I always have the fabulous intentions of writing about the Festival each year but never actually get around to doing so!
For the past three Festivals I spent a good chunk of my time selling tickets. I truly believe there are fewer ways to get yourself right into the Festival, you are the Festival. This was the first year in the last four Festivals that I attended rather than worked. It’s proving to be very expensive!
My schedule’s pretty nutty for the upcoming fall semester so I restricted myself to only two days at the Festival. Perhaps one or two additional screenings as I hear hums and haws about films.
Films watched today:
- Land of Oblivion written and directed by Michale Boganim
- J’aime regarder les filles (18 and beyond) co-written and directed by Frédéric Louf
- The First Man written and directed by Gianni Amelio
- Whores’ Glory directed by Michael Glawogger
*I had originally purchased tickets for Island President but yours truly accidentally over booked a time slot. Consequently, losing twenty bucks and missing a film!!
*I would have liked to have seen Alois Nebel. Hopefully it gets a proper run in the theatres in the months to come.
1. Land of Oblivion written and directed by Michale Boganim
I was immediately attracted to this film because it focuses on the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. I love learning through film, even if the stories are fabricated.
In all honesty, I fell asleep during this film many times. Nodding off is the least enjoyable way to watch a film, I’d rather just sleep than struggle with keeping my head up. I consequently missed quite a bit of the film because it was delivered in Ukrainian.
A few things I learned between the Director’s introduction and searching about the film online:
- The film takes place in Prypiat in northern Ukraine. Prypiat is a ghost town as a result of the Chernobyl accident in 1986.
- In 1986, The Chernobyl Power Plant located in Chernobyl, Ukraine, experienced a failed reactor test. This resulted in a surge in power, letting out 50 tonnes of radioactive particles into the atmosphere. This accident resulted in 56 deaths and displaced around 200,000 people.
- Prypiat has been abandoned. Most buildings have not been altered since 1986. Few people live in Prypiat as a result of the accident, there are some tour groups that explore the deserted area.
- The film was shot in Prypiat.
2. J’aime regarder les filles (18 and Beyond) co-written and directed by Frédéric Louf
This was my favourite screening of the day, no questions. This film embodied the French ease and charisma that Hollywood has really lost. I think the romantic comedy in Hollywood has the potential to show the humour that French cinema uses, it’s just not present!
J’aime regarder les filles follows young kids just leaving high school. They’re wreckless and fun, but there’s something staunchly mature about all the kids. I find it hard to relate my eighteen year-old self to those portrayed in the film. Director Frédéric Louf commented before the film started, in his broken English that this film was special because it showcases young actors. He added few films feature such young leads, consequently reducing quality roles from today’s talented youth.
I disagree with this comment – perhaps it was because of his language struggles . I think that quality roles for the young just are not being written. There are plenty young actors bustling big.
This film was humourous and had loads of heart. It was French cinema outrageous but completely realistic, resulting in a fun adventure. I couldn’t help but feel the parallels of the lead character in this film, Primo (Pierre Niney) and The 400 Blows‘ main character Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), specifically drawing on the twenty-minute short Antoine et Colette. Boy wants girl, boy can’t get girl. Furthermore, the leading character was a trouble maker that means well, a character the audience could easily love, despite all of his ridiculous antics. Exactly the way Truffaut can make five films about Antoine Doinel despite his idiocy.
“J’aime regarder les filles” was a popular song in 1981 by Patrick Coutin. The film was very true to 1981 with the very prevalent theme of the 1981 presidential elections in Paris. Writer/Director Louf focused on the dichotomies between left and right wing beliefs as well as rich and poor.
*This was the international premier of the film!
3. The First Man written and directed by Gianni Amelio
Right before the beginning of this film, I was scrambling to find out last-minute information on it. I took a different approach to film selection this year, I just looked the days I had free and I looked up the synopsis for every film for that day, selecting films that interested me. I realised how different this approach was to just flipping through the program book to find films. The major difference was not having the genres visible, I wasn’t making my choice based on what was categorised as a “Special Presentation” or a “Contemporary World Cinema” film.
I chose The First Man because it was based on Algerian writer Albert Camus’ last project titled The First Man that he never actually finished. It was based on the events of his very own life.
The film was a little slow at parts but never broke my interest. The story had enough momentum to compensate for some poor editing choices.
Now, to sink my teeth into the book.
4. Whores’ Glory directed by Michael Glawogger
This has to have been one of the most interesting, captivating documentaries I’ve ever seen.
The film declares itself a triptych (pronounced Trip-Tick), or a three paneled portrait of the prostitution industry. It documents and explores three brothels in various bits of the world – Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico.
Glawogger structured the documentary in such a way where the subjects tell the story, with no narrations. This gives the impression of a first had perspective.
I thought it was really loose and unstructured, but the director picks and chooses what he would like shown. I was very hesitant to agree with the images in the film, as I think there is far more to the lives of the people shown that what we see. I suppose that could be applied to all documentaries and second hand accounts.
The film was very visual and revealing in that it really digs deep into the lives of these people. In the talks nothing is ever very personal, but you really get a feel of the environment they live in.
After watching this film, my fascination has shifted towards the stigma that follows the prostitution industry. I was describing this film the following day with a relative and she immediate wrote off the industry as something that is wrong. I’m not sure if I’m ready to settle for a negative attitude towards prostitution. Given, for myself personally, I would find that lifestyle unfulfilling, but it is how many of these people make a living. Why should I project my standards onto these folk?
I’d also like to additionally point out how difficult it was not to use condescending, demeaning words in this blurb – namely the word ‘dirty’ in referencing the type of industry prostitution is.
It was really interesting to observe the differences in clothing attire and the environments. All three very different. A few observations:
- The place they chose to display in Thailand was very removed and formal. Big money was put into The Fish Tank, a high-class brothel. While the places shown in Bangladesh and Mexico were slums or communities designated for the trade.
- The women of Bangladesh were very young.
The film’s soundtrack featured tunes by CocoRosie and PJ Harvey, two industry oddballs.