By Robert Koehler

All festivals must get smaller. That much is obvious in the scattered world of film festivals, where the urge to spread like kudzu is almost universally irresistible. (A notable exception–and one wouldn’t think of it–is Cannes, which has pretty much kept to its self-imposed limits for each section, with the one variation being the recent addition of the way-out-there-past-the-marina “Tous Les Cinemas du Monde” section, which nobody goes to anyway…)

So…BAFICI is getting bigger, like every other festival. I’m awaiting word on the total number of features, but if the catalog is 512 pages (we mentioned that yesterday), go figure–that total number is going to be pretty scary. What’s remarkable is that with such an expanding program, the schedule is actually not getting fattened with peripheral junk, commercial flotsam or marginal jetsam. I’m on the official jury for the international competition, and that slate betrays few if any truly questionable entries. Well, maybe one: Morten Hartz Kaplers’ AFR, a Danish whatsit that plays the same game (poorly) that Death of a President played (poorly) last year. While Death wondered what things would be like if George W. Bush were knocked off, AFR wonders why Denmark’s current prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen (thus the monogram title) was knocked off by an anarchist with a rocket launcher. Everything feels all too calculated, so that the deliberate blurring of documentary “investigation” and a kind of quasi “factitious” drama ends up being an obvious construct. And the construction is fashioned for the purpose of relating that the movie’s Rasmussen was murdered by an anarchist, alright–a gay anarchist, who happened to have one Anders Fogh Rasmussen as a lover, and on tape, no less. At least Death of a President was ever so slightly political; AFR is just a soap opera with updated toys and tricks.

And now, I’m off to see if Kim Ki-duk remains South Korea’s worst filmmaker….

And the answer to the speculation from the last post–is Kim Ki-duk still South Korea’s worst filmmaker?–is….yes. His latest, just about to open in Argentina and for some unholy reason selected by Karlovy Vary to open its 2006 edition, is Time, and brother, is it ever bad. Like all typical Kim characters, the male-female couple in this one grows obsessive and end up hurting each other badly. The inexplicable narrative starts with the woman (Park Ji-yeon) growing hysterical by the minute–Seong’s performance builds into a ghastly string of pure shrieks–and it becomes clear that she thinks all of her problems will be solved with plastic surgery. Her beau (Ha Jeong-woo) concurs, and ends up joining her in Korea’s current national obsession on “self-improvement,” which Kim films in gory detail. Kim makes nothing political of any of this–no surprise there–but after nearly ninety minutes of intertwining plot knots that grow impossibly tangled, he tries to make what is an hermetically-sealed tale (as in 3-Iron) into something greater with a series of telephoto shots of crowds of faces. Yet nothing is necessarily inferred from this, except how the camera is able to compress so many faces into a single shot. As always with Kim, under the frantic and bloody surface, underneath is….nothing.

I’ll return tomorrow with some notes on the good cinema at BAFICI the first day, including AurÈlien Gerbault’s film Tout refleurit, on Pedro Costa shooting Colossal Youth; Claire Simon’s «a br˚le; and the last film from Straub-Huillet, Quel loro encontri. Thursday’s offerings look to include a screening of Carl Dreyer’s restored Master of the House; Martina Kudlacek’s Notes on Marie Menken, on the overlooked experiment filmmaker; Raya Martin’s first film (as part of a Martin survey), The Island at the End of the World; and just possibly, Reg Harkema’s first Godardian romp, A Girl is a Girl. Plus the competition entry, Matthew Saville’s Noise….

(Day 1 entry.)

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