From the editor and writers of Bright Lights Film Journal
Action! Interviews with Directors from Classical Hollywood to Contemporary Iran
(Anthem Art and Culture), by Gary Morris (Editor), Bert Cardullo (Introduction), Jonathan Rosenbaum (Foreword). London and New York: Anthem Press, 2009.
(Anthem Art and Culture), by Gary Morris (Editor), Bert Cardullo (Introduction), Jonathan Rosenbaum (Foreword). London and New York: Anthem Press, 2009.
"I dare anyone to squeeze between two covers a more varied, useful and flat out entertaining sampling of the personalities that make the seventh art the liveliest."
David Hudson, IFC.com
David Hudson, IFC.com
The 2012 Moscow and Odessa International Film Festivals
"Peter Greenaway's theses on the death of cinema perhaps inspired the greatest discussion at the Odessa festival: his insistent repetition that cinema was dead but that the screen is very much alive was received as an interesting provocation but didn't convince many."
The Moscow and Odessa International Film Festivals represent respectively the oldest and the newest international film festivals of the former Soviet space, and yet in many ways they have more in common than do many other film festivals in this part of the world. While the Moscow Film Festival is the larger and more eclectic, Odessa has attempted to mirror it in terms of its selection of competition films from the so-called art mainstream. Both festivals are also heavily financed by the authorities and have strong ties to national power elites (Moscow via the conduit of Putin-cheerleader Nikita Mikhalkov, whereas Odessa is presided over by the wife of Ukraine's vice president). This makes both festivals try to assert themselves as prestige social events, and both have an unhealthy obsession with red carpet "glamour" attempting to attract Hollywood stars instead of concentrating on giving the festival a definite role in developing a new path for Russian or Ukrainian film. Odessa in many ways is the more democratic festival — its cheaper ticket prices and free events on the Potemkin Steps and elsewhere in the city at least give it some relation to city inhabitants that the Moscow Festival in many ways lacks. The Potemkin Steps showing of silent films with live orchestra and up to 20,000 viewers is in many ways a spectacle in itself, offering this year an iconic image of a woman with a baby carriage desperately searching for a seat to watch Chaplin's City Lights (previous years films had included Lang's Metropolis, while the First Odessa Festival showed Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin on the steps, proving that, at least in this respect, Odessa had a unique opportunity that did not go to waste). Nonetheless, Odessa's comparatively large budget, especially compared to Kiev's Molodist Film Festival, hasn't necessarily meant that it has managed to overtake this more established festival in terms of cinematic significance. Its stated claim that it will become the East European Cannes is still a long way off in terms of being able to draw to its orbit a genuinely world-class competition program. Both in Ukraine and Russia, many culturally influential figures engage in excessively overfunding trash while trashing genuinely original works. These factors are played out in Russia through a state championing of a small number of producers designed to squeeze out any truly independent voices of the film industry as well as hysterical reactions to films that are said to "besmirch" Russia. In addition, the closure of great institutions like Moscow's Museum of Cinema in 2005 — which, under the direction of Naum Kleiman, had a Langloisian significance for Russian cinephiles — and a takeover by conservative and religious forces of formerly open-minded cultural broadsheets as well as a recent conservative show coup in the Russian Union of Filmmakers have made Russia a much less welcoming place to experiment with film. The situation in Ukraine seems to be slightly different, but judging by the quality of some of the films in the Ukrainian national competition at the Odessa Festival, it has a long way to go before Ukrainian films can attract the worldwide attention they did in the 1960s.
