35th Flanders International Film Festival

The Flanders International Film Festival in Ghent is becoming a tradition. This post offers an overview of the films which I saw this year. I just included the titles and the brief summaries.

Wednesday 8 october

The Wondefully Strange Animation Of Suzan Pitt

STEVEN SNYDER (TimeOut Movie Critic) wrote on the animated films by Suzan Pitt: “Pitt’s work is like a dream. Things exist out of proportion, shapes shift, characters emerge and then disappear. But like any dream, they also exist with a backbone of reality, and in every way celebrate the things that make life such a mixed bag of joy and sorrow. They are amazing works of art, and for any fan of animation or unique cinematic experiences, they are not to be missed.” In this program we show:

ASPARGUS

Stunning cel animation propels its blank-faced protagonist into the world of the phallus, rendered here as a field of asparagus, which she deep throats, excretes and flushes away…The film’s stunning set piece occurs before a claymation audience who gape as she opens her Medusa’s bag to release rare wonders. A moving work of art, ASPARAGUS remains, twenty-five years after its release, a benchmark of single frame intensity.

JOY STREET

An ambitious, astonishing story of a woman’s journey from suicidal despair to personal renewal, with the help of an unlikely spirit guide.

EL DOCTOR

A dark animated poem set in a crumbling Mexican hospital. Inhabited by surreal character including a man shot with one hundred holes, a girl who has sprouted morning-glories, and a woman who thinks she is a horse, the doctor prefers to drink.

Thursday 9 october

Idiots And Angels

http://www.idiotsandangels.com

Angel is a solitary, somewhat unpleasant man, as are the people he associates with at Bart’s Bar. One morning he awakes to discover that he has sprouted wings. Angel attempts to hide the new appendages, but as soon as the people at Bart’s discover them, his life becomes unbearable. He considers surgery, but flees the clinic when he realizes that the doctor wants to use the wings as a ticket to fame and fortune. Soon he discovers that being able to fly gives him more opportunities to abuse others, but Angel’s wings have a mind of their own and they foil all of his greedy plans. He must get rid of them as quickly as possible. Will a chain saw solve the problem? With music from Tom Waits, Pink Martini and Moby, “Idiots and Angels” is a true cartoon-noir!

Friday 10 october

This day I went to Hipp Hipp Hurray… Live Noises #4, so no film festival for me.

Saturday 11 october

At five o’clock:

European Film Award’s Short Film Nominees

This is a program of all the international shorts that won the local Prix UIP competition in 2005 and 2006 in the different European film festivals. In other words, these are the cream of the European shorts. The directors make a bid for the main prize of 10,000 euros, a substantial sum that should allow them to start up their next project. Competing films are: “The Apology Line” by James Lees (UK 2007, winner Cork), “Contact” by Hanro Smitsman (Netherlands 2007, winner Ghent), “Un Bisou pour le Monde” by Cyril Paris (France 2007, winner Valladolid), “Joy” van Joe Lawlor & Christine Molloy (UK 2008, winner Rotterdam), “Frankie” by Darren Thornton (Ireland 2007, winner Berlin), “Procrastination” by Johnny Kelly (UK 2007, winner Angers), “The Pearce Sisters” by Luis Cook (UK 2007, winner Tampere), “Time Is Running Out” by Marc Reisbig (UK 2008, winner Cracow), “Fire” by Laila Pakalnina (Latvia 2007, winner Grimstad), “2 Birds” by Rúnar Rúnarsson (Iceland 2008, winner Edinburgh), “Love you More” by Sam Taylor-Wood (UK 2007, winner Vila do Conde, “Tolerantia” by Ivan Ramadan (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2008, winner Sarajevo), “De Onbaatzuchtigen” by Koen Dejaegher (Belgium 2008, winner Venice) and the winner of the Drama Film Festival.

And at 22h30

Wind Man

Khuat Akhmetov’s “Wind-Man”, a poetic parable in a magical realist vein, adapts a short story by Gabriel Garcia- Márquez, resetting it in a small village in the Kazakh steppe. The story involves an odd creature fallen from the sky during a storm: a frail old man with wings. Discovered by Almat in his shed, the newcomer — who speaks no known language — asks for nothing; he only remains fearfully in his enclosure as the villagers gather to gawk. Despite his passivity, the old man soon challenges the locals’ beliefs and values. Is he an angel, as claimed by the amateur scientist and Koranic scholar Domulla? Is he one of Satan’s minions, as argued by the village mullah, who cites the creature’s inability to understand ‘Allah’s language’? Or is the unfortunate creature some sort of human oddity, the result of nuclear testing? Meanwhile, a menacing veiled figure haunts the periphery of the village, picking off those unfortunate enough to run into him, causing hysteria and panic. Is the faceless man Madar, the Angel of Death from ancient Persian myth, who ‘kills with a gaze’?

