Rotterdam 05

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By Hannah Eaves and Jonathan Marlow

Dispatches 1 through 3

January 29

With 2005 just revving up and even before the Sundance and Slamdance awards were announced, Jonathan Marlow had landed in Rotterdam, where the International Film Festival was already underway.

Rotterdam The trick in the overlap between screenings in Park City and the festival in Rotterdam is one of compromises. One has to give way to the other, with full knowledge that you'll be missing something, somewhere. Just as the competition was heating up at Sundance (Mike Mills's Thumbsucker and Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know had finally surfaced in the hours before departure), IFFR overtakes the mountain village festivals (with acquisitions occuring at both dances, Slam and Sun).

Instead, time to see things with potentially more possibilities.

New films by Claire Denis, Kim Ki-duk, Olivier Assayas, Takashi Miike, Wong Kar-wai, Jia Zhang-ke, Lukas Moodysson, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Todd Solondz, Hayao Miyazaki, Wim Wenders, Carlos Sorin, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Yervant Giankian and Angela Ricci Lucchi (among others). Naturally, these are not all premieres but it hardly matters. Is it any wonder that Rotterdam ranks among my favorite festivals - perhaps the favorite (until I finally make the pilgrimage to Telluride for the first time in September)?

The latest from last year's honored guest, Raúl Ruiz (Benoît Jacquot has the distinction this year), graced the screen last night. Particularly dream-like, not unusually for the Chilean ex-pat (though his first film made in his homeland in more than thirty years), absolutely enhanced by two days without sleep. Caveh Zahedi's long-awaited I am a Sex Addict premiered at the fest as well. It is arguably Caveh's best work, a pure, hillarious distillation of his personal brand of filmmaking. The long-anticipated Casshern gets its Netherlands debut, as will the anxiously-awaited 2046. Indeed, the selection of Asian films at the festival is perhaps the best anywhere outside of Vancouver (or, of course, Asia itself). Many things to see in only a handful of days. Far too many films will be overlooked, either by chance or design. Such is the frustration of festivals.

February 1

A couple of days later, Hannah Eaves sent word.

Two Sokurov shorts before breakfast is something I cannot recommend, even in the most extreme of festival moments, particularly when one of them is a complete recording of Mozart's Requiem. About fifteen minutes in to the death dirge, the craving for coffee becomes unbearable. It was an interesting decision on the part of the Rotterdam Film Festival to include these shorts at all, two very disparate entries in Sokurov's largely patchy oeuvre. The first, a student film made in 1986 is a Bava-esque tale of a bedridden woman's neurosis and the audience's awareness her oncoming murder.

As for other festival highlights so far...

Oh, uomo Oh, Man, the last installment of Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucci's First World War trilogy, is a testament to the hellish bodily damage wrought by war. With the help of the Trento History Museum and the Italian History Museum of War of Roverto, the images for this film come entirely from footage relevant to the WWI. Slowed to a pace more acceptable to the human eye, and lent gravity by their slowness, these images are here to remind us of the pain felt by the living survivors of war. There is also a considerable section devoted to the suffering of children, particularly from starvation . Those with kids of their own might not make it far.

The title here has a double meaning. The first is the standard, "Oh, mankind! Look at the terrible things that you continue to do." The second has more to do with the human body itself. Gianikian and Lucci choose to use footage found in medical archives that deals with both the colossal wounds explosives can render to the human body and, on the flip-side, the vast array of corrective devices and procedures we create to counter them. These problems run the full gamut, starting with the uncontrollable jitters of shell shock. There is an extended close-up of operative eye removal. The images of cosmetic surgery and limb replacement are particularly relevant now considering the prevalence of improvised explosive devices in Iraq. The phrase "Lest We Forget" is invoked on Remembrance Days all around the world, though for me, it always refers to the 11th of November at the 11th hour in WWI, during the battle for Ypres (inspiration for the famous poem "In Flanders Fields"). Films like this are essential viewing for a country, the USA, that seems willfully amnesiac.

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