The history of the Moscow Film Festival can be traced back to the 1930s, but it only became a regular feature in 1959. For four decades it was staged every two years, and only in 1999 did it become an annual festival. Its high point was in 1963 when it managed to bag Fellini's 8 ½ and award it the main prize, much to the consternation of the Soviet Union's cultural bureaucrats. Over the years it has been a hit and miss affair, but nonetheless the roll call of directors who have entered its main competition cannot be said to be insignificant. Krzysztof Kieslowski, Istvan Szabo, Juan Antonio Bardem, Ousmane Sembene, Andrej Wajda, Carol Reed, Arturo Ripstein, Francis Ford Coppola, both Aki and Mika Kaurismaki, Louis Malle, Vera Chytlova, Ken Russell, Francisco Rosi, Mario Camus, Derek Jarman, Atom Egoyan, Jacques Rivette, Guillermo del Toro, Raoul Ruiz, Miklos Jancso and Marta Meszaros as well as this year's Chairman of the Jury Hector Babenco are some of the names that have entered their films to the Moscow Festival in the past. Yet Moscow is also a repository of some of the weaker films of many of these already established directors, and this year proved no exception, with Szabo entering his film The Door — all his skill at portraying the human face and his use of the close-up couldn't counter the impression that his film-making skills are in decline. Ultimately falling into a mannerist and traditionalist character-driven drama, the film's value is in simply showcasing the superlative acting skills of its leading actor Helen Mirren. Ozpetek's Pirandellian fantasy Magnificent Presences is rich with cinematic and theatrical allusions and tries to rework the rare Italian genre of commedia fantasy exemplified by Antonio Pietrangeli's Ghosts of Rome (1961) into the tale of a gay protagonist living with an apartment of ghosts from a theatrical troupe called Apollonio who were murdered by fascists in 1943 for their work with the Partisans. The main protagonist's initial fright at the presence of the ghosts in his apartment turns into a partnership as he finally liberates the theatrical troupe from their curse. A film on solitude promoting the values of diversity, vulnerability, and emotion and boasting a Nanni Moretti-like night bus trip scene through Rome that intensely recalls the one in Habemus Papam (2011), the film nonetheless lapses at points, and itsunique oneiric qualities lose out to a certain predictability in the portrayal of gay and trans characters. Still, given the competition, it didn't feel amiss that this film should win both the prize of Film Clubs and that of viewers' sympathy at the Festival.
Many of the most prestigious awards (including that of FIPRESCI) went to Stefano Sollimi's A.C.A.B. It played alongside Daniel Vicari's Diaz—Don't Clean up This Blood in an out-of-competition program (Good, Bad, Evil). Diaz was based on the documentary facts of the massacre of G8 demonstrators in a school named Armando Diaz: a deliberately excessive film of an excessive event, its political intentions were not hidden by the filmmakers, and its immediate impact on the audience couldn't fail to be extreme. While some may accuse the film of being propaganda, it did not actually overstate the level of police violence that night — the night that torture returned to Western Europe. Sollima in A.C.A.B., while dealing with the same division of police (the Italian riot police or celere), shoots his film from the inside and offers a tighter and more sober perspective but gives a no less terrifying portrait of quotidian fascism. Sollima's work as a war cameraman has doubtless informed his work. A film on the clannish nature of contemporary Italian society and how hatred unites its characters, it neither demonizes nor exonerates anyone. Representing a return to the civil cinema of Elio Petri and thematically close to French films such as La Haine and 36, quai des Orfèvres, Sollima has produced a powerful film dissecting a whole society just as Daniele Vicari in Diaz tried to depict the cruel epiphanic moment when the dark heart of this society became manifest.
A.C.A.B.'s relentless assault on any hope of redemption made it a surer bet than the actual winner of the Golden George: Tinge Krishnan's Junkhearts. Extraneous plotlines and a manufactured finale of redemption rather spoil a good beginning, and while the film may have been a solid debut, it didn't quite seem the stuff for the main award from a major international film festival. However, Moscow festival juries in the past notoriously have made mistakes, passing over Kira Muratova twice in favor of weak films such as Taviani's Resurrection (2002). Other competition films included a stop-motion 3D Spanish animated film called O Apostolo as well as films from Mexico, South Korea, Poland, Iran, China, Bulgaria, Finland, and Latvia that met with varying critical receptions. The three Russian-language films in the competition gained few honors apart from the best director award for Andrei Proshkin and his The Horde. These films represented, in their own way, an interesting trio that, while not necessarily proving that Russian-language cinema is experiencing a renaissance or new wave, suggest the claustrophobic vacuities of Russian mainstream tastes represented by the fest's opening film, Dukhless (Soulless), are not the only paths followed by Russian directors.
