By Robert Koehler
The Society of French Directors (SRF), which governs the Quinzaine des Realisiteurs, or Directors Fortnight, has dismissed Quinzaine director Frederic Boyer after his second and stormy year. The 2011 edition was roundly criticized and even lambasted (see Jacques Telemacque’s widely discussed Le Monde attack that ran during the festival), and suffered particularly in comparison to the past editions directed and programmed by Olivier Pere, who left after the 2009 edition to take over Locarno in 2010. It further didn’t help Boyer’s position that Locarno 2010, with its overall superb program, only tended to remind people of what the Quinzaine had been, and was apparently no more. For those of us who had witnessed the disastrous Mexican vampire family movie, Somos lo que Hay, at its premiere in Guadalajara, the shock that it was slotted into the 2010 Quinzaine program felt like a shot across the bow, and signaled a crisis. At this point, we were far from Serra’s Honor de Cavalleria or Alonso’s Los Muertos. Now, who will take over? The international festival community will be watching…. (Read more at the Telerama site.)
Speaking of Locarno, the juries announced today further underline Pere’s solidity at the Swiss event and his taste for highly distinctive independence in the cinema. Portuguese producer Paulo Branco, who produced Ruiz’ Mysteries of Lisbon (screening in the Los Angeles Film Festival this Saturday), is president, and certain to steer his jury toward strong, ambitious films. He’s joined by actor-director Louis Garrel, the brilliant German actor Sandra Huller, Swiss filmmaker Bettina Oberli, and Best of Youth co-star Jasmine Trinca. The jury for the typically adventurous Cinema of the Present section is headed by German filmmaker (and co-director of the great Dreileben, Christoph Hochhausler, with three distinctive fellow directors (Raya Martin, Athina Rachel Tsangari and Michelangelo Frammartino) and Karamay producer Zhu Rikun. In full disclosure, I’m on the jury for best debut film, with fellow critics Kong Rithdee and Anthony Bobeau….
Speaking of the Los Angeles Film Festival, it’s urgent to alert readers to two absolutely essential films to catch tonight Monday. Make this your Monday viewing, no excuses: First, at 7:40, Theo Court’s astonishingly beautiful semi-documentary, Decline aka Okaso. (The original Spanish title is so vastly preferable that I’ll refer to the film under that title, and not the glum Decline.) In my Variety review of Ocaso also ID’d as Decline due to Variety‘s style policy of listing the English-language title), I noted the film as “an excellent example of the crossbreeding of fiction and nonfiction,” its fusing of reality and poetry. Court observes an aging caretaker, attending to a crumbling Chilean rural estate, and maintaining not only a house and its grounds but a certain way of life and rituals–from cooking to clearing brush. But the film frames and preserves this activity in a kind of suspended animation, cast in a colored haze of both atmosphere and memory. It is where the cinemas of Ermanno Olmi and Victor Erice intersect. That’s probably sufficient praise. Then, at 10:30, and there really is no excuse for missing this one, since it’s THE LAST TIME YOU’RE EVER LIKELY TO SEE THIS FILM IN LOS ANGELES, EVER: That would the incredible doc by Renate Costa, 108 (its international title, as opposed to its more eccentric Spanish title, Cuchillo de Palo). Why this small masterpiece has taken so long to get here–18 months since Berlinale 2010–is anyone’s guess, but good on LAFF for selecting it for the International Showcase section, the section with the vast majority of the festival’s best films. In it, Costa considers the life of her gay uncle living in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay under the oppressive military dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner. But her consideration is wrapped in the optics of incomplete memories, uncertain accounts of the past and the disturbing cloak of ghosts. There is no better recent case of first-person, autobiographical documentary filmmaking achieving a state of poetry, and a prime case of the new generation of Latin American filmmakers transcending the polemics, and anger, of their parents for a more honest and reflective perspective. Did we say it was essential?