Day 9: September 17


9:30 a.m.

Interlude: "Dogma", Dogme, Dogma

I've had a number of fairly similar conversations with total strangers this year where we pass the sound "dogma" back and forth, neither understanding at first what the other is talking about. Is it "Dogma," the Kevin Smith film? Or "Dogme", the film conventions that eschews artificial lighting and premeditated props? Or is the the abstract tenets of religion or philosophy? I'll mention the letter when talking about "The Cup". They'll blink and say something like "Have you seen 'Clerks' too?" (An earlier film by Smith.)

-- He did "Dogma"?
-- You mean the Danish thing?
-- Qui?

Interlude: Wordplay

You're in a coffee shop: "I'd like a Dalai Latte please." The server puts it down on the counter in front of you. You pay and reach for it, but the serer says, "Ahh!" and pulls it away. "But I paid for it," you protest. They hold it out of reach. You try to take it by force, but the server backs away. "Forget it," you say, and turn to leave in disgust. From the corner of your eye you see the unguarded latte, and the server has disappeared.

11:15 a.m.

The Excitement Of The Do-Re-Mi-Fa Girl

Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Japan, 1985
Cast: Yoriko Dohguchi, Juzo Itami, Usagi Asoh
Synopsis:

Some ill-remembered comments from the director's introduction:

-- This film was made when I was still young for the soft-porn, B-movie business. [That it was a porn movie didn't bother me.] What mattered to me was that I would get to make a film. When the producers saw it, they said, "It's a movie, but not one of our movies." Not knowing how the movie business worked, I was shocked that a film I had made would be put on a shelf and never seen. What you'll see today is the result of me buying back the film, reshooting parts of it, and then splicing the fragments together. So if you make a film, don't be afraid if the producers don't understand or like it. Put your heart into it. I'm proof that you can succeed.

-- When I finished this film, I wasn't sure whether it was a movie or not. It wouldn't be if it stayed on a shelf like garbage, but here, in an almost full house, I know that it really is a movie. Thank you. Enjoy the show.

So what's this one about? A young woman (Akiko) drops 'round a university campus to find her boyfriend (?). Apparently, all university students are completely obsessed with sex. She meets a philosophy professor who is tired of answering questions that start with "why." "Ask 'what' questions instead," he says. "Things have names. It's easier." it had never occurred to me that the type of interrogative could have such a limiting effect on the shape of the answer. Obvious, really. But still you can play games. Instead of asking "Why does she feel shame?" you could say "What is it that makes her feel shame?" But I consider that cheating. Though it does make me wonder if all questions can be reworded to use just one of "who", "what", "where", "when", "why", or "how." And which one?

2:00 p.m.

Persona

Ingmar Bergman
Sweden, 1966
Cast: Liv Ullman, Bibi Andersson, Margaretha Krook, Gunnar Bjornstrand
Synopsis:

I blew off "Augustin, Roi De King Fu" when I found out there were still tickets available for "Personna". Chatted briefly with a fellow working the ticket booth. "Are there any tickets left?" I ask. "A few. A hundred, actually." "I hundred! For a Bergman film? Don't they know? How often can you see this on a big screen?"

Canadian director Patricia Rozema (pronounced "rose'-muh") introduced the film and talked with us at the end. It's difficult to remember her comments verbatim (they were often quite long), so consider the following paraphrases.

-- This was the first non-mainstream film I had ever seen I was 17 or 18. and it had never occurred to me that you could make a move on a different level. After watching it the first time, I sat through the next screening as well. To take a poem and film it.

-- I'm happy to have chosen [to be influenced by / to see] such a good film so early [in my life]. there were others that I'm not proud of. (When asked what the trashy ones were, she demurred.)

-- I love the questions asked in this film. When to speak, when to be silent. Exhibitionism. How much do you reveal, and when. If you're at dinner, do you tell this story that worked once before, but not some other time? Or if someone says something that reminds you of your deepest wound, but it's too early [in your relationship] to mention it, do you say it anyway and take that chance?

