By Arthur WernerThe last time I visited Riga six years ago, also as a jury member for FIPRESCI. Since then, Riga has become cleaner, but more expensive.
I shall write about the films I like a little later, but shall comment first on a trend which I don't like and which has become more and more noticeable and frequent from festival to festival: many films are made either by foreigners, or about foreigners in a foreign country. I believe that with all their advantages and disadvantages, such films blur the boundaries of cinema's national character, and lead to a dissolution of national culture. Globalization is already manifest in sports, where, for example, almost all European and North American countries are presented in athletics by people of Africa origin.
Alain Gomis's Andalucia (France, 2007) that was awarded a prize in the international competition, is one such film. The director's father was a Frenchman and his mother came from Senegal. The film was shot in France, but Paris shows here only once as a fleeting decor. The film's heroes are African immigrants. This is good and talented work of a stranger in a foreign country. May be that's why many jurors would rather prefer the Norwegian-German-French film, an excellent drama about the life of a retired train engineer (Bent Hamer's O’Horten, 2007).
"Ploy" by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
I was captivated by the Thai film Ploy (2007). The scriptwriter and director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang managed to present in just 105 minutes both a love triangle imagined by the main heroes and, in parallel, a light and sexy affair among hotel staff. The film contains a lot of sex scenes, but it never even for an inch transgresses into porn film and the happy ending is inevitable, as can be expected in such dramas.
A good impression was made by Silent Light (Stellet Licht, 2007) by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas about the life of the Mennonite community somewhere in the North of Mexico. This community reflects, like the still surface of a pond, all the issues of the large surrounding atheistic world: the daily boredom of life, the loved children with a no longer loved wife, a hidden but well-known affair with another woman from the same community. The climax comes with the wife's death, her resurrection with the help of the "other" woman and, as is the case in religious movies, followed by family Peace and Well-Being. Another film by Carlos Reygadas, Battle in Heaven (Batalla en el cielo, 2005), had competed for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes festival and received a FIPRESCI award in Rio de Janeiro.
"Silent Light" by Carlos Reygadas
The Russian shell at this year's "Arsenals", the documentary The Revue (Predstavlenie, 2008) by Sergei Loznitsa, was too small in caliber to receive a prize: the montage of Soviet news from the 1950s and 1960s did not appeal to a majority. The same fate struck the second Russian entry by the well-known Kazan-born documentary filmmaker Marina Razbezhkina, The Hollow (Iar, 2007). Maybe Sergei Esenin's lyrics were unsuitable for making a film, or maybe the script was not written properly by Pavel Finn and Lidia Bobrova, but the film did not look accomplished.
© FIPRESCI 2008
Arthur Werner is a German film critic and editor of the weekly newspaper "Kontakt — Chance". He is based in Cologne.
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