The Horde was the only Russian film in the Moscow competition that wasn't also shown in Odessa. It is one of a host of films in contemporary Russia returning to religious themes, and in fact this film was produced by a cinematic production company called "Orthodox Encyclopaedia." This wave of films (by such directors as Lungin and Khotinenko among others) was noted by film scholar Elena Stishova during the press conference of The Horde, and yet ironically the more irate voices came from the fanatic wing of the Orthodox crowd denouncing the film's naturalism and even Russophobia (even though it has also come under fire in Tatarstan for its xenophobic view of Tartars). Scripted by one of Russia's most established screenwriters Yuri Arabov (Aleksandr Sokurov's favorite collaborator), it certainly doesn't have the feel of the straightforward hagiographical propaganda of Khotinenko's Priest (2009) or even of the conformist and rather moderate vision of Pavel Lungin, whose recent trilogy of films Island (2006), Tsar (2009), and Conductor (2012) have shown how a once original filmmaker has seemingly succumbed to certain vertically imposed pressures rather like Vsevolod Pudovkin did in the Stalinist 1930s. Nonetheless, Proshkin for all his directorial drive has made a film that doesn't challenge as much as it seems to at first. Its refusal to cater to more simple tastes for a revelatory miracle was much commented on, but it can't be read as very original in its world view. For all its similarity to Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev (1966) in its way of seeing the miracle in the sacrifice, it forges another myth (the need for the religious martyr cum leader cum ubermensch) that is hardly a radical step in contemporary Russia. Aesthetically it is somewhat more interesting than other films of its ilk but uneven (and here Proshkin himself justifiably faults the intervention of his producer, who insisted on a historically accurate portrait of Moscow while allowing the director more fantasy in his portrait of the Sarai-Batu).
If the dissonances of Proshkin's film between style and subject seem too prominent, Evgenii Pashkevich's three-part Latvian-Russian co-production Gulfstream under an Iceberg inspired by the myth of Lilith initially perplexes and then intrigues. Pashkevich spent 11 years making this film based on Anatole France's collection Balthasar, stopping and starting according to the availability of finances. Each part of the film is devoted to a different historical period and is given a different aesthetic style — Part One, set in 1664, evokes the tradition of Dutch painting, although there is a contrast between the golden, silvery, and ochre colors of the setting with the cold, monochrome colors evoked by the hallucinations of the central character. The next story, from 1883, emphasizes a Baroque and grotesque style, while the third story set in 1990 with the subtitle "Cine Verite" is an eclectic assemblage of fragments from contemporary reality. Nature, too, appears throughout the film as character, whether in the guise of the Wasp that flies through its structure or the father transformed into a chicken in the 1883 story. On a first viewing of the film, this complex fabric resists any clear ideological or semantic readings, but the patience and determination of the director inspire a certain awe, luring the viewer to further viewings.
