Robert Koehler has sent in a few final updates from his recent trip to BAFICI; next stop: Cannes. -Doug
Miguel Gomes, writer-director of Our Beloved Month of August, is seen here answering audience questions after a screening of his brilliant, Lewis Carroll-like first feature, The Face You Deserve–which he thinks is better than August. (I would respectfully disagree.)
After the screening, Miguel with Mark Peranson outside the cinemas in the Abasto shopping mall. Mark thinks enough of August to make it the cover of Cinema Scope‘s Winter ’09 issue (in what is surely one of the more original film magazine covers of recent years–all text, straight from the film’s Cannes pressbook, listing each individual in the film, in order of appearance–all text, in direct contrast to the text-free Cinema Scope cover bordered in black honoring the death of Danielle Huillet); that, and an accompanying epic interview between Mark and Miguel that more or less covers this highly creative young filmmaker’s opus to date. (Read it here.)
As for Gomes’ cinema, which was shown intact at BAFICI, features and shorts, one has to stand back in some wonder, and consider that here’s an artist who treads lightly through his art form. A gentleness pervades Our Beloved Month of August, which begins as a loose-limbed non-fiction account of a seemingly rudderless film crew and the mountainous central region of Portugal they find themselves in. Locals of the region come and go, an apparent randomness, or at least the wide, ambling qualities of a large mural painting, seems to govern the film. But what it is, is all part of a greater design, informed by a freedom from the restrictions of making a strictly “non-fiction” or “fiction” film–which are in fact, the actual conditions in which the film was made, in which an original, very long script is junked for what becomes the film Gomes actually made. In other words, a film documenting itself, and even better, learning to become itself not only as it’s being made and edited, but as we’re watching it.
This is, as I like to call it, handmade cinema. A very important moment in the indescribable The Face You Deserve (a film, like all of Gomes, that’s both a “musical-comedy” and one that starts off as one kind of film and ends up as another): The central character departs from a house in which he’s been involved with a group of men in a set of ruses, exercises and serious business, and as he leaves, night turns to day. But it does so INSIDE THE CAMERA. I asked Gomes (just before taking the picture above) to confirm what my eye suspected: That the camera lens itself had been opened up for greater light exposure, in effect, from a “day-for-night” exposure to a full daylight exposure. (Please note: This kind of thing just isn’t done anymore in cinema. This is, as the film school teachers would admonish, what film labs and post labs and CGI are for. You never, ever, actually change your lens setting while filming. This is a violation.) Gomes happily confirmed to me that this was the case, and that he had consciously committed a violation.
And this is why his cinema is so important, and essential. The BAFICI jury agreed: August won the international competition, a follow-up to its special jury prize in Guadalajara.
Extra note: Mark’s t-shirt is by Godard. “Now out of print.” The first word is most relevant: “Liberte.”