-- Bergman was in poor health when he wrote this. he was head of the National Theatre and was suffering from exhaustion and undiagnosed pneumonia. He spent some time at his doctor's cottage where he saw a photo of Liv Ullman. he had never seen her act before casting her in this film, and was surprised at the resemblance between her and Bibi Andersson.

-- When he pitched this movie, he said he wanted to make a film about two women: one who won't talk, and another who won't stop talking. and they way they merge. And he got the money to do it! Of course he had a track record, so they [had some assurance it was going to be good.]

-- [Before the film] This is a pristine print that's only been shown once. [After] The beginning of that looked like shit. It's really a fragile medium. [A member of the audience retorted that she obviously hasn't seen a really bad print of the film.]

-- [On what makes an European film look European: is it the pacing? The way Hollywood directors have actors rush to get out their lines, and that Europeans take their time?] I think everybody speaks at different speeds. It's the actors. It certainly isn't the director because he's not up there on screen. You're looking into the actor's eyes.

-- I'm deeply suspicious of what gets written about films. Even if the director wrote it himself because it's very easy to [misinterpret what's said.] But critics have an important role -- to blow away the hype cranked out by studios, and also to illuminate. I've had my own work illuminated, and even though it hadn't been in my mind at the time, what they said was true.

Rozema's "disco" cell phone went off twice during the post-film discussion. I haven't seen or heard so many cell phones at the festival before. What happened? Is everyone so eager to be elsewhere?

To close the dialog, Rozema read the last speech from "Fanny & Alexander" which encourages us to be merry while we can because sorrow lies only a step away. What a great way to wrap up.

6:00 p.m.

Les Convoyeurs Attendent
(The Carriers Are Waiting)

Benoît Mariage
France/Belgium/Switzerland, 1999
Cast: Benoît Poelvoorde, Morgane Simon, Bouli Lanners, Dominique Baeyens, Philippe Grand'Henry, Jean-François Devigne
Synopsis:

A black and white French film! Haven't seen one of those since "La Haine." And before that -- rien.

An engaging slice-of-life story about a family lead by what I can only describe as an asshole (je m'excuse). He wants to win a new car, and a contest to break a world record gives him (or his son) a chance. He volunteers his son for an attempt to break the Guinness record for opening and closing a door the most number of times in 24 hours. The son doesn't want to do it, but the father insists in his usual overbearing way.

Not extra super, but good enough.

8:30 p.m.

Interlude: Indigo Café

The P.A. system is playing Cyndi Lauper singing "Time After Time." I can hear a woman's voice singing along -- another customer somewhere -- but I can't see where she is. So I hum along, hoping it makes it to wherever she it.

I'm drinking a tary tea with a name suspiciously close to Aung San Suu Kui (but different). Smells wretched. Takes a bit better. I have it whenever I'm here. Reminds me of the tar I used to put on my wooden cross-country skis years ago when skis came from trees, not oil wells.

9:00 p.m.

Simon The Magician

Ildikó Enyedi
Hungary/France/Switzerland, 1999
Cast: Péter Andorai, Julie Delarme, Péter Halász, Hubert Koundé
Synopsis:

A faintly mysterious film about a faintly mysterious man called Simon who helps police solve crimes and keeps watch over French cuties. In the director's words, "He's a smoking Buddha." H comes, he goes, he tries to get a decent night's sleep.

Q: What was your inspiration for the character?
A: Simon from the Bible. But it contains only the bad things about him because it was written by his enemies. And there were people like that in my country before '89 and they're disappearing. I wanted to document them and their value.

Q: What values?
A: Noncompetativeness. Not hurrying. [That's all changing because of western influences.]

Q: Would you say then that his rival represents the West?
A: He's a child of the West.

Q: So is Simon alive at the end or not? Has he been resurrected or was he hibernating?
A: You're not the first to ask that, but I'm really not interested in the answer. My assistant director asked if I wanted to get the actor who played Simon back for just one shot to make it clear, and I could throw it away later. But I said no. It raises too many uncomfortable questions -- does he feel OK? Is his coat dirty?

Q: Why does the interpreter take off her wig?
A: I wanted to show that Simon has an influence on everyone around him in the quickest way.

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