For the first time in many years I'm actually looking forward to the Opening Night movie. The Dinner Game is a French farce; most Americans hate French farce, but I find the genre to be surreal, and its gleeful misogyny is fascinating. Speaking of women, I'm a big fan of Polish filmmaker Dorota Kedzierzawska's latest two films, Crows and Nothing, so I'm excited to see her first film, from 1991, Devils, Devils. Kedzierzawska seems to be continuing Krzysztof Kieslowski's tradition of visual filmmaking. One of the cinema's greatest visual filmmakers is Bernardo Bertolucci, and his latest, Besieged, is grand and glorious style over substance. Then there's Buttoners, which looks interesting in its fragmented style, though I'm less sure about its substance.
Breakfast of Champions is bringing the gruff but lovable Nick Nolte to town, and I look forward to meeting him. I look forward to the film, too. I haven't read Kurt Vonnegut's book since high school, but I remember enjoying it immensely.
Other intriguing films include Killer, The Hole, Beautiful Sunday, Money Buys Happiness, and even movies sure to get distribution like The Loss of Sexual Innocence and Lovers of the Arctic Circle. There's lots to experiment with and look out for.
Gillian G. Gaar
You mean, not only do I get to see a 70mm print of Porgy and Bess--the classic Gershwin musical ("Summertime," "It Ain't Necessarily So," etc.) that I've never before seen--at the brand spankin' new Cinerama, but I also get to see the new bio flick The Passion of Ayn Rand, with the absolutely divine Helen Mirren in the title role... and on the same day?? When I saw this I nearly passed out. If you spy me unconscious in a theater seat, please rouse me so I can get to this week's other sterling archival offering (usually my favorite stuff at SIFF), The Third Man. It looks so luscious on the TV screen, I'm sure to swoon with delight all over again when I see it at the Cinerama.
I'm also looking forward to the documentary (which alone is enough to interest me) Get Bruce, about comedy writer Bruce Vilanch; Lautrec, another bio flick about the French painter (I'll slap you if you say "Who?"); Money Buys Happiness, 'cause it's locally made; and Little Tony for its plot description--"a less-than-harmonious menage a trois." Aren't they all?
In tried-and-true fashion, the first week of the film festival brings out the big guns--but several of the projects sound odd enough to work, either as visionary projects or as such godawful failures they exert their own fascination. Mike Figgis' Loss of Sexual Innocence juggles its protagonist's life story with shots of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden. I'm not kidding. Alan Rudolph hasn't been doing it for me lately (i.e., since the mid-'80s), but an adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's seemingly unfilmable Breakfast of Champions sounds just crazy enough to work. Having seen Besieged I can verify that, as the latest from Bernardo Bertolucci, it is also one of his best, and is sure to be among the festival's highlights.
I hear good things about the Aussie noir The Interview, and Julio Medem's Lovers of the Arctic Circle; I hear bad things about Tsai Ming-Liang's The Hole, but I'm still intrigued. In fact, there's so much going on I will probably skip the greatest film playing this week (if not the greatest film in the entire festival)--but how many times do you need to see Aguirre, Wrath of God anyway?
Four films in this year's festival have the word "beautiful" in their title, but only one of them is a great film: Beautiful Sunday. Set in a Tokyo apartment building, this film perfectly captures the little psychological pins and needles that make living too close to others so impossible. Then there's Bernardo Bertolucci's Besieged, also set in an apartment building (this time in Rome). Rather of being about escape, it's about a man who's trying to get closer to someone in his building. I believe something dramatic must have happened in Bertolucci's life recently (the discovery of digital editing?), because in this film he's rediscovered what filmmaking is all about: obsession... beautiful obsession.
The Europeans and Japanese may have a monopoly on beauty, but the Americans have a monopoly on gorgeous, and this is exactly what Porgy and Bess promises to be: a gorgeous picture. Not even death would make me miss the screening of this film. Lastly, there is the Spanish film Lovers of the Arctic Circle, which is neither gorgeous nor beautiful, but instead complex. The pleasures one receives from this film are akin to those that one experiences when working through an elaborate chess problem--perhaps the greatest pleasure known to man.