|A still from Beatriz Seigner's haunting new film Los Silencios (The Silences)|
I write this column from the middle of the
The festival’s programming this year appears to have surrendered more space than usual to
For any serious film festival goer, though, the main business of the day remains the choosing of the next day’s films. Many are here to catch
The greater proportion of screenings, happily, remains recent international cinema. Beyond the fiction features in the International Competition section, there is the non-competitive World Panorama section, also consisting of international films made in the last year. The Festival Kaleidoscope section presents films made this year by the world’s most eminent filmmakers — this is where you go to catch Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Palme d’Or-winning moving through occasionally mawkish tale of fictive kinship, Shoplifters, or agent provocateur Gaspar Noe’s frenetic dance-and-drugs cocktail Climax, or the Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest leisurely three-hour outing, The Wild Pear Tree.
For me personally, this year’s festival has been a revelation for the number of female directors whose superb work I’ve encountered for the first time. The very first film I saw was Susanna Nicchiarelli’s Nico, 1988, a portrait of German singer Christa Päffgen, who shot to fame for singing briefly with the Velvet Underground and later had a son with legendary French actor Alain Delon. Nicchiarelli’s film is equal parts melancholy and fierce, like its heroine. I knew nothing about Nico or her music, but Danish actress Trine Dyrholm makes Paffgen’s dark, heroin-fuelled energy a thing of beauty — even as Nico revels in having aged beyond the prime age of physical attractiveness: “I was never happy when I was beautiful.” It is a bravura performance: what we get is a woman who seems gloriously intense but also casually deranged, seemingly unseeing of the risks people around her take to enable her life. Her preoccupation with herself, the bubble in which she seems to live, is only really punctured by her tenderness for her teenaged son.
Another of my favourites so far has been Beatriz Seigner’s
The island is both surrounded by water and built upon it, and the atmosphere is hauntingly evocative: the draughty wooden houses standing on stilts, the women looking out of the square windows in their slatted wooden walls, the row boats gliding silently between them, the rain outside and the hearth fires within. Seigner, whose previous film Bollywood Dream tracked the Hindi film ambitions of three young Brazilian women, has produced here a slow, immersive work of beauty. The simplicity of its approach to its political context did not seem to me to take away from the film in any way. The warmth and attentiveness with which the camera treats both place and people — letting us absorb not just the faces of the central characters but also people who appear briefly, like the boy with one leg —seemed to me emblematic of a politics we need much more of: a humanising politics which sees each missing person as a person.
(To be continued next week)