The third Russian film to appear in the Moscow Festival's competition and, like Pashkevich's work, also to be shown at Odessa was Renata Litvinova's second feature Rita's Last Fairytale. A former scriptwriter and star actress who had roots in the alternative parallel cinema movement (with Gleb Aleinnikov she wrote the script for the 1992 film Tractor Drivers 2, the first "remake" in Russian cinema history in which a Soviet classic is turned into an absurdist Monty Python romp), Litvinova then became known for her roles in a number of Kira Muratova films. Her dependence on some of Muratova's trademark style is obvious, and their common obsession with the theme of death reappears in this film. While it's an uneven film (she went through four cameramen during the shooting), it comes alive at certain moments, Litvinova's skills allowing for a suspension of disbelief of its screwball plot. The energy of the soundtrack (by Zemfira) and the ensemble of actors including Tatiana Drubich, Olga Kuzina, and even new wave director Nikolai Khomeriki make the film an ultimately rewarding one in terms of its sensuality and tactility. Apart from the formalism of Muratova, one might add that Litvinova has learned much from the somewhat decadent exuberance of Rustam Khamdamov, with whom she worked closely in his Vocal Parallels (2005). Rita's Last Fairytale intermixes dreams and everyday life at a morgue, bringing a relentless aestheticization of disease and death. Litvinova acts as both symbol and undertaker of glamour, giving the plot short shrift but building up a chaotic world of love, indifference, and jealousy. Her unique position in Russian culture straddling popular stardom and aesthetic purism, not renouncing her roots in alternative and underground culture nor her exquisite and very individual search for originality (this film was almost entirely self-financed until a Russian "champagne" company stepped in to support it at the last minute) may not be well understood elsewhere (she said at the press conference that at a showing in a film festival in Italy not one person turned up), but she remains a very central figure for understanding one of the most unique trends in Russian cinema.
The films of the main competition represented only a minor part of the Moscow festival, and like Cannes (with its "Un certain regard" competition), Moscow sometimes has other surprises up its sleeve in the secondary Perspectives competition. A cursory look at some of the films there didn't necessarily inspire this hope, but, at least from reports by others, Germany's black-and-white noir by Linus de Paoli Dr Ketel deserves a mention. Due to the sheer volume of screenings, my one big regret was being able to stay for only half an hour at Georgy Paradzhanov's Everybody's Gone. Its opening sequences promised a lot more than the stale imitation of 1970s Georgian comedies offered up by Oganesyan with his secondary Ana Bana. Fyodorchenko's short film Chronoeye in the three-part almanac film Fourth Dimension was a lightweight, witty fable about constraint and infinity that brightened up a dull first day at the festival.
Tractor Drivers 2, mentioned above, was part of one of the festival's many retrospectives: that of the films of Igor Aleinnikov, an innovator of late Soviet and post-Soviet underground cinema. This retrospective was itself part of a three-part program by Cine Fantom at the festival. Pioneering avant-garde, alternative, and underground film in Russia for two decades now, their special program was of undoubted interest to those weary of the Russian and global mainstream that dominated many of the other programs. The room was packed for the showing of Oleg Khaibullin's A Dream of an Oligarch, which starred a number of artists belonging to Moscow's underground scene as well as writer and philosopher Yuri Mamleev (it was in fact based on one of his novels Wandering Time). Rather than a film, this was a performance on film that only revealed itself fully toward the end.
Smaller programs of Estonian animation, shorts, and 3D classics reaching back to the Soviet era were accompanied by some larger and more significant programs and retrospectives. The Golden Collection of Universal Pictures offered up a very rare surprise in the form of Karel Reisz's biopic Isadora (1968), an ill-fated film that deserves more attention than it has hitherto received even though the Esenin part of the movie brought fits of laughter from some of the Russian audience for its over-the-top portrayal of one of their best-loved national poets. Yonfan and Hector Babenco (the jury chairman) were given their own retrospectives, and 11 Lubitsch films were screened alongside the documentary Lubitsch in Berlin. Rosita (1923), the tale of a rebellious female singer cruelly treated by a sadistic king seemed fresh and contemporary in light of the Pussy Riot affair (the courageous actress and director Olga Darfi was slated to appear at the opening ceremony dressed in what she said was a summer Pussy Riot costume, becoming the lone protesting voice at this festival).
