Films watched at this edition of the festival: 14 features (four of them seen before) + one short
Highlights among new films seen: My Father My Lord (post here), Lonesome Trees, Driving to Zigzigland (post here), Crossing the Dust, Falafel
Disappointments (apart from The Quest, which I wrote about here): Tender is the Wolf, A Few Days Later (Both in the Asian-Arab competition, but neither did anything for me. Except for one scene in A Few Days Later where the protagonist, a down-on-her-luck Iranian lady, takes out a crowbar and vents her accumulated frustrations on a neighbour’s car that has been blocking her parking space. Totally identified with that bit. Much vicarious satisfaction was had.)
Highlights among films previously seen
- Ozu’s spellbinding Tokyo Story, which, unlike some of the other Japanese classics at the fest, was screened in a perfect print. Have seen it twice before but was once again completely engrossed by the story, the restrained emotions (the manner in which the disappointed parents continue to say all the right things and gloss over their children’s neglect reminds me of Kazuo Ishiguro’s understated narratives, where there’s always plenty going on beneath a quiet surface) and the performances – especially by Chishu Ryu as the father and the lovely Setsuko Hara as the widowed daughter-in-law. And of course, Ozu’s austere moviemaking style and careful shot-composition. Shamya writes here about the lack of stylisation in Ingmar Bergman’s films, but compared to Ozu even Bergman is like Godard at his most avant-garde. (At any rate, it’s a superficial, one-dimensional definition of “stylisation” that we’re using here.) In Tokyo Story the camera moves only twice in the entire film, and one of those is easy to miss because it’s a brief shot that pans in the same direction, and at the same slow speed, as two characters who are walking across the screen.
- Hitchcock’s The Birds: more on this later, but for now enough to say that introducing this great film to my wife helped me realise a long-awaited goal: to see firsthand the effect a Hitchcock movie can still have on a viewer who doesn’t already know everything there is to know about the story, the plot twists and the setpieces (as I did when I first saw much of his work). It was also a reminder – as if I needed reminding – of how much more there is to his art than the title “Master of Suspense” (or the more condescending “clever craftsman”) can suggest. The character development, the conversations and the build-ups in this film are every bit as compelling as any of the actual setpieces (more compelling if you’re watching it for the third or fourth time).
Movies missed: too many to list, but had in particular been looking forward to Shame, Maati Maay and Desert Dream (which won best film in the Asian-Arab competition section). Pity.
Biggest gripe: the poor prints of some of the older Japanese films, especially Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu and Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. In both cases the print was just too dark, which made it very frustrating (though one could still appreciate the beauty of such shots as the boat scene in Ugetsu and the joyful dog with the human hand in its mouth in Yojimbo).