A bit belated….also note that some films aren’t included on the official list cuz they’re not yet on MUBI….
Not a bad fest this year! I count about 25 films that I enjoyed, which is about a 60% success rate for all films including shorts (none of those appearing as individual screenings in the program), and higher in terms of percentage of programs I attended (between 30 and 35 in all). It was nice to jump back into hardcore, rabid cinephilia after a year-plus dip into the doldrums due to illness. As usual I worked for the fest as a program guide writer and box office cashier, and saw quite a bit given my work hours; there were a handful of late night and morning screenings that I bailed on out of fatigue, but overall I stuck to my schedule pretty well.
I kind of neglected the East Asian program this year, for several reasons: a bit of disillusionment and learned wariness about E. Asian art cinema these days; the unknown-quantity factor (which I used to be more determined about defying—see first reason as to why this has changed); and the scheduling, which tended to marginalize the smaller films in morning or late evening slots. I’ve got some regrets about films I missed, for sure. Other down notes for the Fest were the disappointments from the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab, some key Iranian filmmakers, Tsai and my first Wang Bing, which I thought was just dreadful.
This year I further expanded my viewing towards more accessible stuff, and the rewards were pretty big: Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, Gloria, Like Father, Like Son, La Maison de la Radio and Ilo Ilo were rich experiences. Gloria and LF,LS brought down packed houses at new venue The Centre—near a thousand happy, applauding people.
On the hardcore formalist/distanciation tip, Corneliu Porumboiu’s film joins his Police, Adjective as one my all-time favourite Eastern European films, Stemple Pass is my #1 of the year so far, and Jia’s latest (in truth, I missed its two festival screenings but caught it shortly afterwards at the year-round Fest theatre) is one of his best. I also loved What Now? Remind Me, which was something like Sans Soleil with the gaze turned inward—smart, sad, profound and wonderfully exhausting.
The biggest discovery for me was The Strange Little Cat, which seems like a landmark of some kind. Not sure how deep its transformation of the physical and philosophical basis of contemporary First World experience cuts, but it’s definitely more than superficial, and it manifests in some of the most creative filmmaking I’ve seen since I discovered Tsai, Hou and Kiarostami.
The Strange Little Cat
When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism
La Maison de la Radio
What Now? Remind Me
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Anatomy of a Paperclip
A Touch of Sin
Like Father, Like Son
The Maze King (short)
Longing for the Rain
A Spell to Ward of the Darkness
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear
Young and Beautiful
The Ravine of Goodbye
La Ultima Pelicula
The Line (short)
Hard to Say (short)
Manuscripts Don’t Burn
Four Ways to Die in My Hometown
The Three Disasters (short)
The King’s Body (short)
Just in Time (short)
40 Years from Yesterday
WICK WICK WACK
Til Madness Do Us Part
DOZED OFF FOR LARGE CHUNK OF RUNNING TIME (NO REFLECTION ON QUALITY OF MOVIE)
Burn, Release, Explode, the Invincible