In the documentary competition, Andrei Gryazev's film on the Voina art collective was shown. Tomorrow, a documentary portrait costing little more than $2,000 and premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, was the fruit of a long-term collaboration with the group that gave the director carte blanche to film what he liked. While the art group has since damned the film, it is certainly not a negative portrait. Concentrating more on the child Kasper as well as on the dynamics of the group, the film leaves one perplexed as to the raison d'etre behind many of Voina's actions. While it generates a certain respect for Voina members who insist on bringing up their child as a free agent, the film as a document of Voina as actionist art phenomenon is rather unreliable. Another highly praised film in the documentary competition, Searching for Sugarman by Malik Bendjelloul, tells the story of a neglected U.S. singer who made it big in apartheid South Africa. Jakub Hejna's portrait of his grandfather, the great Czech scenographer Josef Svoboda, in Theatre Svoboda was a genuinely fascinating and honest portrait of the artist under an authoritarian regime. The film spared none of the complexity of this issue in spite of the close ties between filmmaker and subject.
The many-sided nature of the Moscow festival is, perhaps, both its advantage and its disadvantage. While offering the cinephile a tremendously rich choice of films, the actual direction and purpose of the festival is left in doubt. The over-emphasis on the competition films, which are often second-rate, at the expense of more worthy entries in the many retrospectives is disappointing. Moscow is one of the most conservative A-type film festivals even if it has a greater global reach than other festivals. Given the growing schisms within the Russian film community in recent years, Moscow has lost any role as a talking shop among members of this community: this is one of fields which Odessa has overtaken Moscow in spite of its much smaller scale.
In spite of its small size, in three years the Odessa International Film Festival has gained a certain momentum especially with its ability to offer itself as an arena for probing discussion of film culture. It includes a multitude of master classes and roundtables and also holds a summer school for young film critics. This is not, strictly speaking, the first effort to create a film festival in Odessa: there was an attempt to establish an Odessa Film Festival in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and judging from some accounts, it was a successful effort. The problem of the present film festival is that it remains too tied to a certain model, as it is in some ways a pet project of the wife of Ukraine's vice president, and so the glitz and glamour of the opening and closing ceremonies take up much of the funds that could be used to expand the scope of the festival itself. Historically, Odessa is a cinematically important city, which it has not necessarily exploited sufficiently, though the mass screening on the Potemkin Steps is a worthy attempt to correct this. In contrast to last year's Odessa Literature Festival held at its Museum of Literature —a nostalgia feast that almost completely ignored contemporary trends in Odessan literature— the Odessa Film Festival has not drawn on re-exploring its cinematic past and has even alienated its one world-class film director, Kira Muratova, whose Melody for a Barrel Organ (2009) was not deemed suitable for inclusion into the first festival two years ago. The overspending on the society image of the festival contrasts with the terrible state that the Odessa's Film Studios have been left in due to the lack of funding. Priceless archives and exhibits epitomizing Odessa's film history lay in a terrible state of disrepair, and money would surely be better spent on a film museum or cinematheque than glitzy events where political elites preen in the presence of established Hollywood and global film stars. Instead, Odessa Film Studios is left at mercy of raider capitalists wishing to build their villas near the grounds.
Having said this, many of the organizers have tried to do a decent job of building up a festival with a clear role. The festival is more clearly structured than that of Moscow's — it has both an international and a national Ukrainian competition; gala premieres; a showing of films that have been awarded major prizes at other major international festivals such as Cannes, Sundance, Rotterdam, and Berlin; a French Panorama; a special guest retrospective (this year the films of Todd Solondz, who was also invited to give a master class); daily open air showings free to all; and a small Russian program with another small retrospective of Ukrainian films from other eras (this year from the lost world of the early 1990s). The quality of Russian and Ukrainian films (with a few very significant exceptions) at the festival left something to be desired even though Litvinova's film also made it to the international competition and Pashkevich's film was shown in the Russian program. A talk with FIPRESCI judges about the Ukrainian competition left me in no doubt that Ukrainian cinema seems (on the basis of the selection from this festival) unable to regain the reputation it once had in the 1960s and 1970s, as recounted by Sergei Lysenko's fascinating documentary Secret Freedom, which spoke eloquently about that golden period. The selector of Russian cinema also chose a very limited set of films, although Pashkevich's and Vasily Sigarev's films were certainly inspired choices. A good selection of festival winners were shown including Hanneke's Amour, Taviani's Caesar Must Die, Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Maja Miloshes Clip.
