Saturday, October 11, 2014

Day 2 at Montreal's edgy FNC

Day two, three movies at Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema…..Call it a film travelogue. In PilgrIMAGE (2008) Father-daughter Peter Wintonick and Mira Burt-Wintonick (picture left) embark on travels around the world to go to the sources of the motion picture industry from its earliest beginnings. They travel to France, the home of pioneering special effects wizard Georges Méliès (he of the famous Le Voyage dans La Lune, 1902, with its iconic image of an astronomers’ capsule plunging into a very unhappy moon face). They sit on a park bench in Rolle, Switzerland waiting for home town hero Jean-Luc Godard to show up, a spin on – wait for it – Waiting for Godot. They travel to Nuremburg, site of the Nazis’ gargantuan rallies shot for propaganda purposes in Triumph of the Will (1935) by the technically brilliant but morally corrupt Leni Riefenstahl. They even dance on the hills outside Salzburg where The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965) was made. Dad and daughter’s journeys are punctuated with musings, often light hearted but poignant, about the meanings and uses of film, from creating illusions, to empty vehicles of mass consumer fulfillment, to outright propaganda. It’s all put together imaginatively in a series of video journals linked as chapters in an artist’s sketchbook…..I found it harder to take an interest in Past Present (Tiong Guan Saw, 2013), about acclaimed Malaysian-Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang, whose only film of which I've vaguely heard is I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (2006). This doc has Tsai returning to his childhood roots in Malaysia and revisiting some of the storied movie palaces where his interest in film was first started. Along the way there are praiseworthy comments from others in the Asian film world including by Ang Lee. But what struck me most about the film was how Malaysia in the 1960s seemed no different from any town North America. Rambunctious kids packed Saturday matinees or snuck into (Japanese) porn movies. And theatres had the same names as here, like the Odeon or the Rialto….Finally there was Isabelle Prim’s Le Souffleur de L’Affaire (2014), a complex mind twister that plays like a detective story centring on two important late 19th century artistic works. One is the first colourised film by Georges Méliès (see above), about the fire of the Grand Bazar de la Charité in 1897 - where many aristocratic women died - and the opening of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. Could an Italian anarchist and prompter (le souffleur) be implicated? Rostand himself makes a time travelling appearance, egged on by famed actress Sarah Bernhardt. A running theme is the antisemitism of the period as referenced by the Dreyfus Affair. 

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