Sunday 12 october

At 14h30 there was

Katyn

Wajda vividly dramatizes one of the major World War II crimes – the mass execution of Poland’s military and intellectual elite. For 50 years, the story has been taboo after a cover-up by the Soviet forces. 1939. After the invasion of the German Army and the occupation of Poland a few weeks later by the Soviets, all officers of the Polish Army were taken into Soviet custody. Katyn centres on one of them, Andrzej, and his wife Anna, who waits for him to come home. In 1943, when the Nazis uncover the soldiers’ mass grave, Andrzej’s name is not on the list of the dead. But two years later, when one man whose name was on the list reappears, Anna’s hope is shattered. Meanwhile the occupying Soviets have charged the Germans with the massacre at Katyn in propagandist newsreels. The film ends with a flashback. It is the spring of 1940; the Polish officers are taken in railway wagons to Smolensk and driven into the forest. In a sequence that lasts over twenty minutes, each officer is murdered by a shot in the head from behind. A bulldozer covers up the mass grave…

And at eight

Sita Sings The Blues

http://www.sitasingstheblues.com

Sita is a Hindu goddess so steadfast in her devotion to her husband Rama that she willingly accompanies him into the forest for 14 years of exile. Shortly thereafter, she is kidnapped by an evil king, yet she manages to remain faithful to Rama despite the king’s advances. But as the narrators (three loquacious shadow puppets) explain, Sita faces an uphill battle in convincing her husband of her unwavering fidelity. In order to prove herself, she must undergo a series of tests. At the same time, Nina, a modern-day American artist, finds her marriage on the skids when her husband abruptly announces his plans to relocate to India for work. After a few months, Nina decides to follow him there, but she is surprised to find that this move is not welcomed with open arms. On a brief business trip home, she switches on her computer to find an e-mail from her husband that rather tersely summarizes his feelings. Sita and Nina’s stories are punctuated by playful musical sequences featuring vocals by lascivious 1920s jazz singer Annette Hanshaw and choreography that Busby Berkeley would have envied.

Monday 13 october

Daisies

Two young women decide that, since the world is a spoiled, rotten place, they might as well spoil themselves and do whatever they feel like. The rest of the film follows them on their increasingly outrageous sprees – flirting with older men and then dumping them, getting ejected from a nightclub for making a drunken spectacle of themselves, cutting food into little pieces, and so on. In a tour de force sequence, they stumble into a dining hall that is set up for a huge banquet, and proceed to eat everything they can, while smashing everything else. “Daisies” avoids psychology or characterization; the women have no interior lives. This is most definitely a film of the psychedelic 60s, with all the strengths and drawbacks of that era. Opening and closing with scenes of bombs exploding, the picture was eventually banned by the Czech government as it showed Czech society in an unflattering light. It later won critical acclaim, but the subsequent denial of state funding to Chytilová made her life difficult.

Tuesday 14 october

Time for a break.

Wednesday 15 october

O’Horten

The life of 67-year-old Odd Horten is inseparately tied to trains. For forty long years he has been the engineer on the Oslo–Bergen route, and now the time for retirement has come. The moment the train starts off without him and Horten is left alone on the platform, he suddenly realises that before him lies a new life free of timetables and intimately familiar stations, a life full of obstacles and pitfalls. Even the platform doesn’t look as safe as before. A new period of Horten’s life is beginning that will have plenty of surprises in store and will confront him with a number of questions. Will Horten ever fly in a plane? Will he sell his beloved boat? Will he survive a frantic night trip? Will he find his long-lost love, or buy a dog? The situations the protagonist of this wonderfully written and exquisitely performed comedy finds himself in become more and more absurd. With its unforgettable atmosphere and wit, the film entirely won over audiences at this year’s Cannes IFF, where it ranked confidently among the most remarkable films in the section Un Certain Regard.

Thursday 16 october

Planned to go and see Not By Chance, but on arrival at the cinema, they informed us that the screenings was canceled due to scheduling conflicts.

