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Our second day of viewing started off with a program of short films, the first of which by Rahmin Bahrani, a current “indie” darling of the critics, was called Plastic Bag and to me was an extremely annoying, cloying story of a plastic bag, voiced over by Werner Herzog, shot in a dazzling commercial manner, and purporting to be a critique of our use of these near-indestructable items.  But the film was an embodiment of what it was criticizing, a glossy, costly example of utterly misguided media.   The over bearing voice-over was delivered loudly, hectoringly,  the film more a talky illustrated slide show than cinema.  Irritating and ultimately pissed me off.

Condolences, Ying Liang

Second on the program was quite another story, Madame Butterfly, from Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang.   It began with a very long well done handheld shot in the very interesting and busy Kuala Lumpur bus terminal (where Marcella and I had a curious and memorable adventure involving an attempted rip-off scheme, cops, and such fun), where the protagonist, a Malay woman, wanders, calling her boyfriend, coughing periodically, attempting to buy a ticket home, but lacking enough money.  Stranded she tries to get on a bus for less or free, but is rebuffed.  This shot goes on perhaps 30 minutes.  It is ends with a cut to a close up in which she extracts a long hair from her throat. Then the woman is seen in bed, seemingly in a hotel, the camera holding on her again quite long as the light dances on the pillow and she wakens.  We see several strands of hair on the pillow.  Pretty much it – but it was fascinating, very well done, and the antithesis of the previous film’s ways.

Following were three shorts by Chinese Ying Liang, each set in the same provincial small city.  The first involved a young boy who is a troubled trouble-maker, pushed about by society as he dreams of basketball.  Affectingly done, very observant and lovely.   The next involved a young girl taking care of her grandmother who accidently locks herself out of the house, and her adventures in attempting to get back in.  Again, very touching, cleanly executed.  Lastly was one which had a prelude of pictures from a bus accident in which 15 people were killed, with stills and newspaper headlines shown.  This was followed by a single very long beautifully orchestrated and acted somewhat distant shot in which a news crew, the mayor and his entourage come to visit a grandma who has lost her family.  The camera sits high, rather distant, as neighbors, the tv crew, the entourage and others mill about, offering condolences, acting official, saying goodbye.  It was mesmerizing.   Film titles: I Love Lakers, Medicine and Condolences. All gently striking and beautifully done.  The director has done two features as well.

Huacho

Next film seen was Huacho, by a Chilean critic, photographer, journalist,.  Film is set in rural area, and narratively threads 4 different but quite associated (economic hardship, family relations) together.  Shot a bit rough, with local people doing the acting,  it was reasonably interesting, though perhaps more for sociological matters than artistic.  I was not much impressed, and contrasted it to a vaguely similar (at least in being set rurally) Chilean film we saw last year, which was very striking in its cinematic ways.

Juan Andres Stoll in his brother’s film

The following day I started off with a Uruguayan film of some interest, Hiroshima, though it was marred with a few too cute smart-ass film-school elements that undercut it.   Basically following a young man, who is a musician, around what seemed the suburbs of Montevideo, taking care of family errands, winning a lottery for a job he doesn’t want, and then wandering out to a rural area where his friends are smoking dope, and then back for a music gig at night in the city.  The film’s conceit is that we listen to his headphones when he has them on, and when people speak we do not hear them, but get title cards instead.  Overall this worked interestingly, but the film suffered from an aura of self-conscious laid-back hipness and a touch too much cleverness.  Rich kids at play, with a soundtrack of what I would guess is Uruguay’s best bands in a minimalist punk groove.

In another program of shorts were two very nice films, one Japanese, Japanese Anna, adopted from a  short story by Kawabata Yasunari by Tsubokawa Takushi.  Very nicely done little period piece, from a curious story.   The other was a for-hire job by Ermani Olmi about the wine of Valtellina, in the northern alps of Italy, called Wine’s Rock.  Beautifully observant, informative, it was marred either by a bad projection or copy as it was washed out and a bit out of focus – I complained but they seemed unable to do anything about it.

SWIMMING 10

My own Swimming in Nebraska screened twice, to modest audiences.  The first was marred by a chronic problem at Jeonju in which the sound is up way too high – in my case enough to get some break-up and distortion.  I made sure on the second screening the level was proper and it sounded fine.  Audience response was seemingly positive – almost no walk-outs, some good questions during Q&A for which most stayed.   James Benning saw the first screening and seemed quite positive; John Gianvito saw the second and likewise seemed favorably impressed.  After the second screening, thanks to the lady doing the translating bringing up the DVD’s I’d brought, sold a handful of them, one to a mother and her young son (10?) who were bowled over, had lots of questions, and bought Swimming and another film, as did another woman.  Somehow it worked I guess.   Now to send to some other festivals.

A last report in a few days.

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