Another few films. One, Kantoku Shikkaku, by famed pink (porn) filmmaker, Hirano Katsuyuki. A careless hand-held DV work of his star, and love, Hayashi Yumika, as they take a bicycle ride from Tokyo to the northern most island of Japan. Along the way we get some bio-backfill of how he began in the pink business with her, she became a star, he fell in love (sort of), and as they take the journey to the north it’s been six years. They fight, camp out, phone home, talk about their pasts, all of this done in sloppy wind-popping DV. Despite the cinematic crudeness it is interesting because she is a weird one, as is her mother, and as is he. They return to Tokyo, years pass, they see each other once in a while. Dropping in for her 35th birthday she doesn’t answer the door, or cell calls, but what the hell, she’s nuts. Returning the next day, more no Yumika. The next day the same, and noting the dog in the apartment, they get a key from the landlord and find the stinking body. Landlord flips out, as does Hirano. He stops making films for five years, and resumes to finish this one. As cinema, it is a piece of junk; as pathological evidence it is fascinating and sets off all kind of internal buzzers about this guy’s morality and ethics, about whether what happened is precisely because he is always acting for the camera (and forcing others to do so as well). Whether the film works for him as a corrective for his evident guilt complex is as questionable as whether the audience’s interest is equally perverse and sick.
And then saw Patrico Guzman’s Nostalgia for the Light, which I think has been released most places. It is an elegant, perhaps too much so, film-essay on Chile’s recent history, Pinochet’s disappeared, coupled to a cosmic view using the Atacama desert, home to the world’s best telescopes thanks to its high dry air, and likewise home to Pinochet’s murders, preserved by the same atmosphere, as a fulcrum. For the most part Guzman weaves these strands together effectively though here and there he gets bogged down in overdone visuals and maybe a touch too much National Geographic-type gloss in the imagery. Some of the visuals are downright hokey, and some of which owe too much to Star Wars‘ ideas of the cosmos rather than science’s astronomy. He errs in tacking on a kind of “happy ending” which doesn’t convince at all.
And the last two, seen today as I came down with a nasty cold/flu of some kind:
Nomad’s Home, by Iman Kamel, from Egypt. A kind of lyrical essay which follows a Bedouin woman into the Sinai desert, and then moves to Cairo. It mixes thoughts and information of this woman, Selema Gabali, along with things about the director. The imagery strains to be lyrical, but is often simply sloppy. Voice over, quotes and music and “sound design” all combine to overload the imagery with a weight it cannot carry. Instead one feels the tension of trying to get the cinematic imagery to express something it can’t itself express. The list of credits confirms the sense of a film made by a committee: separate camera person, editor, co-author, sound designer, composer, and others. It tries, but doesn’t really settle in to a coherent work. Fortunately only 61 minutes.
And then Position among the Stars, by Leonard Retel Helmrich. An HBO film starting in an Indonesian village, it moves to Jakarta, following a family. I watched for about an hour getting more and more irritated at the transparently manipulative directing and camera-work, and finally, more or less disgusted, I left. The director claims it is in the cinéma vérité manner, but the obvious intrusions of the director and the camerawork make this a dubious claim. I would be more inclined to call it a cinema of lies, made particularly objectionable because of its faux pose as one of truth.
I missed one film in the competition, Nénette, by Frenchman Nicolas Philibert. Something about an orangutang in the Paris zoo. Maybe it will win a prize and I’ll get a chance to see it.
Tomorrow is the wrap up, ceremony, awards given. First prize is $25,000 or so, then I think 10K and a few 2K. I don’t think competitions are really appropriate for arts, but it seems to be the usual way of stacking things up.
Oh, and I neglected to mention my screening. The first was to a relatively small audience, early in the festival. Only a few left. (Later, over the weekend things picked up.) The response seemed very favorable with a nice Q&A. Second screening, with many more viewers, I didn’t stay for, but a back-of-cinema look just before it ended seemed to show very few left. Someone said less than 10. Nice long discussion, and as in Rotterdam somehow this slow, modest film really seems to work on people in a magical way. Jurors too? Tune in tomorrow….