The main competition program was, with the exception of Phil Volken's lackluster Garbage, an entirely European affair (unlike Moscow's much more global selection). There was little doubt, with the established Russian film critic Andrei Plakhov at the helm of the jury, that Sergei Loznitsa's In the Fog was going to win the main jury award, given that Loznitsa has established himself as deserving comparison with the greats of late Soviet cinema such as Alexei German and whose second feature film has finally meant that in the former Soviet republics a film set during World War II has been produced that bears comparison with those produced by Larisa Shepitko (Ascension, 1977), German (Trial on the Road 1971 released 1985), and even Elem Klimov (Come and See, 1984). In fact, Loznitsa has managed to enter into a dialogue with these classics on an equal footing, no mean feat nowadays. German, Shepitko, and Loznitsa's triptych on betrayal are three responses from differing perspectives. Shepitko's film was very much a polemical response to German's idea of the potential for atonement and redemption; her maximalism has now been overturned by Loznitsa's portrait of total mistrust as the context in which the hero is taken as traitor (in a mirror opposite to Bertolucci's 1970 The Spider's Strategem, in which the traitor is treated as hero). Like both Shepitko's and German's film, Loznitsa's In the Fog concentrates on the internal dynamics of the Partisans, with even the dates and places coinciding (Belorussia, 1942). Shepitko's and Loznitsa's films are also adapted tales from the same writer, Vasily Bykov. The character of Sushenya in In the Fog is alienated not only from others but from himself as the final scene of the film demonstrates. Loznitsa's film, which he had been intending to shoot for a decade, is notable also for its long takes (there were only 72 cuts in the film as a whole) and its desaturated colors (representing film at the time of the action). At moments one is reminded of Nikolai Ge's portrait of Judas, and other scenes seemed to recall the landscape art of Kuindzha. The reception of the film was, however, extremely divided with the male portion of the audience denouncing its slowness and one viewer even absurdly accused Loznitsa of stealing the tale from Mel Gibson, while the female viewers were generally more positive (Loznitsa at the press conference was dogged with questions about the film's nationality). Notable is the extraordinary music-less soundtrack: the director's collaboration with sound designer Vladimir Golovnitsky has continued for a decade and his work with cameraman Oleg Mutu (who worked with Cristian Mungiu on 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days 2007) also seems to have become a lasting partnership. In his master class, Loznitsa gave a detailed description of rhythm in film and the links between music and film that had something of Eisenstein's scientific precision. In some ways, Loznitsa seems to have returned to make a film within the great tradition of late Soviet cinema (of Sheptiko, Klimov, German, and Tarkovsky), carrying it forward thematically while, unlike most post-Soviet directors, maintaining the gravitas of his predecessors,.
In recent years, a number of theatre directors and playwrights have tried their hand at cinema, and Russia is no exception — indeed, this has been the case ever since Meyerhold's 1915 film The Portrait of Dorian Gray. However, the emergence of Ivan Vyrypaev, Kirill Serebrennikov, and most notably Vasily Sigarev as film directors has meant that this trend has nowhere been so prominent as in the Russia of recent years. Sigarev's Living was in many ways one of the most sensational films shown at the Odessa festival. Watching it on the same day as Haneke's Amour it seemed to offer much more extreme doses of radicalism, and yet I came out of the film thinking that somehow Sigarev had been reserved, or perhaps ascetic: a word not often associated with him. The wildly divergent reactions to his films have broken juries most recently in festivals such as Wiesbaden and Rotterdam. A Bergmanesque intensity to his tales of death and bereavement, Sigarev undoes Dreyer's Ordet (1955) by demonstrating that the resurrected return soon back to their graves and give only a momentary, illusory consolation before the stark devastation of death sets in. Three relentlessly bleak tales of grief and bereavement are recounted in a way that the desolation is never allowed to dissipate. A film without catharsis and a rare implacable tragedy that has earned the wrath of certain cultural bureaucrats in Russia for its grim portrait of the country. Sigarev seems to have become a contemporary Andrei Platonov, at whom the Stanislav Govorukhins of this world are wont to scream "Scum!" for dissecting reality with precision and demolishing the myth of a new Russian "resurrection."
