica has an ego to match Spike Lee's and Maradonna's and features himself as much in his documentary as he does Maradonna. Its more like hanging out with Maradonna than giving his full story as James Tobeck did so well in Tyson, keeping himself totally out of the way even though he was more a friend of Tyson's than Kusturika was of Maradonna. They don't even share a language. He communicates to him in English with a Spanish translator. The movie is heavy on music, Kusturika's, an entertaining song by Maradonna about his life story and the Sex Pistols. "God Save the Queen" is played repeatedly throughout the movie, partially to ridicule Britain and their claiming of the Falkland Islands off the shore of Argentina. Kusturika spent a couple of years trying to get enough footage to complete this movie, commenting at one point that he almost felt like a stalker. He pads the movie with excerpts from many of his own movies that remind him of aspects of Maradonna's life. It was entertaining and watchable, but all too much of a vanity project that one expects more from unknown directors.

"Snow" explored Kusturika's home region, the breakup of Yugoslavia. Taking place in Bosnia in 1997 it focused on a handful of woman in a rural area that has lost all its men to the war. The women are struggling to survive and live not knowing the fate of their husbands and fathers and brothers. It very well depicts their life and region and adds the drama of developers wanting their land.

Africa is the subject of the Italian documentary "Maybe God is Ill" based on the book of the same name. This began as if it could be something exceptional featuring the music of a South African singer bemoaning the ills of her country. Her and other's music is interspersed throughout and there is lots of beyond the ordinary commentary. I thought it could turn into a Chris Marker film essay, but that was too much to hope for. It was still very worthwhile. Early on the documentarian's driver advises them not to roll their windows up as they drive around Johannesburg, as the windows of their car won't shatter so easily if they are left a crack open. Among other things, the filmmakers take a portable movie theater to villagers and show them an astounding old Italian movie that I would very much like to see myself, "Miracle in Milan" with people flying over the town's renowned cathedral on broomsticks.

I was drawn to "Absurdistan" not only by its title but the blurb describing it as a battle between the women of a town and the men. The men are lazy creatures who only want to drink and have sex and don't do anything when the pipeline of water leading to the village slows to a dribble. The women declare "no water, no sex," and set up a barbed wire fence through the middle of town to separate the sexes. This farcical tale had the pomposity, silliness and flare of a Kusturica film.

Its always a danger that there will be no English subtitles at the Arcades theater. That usually isn't a risk when its showing a French film, but that wasn't the case with "A Faint Trembling of the Landscape." My French is good enough to make sense of a film if I have to read French subtitles, but not good enough to catch more than a word or phrase if all I have is dialogue. This film was supposed to be about a geological incident that causes the locals of a town to reflect on higher issues. I had no sense of that. I could tell though that it was less than a mediocre film.

Subtitles weren't much necessary for "Liverpool" an Argentinian film about a sailor who returns to his home in Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America to search for his mother. There was virtually no dialogue in this film, just extended shots of the lead doing the most mundane of things--putting on his clothes, eating and perpetually swigging hard alcohol. It was all tedium. It was nice to have another snow-covered landscape to gaze upon though.

Later, George

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