Thursday, August 07, 2008

MIFF Day 13

I saw four films today, more than I like to, and all of them were at the Forum. For me, as a Screen Legend MIFF member, it means I can use the reserved seating there. Festival director Richard Moore came and sat next to me for one film (well, for part of it - I doubt he's seen a complete film during the festival) and I gave him some feedback. He's well aware of the repetitiveness of the ads, and I also mentioned that the theatre lighting tends to go off as the audience is entering the cinema. I've been collating a list of suggestions since before the festival started, something I also did last year. I'll be sending these off post-festival.

Wed 6 August

Du li shi dai (A Confucian Confusion, Edward Yang, Taiwan, 1994)
Occident (Cristian Mungiu, Romania, 2002)
Fata Morgana (Werner Herzog, West Germany, 1970)
Le premier venu (Just Anybody, Jacques Doillon, France/Belgium, 2007)

A Confucian Confusion
I saw this at a 1pm screening, the time of day I'm most likely to nod off if a film doesn't engage me. So, while I did nod off more than once, I felt that this is quite an interesting film by Yang, one of my favourites of his so far. A festival retrospective affords the opportunity to see multiple works and connect themes. Yang's work documents changes in Taiwanese culture, how it has become Westernised yet retained Chinese idiosyncrasies (like superstitiousness, for example).

A Confucian Confusion is both comedic and melodramatic, with more than a touch of soap opera. Yet Yang's mature and confident style works well with the whimsy by once again developing interesting characters and their inter-relationships. I'd like to see this film outside of the intensity of a festival to better appreciate it. Well worth a look.

I wanted to see as many of the Romanian Wave films as possible but didn't think I could fit this one in. When I realised it was by the director of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, my favourite arthouse release of 2007, I made the extra effort and saw it this evening, even though it meant I would see three films consecutively (not something I like to do). I'm glad I did.

This first film is a completely different type of film to the director's acclaimed second feature. It's a black comedy cum social drama with three interwoven and overlapping stories. The tone is light, the cinematography reflects that and is a much more commercial film than the Palme d'Or-winning 4 Months. I found it very enjoyable, the more so seeing it in context with the later film. How this guy's work has matured from one film to the next!

Having now seen his two films, it strikes me that he may have been strongly influenced by the work of Krzysztof Kieslowski. Occident is a lighter film than Kieslowski ever made but uses similar devices and has similar themes. 4 Months is more like the 'hard-core' mid-career films of Kieslowski. Occident is no must-see film, but is a good festival film and, as it's not available on DVD (as far as I can ascertain), MIFF is a good opportunity to see it.

Fata Morgana
I've heard much of the 'legendary' film-maker, Werner Herzog, but seen little of his work (other than Grizzly Man and Rescue Dawn). This is a strange film, more of a moving picture essay. There's little dialogue, mostly just a prose narrative, much of it sounding very biblical. The visuals are of the Sahara, and quite stunning. I counted 27 people walking out on this film, more than any other film at MIFF so far (but well short of the 60 or so I counted at The Man From London last year), but I found it visually interesting enough to keep awake (always a good indicator). Mind you, if I knew what it was going to be like, I wouldn't have gone, but it's not too bad.

Just Anybody
I walked out this film after an hour. It was late, I was tired and I couldn't justify staying for something so dull and uninteresting. It seems like an overly-intellectual exploration of a scenario that is almost completely implausible: an attractive young woman tries to redeem the junkie loser who raped her, to the point she practically stalks him. There are so many other contrivances with interwoven relationships that it feels like a stage production or made-for-TV. At best, the film seems unready for release, as if the actors are rehearsing. The digital camera work was also a bit rough and looked cheap. My suggestion: avoid.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Edward Yang has made very few films and while the early ones do vary in quality, he has made two masterpieces in A Brighter Summer Day and Yi Yi. These two films will be his legacy in the history of cinema.