Few films quite hit home after the Sigarev viewing: Garrone's opening entry Reality and Ken Loach's closing The Angels' Share both genuinely impressed — Garrone's black comedy also offered little catharsis or hope, but its bleakness seemed pale in comparison to Sigarev's, whereas Loach offered a little more hope using whisky production a little like Ioseliani in Falling Leaves (1966) used wine production to lay bare unsustainable social realities. Alex de la Iglesia's As Luck Would Have It (or, more accurately, The Spark of Life) offered an esperanto black comedy on the exploitation of one's death for monetary reward with a style that recalls the late Berlanga with films like his Todos a la carcel (1993), where the director unleashes a battery of bad taste and a flurry of grotesque gags. The interest of the Serbian film Parade by Serdjan Dragojevich was subject-driven: a mainstream comedy of war veterans providing security for a gay pride march in Belgrade, it became an audience favorite at the festival even though one journalist at the press conference had apparently suggested that the director should be shot for making such a film. Its explicit anti-homophobic message was wrapped up in a lightweight comedy that didn't differ too much from the style of Dragojevich's earlier Pretty Village Pretty Flame (1996) — fellow Serb Maja Milosh's Clip was the rawer film — a dramatic account of teenage turmoil and probably a festival-only film given the seemingly inevitable censorship issues it would run into at any attempt of general release owing to its explicit sex scenes. More extraordinary in its evocative power was Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild (shown in the Festival of Festivals program). The film has been winning accolades from festival to festival and has even been compared to Vigo's Atalante (1934) owing to its lyrically pure aquatic utopianism.
Odessa may have offered a relatively small selection of films, but it certainly held some interesting discussions and master classes. Peter Greenaway's theses on the death of cinema perhaps inspired the greatest discussion at the festival: his insistent repetition that cinema was dead but that the screen is very much alive was received as an interesting provocation but didn't convince many. He stated that 117 years of cinema had offered humankind only illustrated texts and that through the principles of multimedia and interactivity a new art form needs to arise in order to supersede cinema — an art form that is more purely visual than cinema and which can free itself from text. This viewpoint nonetheless generated much discussion and dissension. The work of the film critic and the role of the film festival were discussed by other festival guests with several international film critics and scholars in attendance. Many of the critics spoke about recent developments in the professional sphere of film criticism and the huge impact that blogging has had on film criticism. Some questioned the relevance of many of the over 5,000 film festivals in contemporary Europe and the need for festivals to develop a specific identity. It appears that both Moscow and Odessa have certain choices to make in order for these festivals to stay relevant. Odessa has made some fine choices in its first free years yet needs to develop its cinematic side more rather than believing that a large amount of funds and stars will automatically make it the Cannes of Eastern Europe. Moscow's established reputation and its ability to offer global cinema from more than just one continent means that it has a certain advantage over Odessa, but the danger of it losing any specific role in the festival circuit is very strong. Its heterogeneity is fine, but frankly, many of its competition films do not seem to justify the idea that Moscow is really a Class A festival.
Giuliano Vivaldi is a translator and independent film scholar specializing in Russian and Soviet cinema based in Russia, Italy, and the UK. He has studied at Russia's VGIK film school and is a member of the Russian Cinema Research Group. He has published review articles for the online journal Film Philosophy and translated subtitles for Elem Klimov's Sport, Sport, Sport. He is working on a book on Boris Barnet as well as a translation of the Argentinian/Italian writer Juan Rodolfo Wilcock. He has a Russian film blog at http://giuvivrussianfilm.blogspot.com
August 2012 | Issue 77
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