Not By Chance

Do we control our own destiny? Can a twist of fate change who we are? These are questions at the core of this fascinating and dramatic character study set on the vibrant streets of São Paulo, Brazil. Enio is a middle-aged, divorced traffic engineer, who lives alone. He is happiest when applying mathematical formulae to the potentially random behaviour of people in cars. Thirty-something Pedro builds billiard tables. He approaches life just as he approaches the billiard table: with the assumption that he can predict any outcome based on a series of mathematical equations. Life is organized for these two strangers. But when a dreadful tragedy rocks their world, Enio and Pedro are forced out of the routine existence they have worked so hard to create. In his first feature, writer/director Philippe Barcinski uses a voyeuristic, natural style to get inside the heads of these complicated people and to explore how seemingly random events can generate human connections and possibilities that no one can predict.

We luckily got vouchers to buy tickets for another film. There were only two days left, and on saturday there were already two films planned, so a ticket for 3 Days To Forever on friday was booked quite quickly.

Friday 17 october

At eight:

Parking

On Mother’s Day in Taipei, Chen Mo makes a date for dinner with his wife, hoping to bring their estranged relationship back together. While buying a cake on his way home, a car unexpectedly double-parks next to his car, preventing his exit. For the entire night, Chen Mo searches the floors of a nearby apartment building for the owner of the illegally parked car, and encounters a succession of strange events and eccentric characters: an old couple living with their precocious granddaughter who have lost their only son, a one-armed barbershop owner cooking fish head soup, a mainland Chinese prostitute trying to escape her pimp’s cruel clutches, and a Hong Kong tailor embroiled in debt and captured by underground loan sharks. After many hardships, Chen Mo finally gets his car out of the parking space, and, with new friends riding beside him, advances toward a new horizon in life. With the rich flavours of detective story, comedy, and melodrama, this movie interweaves themes of family, sex, and money to create a moving tale.

And at 22h30:

3 Days To Forever

Suf is a young middle-class Muslim entrusted with the all-important task of driving a priceless antique cutlery – too fragile to be freighted – to Yogjakarta for a family wedding. Trouble is his altogether looser cousin Ambar misses her flight and tags along for the ride – and with her in the passenger seat, a one-day journey somehow spirals into three whole days. Along the way they get high and get lost, encounter interesting and bizarre characters, run into an argument about religion, marriage and sex, while trying to defeat the arising sexual tension between them. Riri Riza’s admirable road movie subtly portrays the exoticism and eroticism of traditional Indonesian culture, the feelings of the country’s inhabitants, their generosity, their conservatism, their lifestyle and even the hypocrisy of Islamism. It does so without lapsing into visual clichés or melodrama, and it maintains a healthy sense of humour throughout.

Saturday 18 october

In the morning at ten it was a relaxing saturday morning with

Die Welle

Charismatic teacher Rainer Wenger begins a week-long class on autocracy. To indifferent students, it’s a hard sell, but Wenger gets an idea for an experiment: as their leader he asks the students to call him Mr. Wenger, chooses the motto, creates a logo, decides that everyone wears a white shirt, and names the group ‘The Wave’, adding a secret sign reminiscent of a Nazi salute. Much to their surprise the students find that they like the power of unity and soon this new-found discipline spills over to other school activities and newcomers join the group. ‘The Wave’ gives the kids something to believe in for a change, until they go too far and ‘The Wave’ spins out of control. Based on a real event from a Californian high school in 1967 and transposed to Germany today, “The Wave” is a cautionary tale about the roots of fascism.

And at eight the closing film was

The Wrestler

A once hugely successful professional wrestler in the late 80’s, Randy “The Ram” Robinson now ekes out a living performing for handfuls of diehard wrestling fans in high school gyms and community centres around New Jersey and neighbouring states. Estranged from his daughter, unable to sustain any real relationships, Randy lives for the thrill of the show, the adrenalin rush of combat and the adoration of his remaining fans. But, when he suffers a heart attack in the middle of a bout, Randy’s doctor tells him he needs to lay off the steroids and stop wrestling forever. Forced out of show business, Randy begins to evaluate the state of his life. He tries to reconnect with his daughter and strikes up a wary romance with an aging stripper, Pam. But the allure of the spotlight and the passion for his art threaten to pull him back inside the ring. Visionary director Darren Aronofsky presents a tale of battered dreamers and undefeated losers, a powerful portrait of a hero – despite himself and the odds stacked against him. A classic story of love, loneliness and the inescapable lure of the arena. Winner of the much coveted Golden Lion in Venice!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: