Thursday, August 09, 2007

MIFF Day 16

Day 16, and MIFF-fatigue is taking its toll. Over the length of MIFF, I booked quite a few sessions in the Neighbourhood Watch section, and there seems to be homogeny among the Asian films selected. I do like contemplative cinema in general, but in the intense context of a festival, I'm finding them a bit much of the same. Several of the films I've seen (such as yesterday's Syndromes and a Century) may make a better impression on me in a non-festival context.

Memo to myself: next year, book films from some of the sections I wouldn't normally, like this year's Full Moon Fever and Forbidden Pleasures. I want to see Teeth (which is part of Forbidden Pleasures), but didn't book it because it has a local release planned. I've heard it's a lot of fun.

I had three films booked for today, but because of the fatigue, I decided to drop two of them and do something non-film related (like car-shopping for the missus). It was a good break and I found it liberating. I rode around town on my motorbike for something other than the short ride to the city. So, I missed The Night of the Sunflowers (which Matt Clayfield tells me was OK, but nothing special), and Kim Ki-duk's Time (which others, including Matt, haven't been impressed with). The one film I saw was great.

A Man Vanishes (Ningen Johatsu, Shohei Imamura, Japan, 1967)
I found this in some ways a remarkable film, made with self-conscious introspection about cinema documentary, the role of it and the inherent dishonesty of the medium. The film's genesis was a genuine research into the phenomenon of people who simply disappear from their lives in contemporary Japan.

The film plays as a genuine documentary based on a real case, only to be revealled towards the end as a fictionalised dramatisation. The film pre-empts the 'reality' format of current television by four decades. It's unclear to me how much of the story is true, which characters are real and which are actors, and how much it is based on reality.

Even though I knew some of the nature of the film before seeing it, I as still duped and bewildered, the lines between reality and fiction completely blurred. That was the director's stated intention, and the point was profoundly made. I am accustomed to directors blurring documentary and fiction like Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line or Krzysztof Kiewslowski's Curriculum Vitae, and Imamura must have been a pioneer with the concept.

The end of the film is particularly poignant, and even after we are realise we have been manipulated about what is the truth, the on-screen dialogue continues to confound us. Brilliant film-making!

A Man Vanishes had a single screening at MIFF as part of the Shohei Imamura retrospective.
Also still to be screened: The Pornographers.

Links: Index of MIFF films reviewed to date / MIFF website


Y Kant Goran Rite said...

It's a shame you missed Sunflowers and Time, they were two of the MIFF highlights for me

Paul Martin said...

Maybe this is a symptom of festival fatigue, Goran, but as I was saying to Matt from Esoteric Rabbit at ACMI today, tomorrow is another day. There's always something to miss.

Al said...

Ha, I was also revisiting the Full Moon Fever pages in my program as I realised about a week into the fest that I was overdosing on "Asian contemplative"! Though I think Festival Fatigue is inevitable for anyone seeing more than a minipass' worth, I find judicious sequencing and variety do help keep it at bay. For mine, "Sunflowers" was quite engrossing to watch, but I've found it hasn't left much of a lasting impression. "Man from London", "Syndromes..." and "Red Road" are my highlights so far, inasmuch as their worlds are rendered complete and drew me in in a way that I found hard to withdraw from for some time afterwards.

Paul Martin said...

Al, some films seem to have wide acclaim (like Still Life), others have been generally poorly received (like I am the Other Woman) but each of the titles you mentioned seems to have mixed reactions from the people I've spoken to. I'm seeing Man From London on Sunday, which will be my first Bela Tarr film, so I'm looking forward to that.

Next year I might have a film-free day or more. And maybe see films that I normally wouldn't give priority to - just for the variety.