The opener was… Nerenai? That’s what I wrote down, though it’s not listed on the fest schedule… two women with two guitars, mic and drum machine.

You Can’t Stop Spirit (Vashni Korin)
Portrait of the Mardi Gras “Baby Dolls” shot like a Beyoncé video with dialogue loops and callbacks, fun. This came to mind again during the Big Ears festivities.

In Flow of Words (Eliane Esther Bots)
My fave of the bunch, though I remember it the least well now. Widescreen stories of translators who work on genocide trials.

The Last Days of August (Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck)
I knew the Killing of Two Lovers guy was going to be in this program, and recognized his style from the first frame… portrait of dying Nebraskan towns.

Our Ark (Deniz Tortum & Kathryn Hamilton)
3D models and simulationism. Our second Deniz collaborative short.

Nuisance Bear (Jack Weisman & Gabriela Osio Vanden)
Katy gave this a thumbs-down. Widescreen gliding camera discovers creatures on the outskirts of Canadian towns: snow rabbit, dogs, foxes, and the bears, who are caged and deported when they dare to involve themselves in the human civilization that has encroached on their territory and now comes out to gape at them as they migrate.

We showed up for the feature Dos Estaciones (Juan Pablo González), a re-enactment about an extremely buttoned-up woman running a failing tequila factory, but we ditched to get food and rest – it’s a lot of movies to watch over a long weekend.

“The effort of everything to become language…” Audrey unpacks in a hotel to church music, reads family letters in a library research room, then explains the nature of correspondence to someone unseen at a bar – more than halfway through the movie we’ll finally see this person, Audrey’s translator, who has a different take on the letters. Aunt Anya has a different take on Audrey’s entire project, having donated the letters in the first place, apparently without permission, and saying Audrey isn’t a proper curator. After the relative stillness of the previous films, this disagreement counts as a major action scene.

Revelations in the Cinema Scope cover story: Campbell was improvising some of the stories about her grandmother to the unseen translator. Nayman frames it well, the hook being that Canadian films don’t have sequels, then building up to the evolution from Never Eat Alone through Veslemøy’s Song to this one.

Campbell: One thing that I’m really excited about is that in the next film with Audrey we’re going to give her a friend.
Bohdanowicz: She needs a friend.

Also watched her short The Hardest Working Cat in Showbiz (2020). Dan Sallitt doesn’t have as good a narrator voice as Deragh Campbell, but tells a good story, tracing the film appearances of a cat who appeared in Tourneur’s Stranger on Horseback and supposedly many other movies over decades.

In a WWII prison camp, Beat Takeshi is a sadistic guard led by humorless youngish Capt. Yonoi (the film’s composer, Ryuichi Sakamoto). Lawrence (Paddington 2‘s Tom Conti) is a prisoner who speaks some Japanese and represents the Brits, a bunch of sensible dudes until David Bowie (same year as The Hunger) comes along.

Cruel Story of Middle Age. A classy-looking narrative movie with tricky subject matter, feeling more like a prestige 80’s international coproduction than those late 60’s Oshima youth films. Cool rumbling music, and lots of singing, never as fun as the pub songs in the Terence Davies movies. The story is mostly survival tactics, power games, betrayals and brutality – strange that the lead actors were two rock stars and a comedian.

Yoav’s orange coat won the big prize at Berlin this year. We’re still catching up with the year in fests – after this, we saw Honeyland (Sundance) and Atlantics (Cannes), and I hold out stupid hope for Vitalina Varela (Locarno) to play in this town. Too bad that Venice voted to give no awards this year, guess I’ll have to run with critical faves About Endlessness and Cold Case Hammarskjöld.

I watched this – in theaters, no less – but couldn’t fathom what to write about it. Then I read Theo’s review, which is perfect. Tom Mercier made an impression as our French-obsessed Israeli, will appear in the next Luca Guadagnino joint. The beautiful rich boy he fortunately runs into is Quentin Dolmaire (My Golden Days), and his girl is Louise Chevillotte (Lover for a Day). My first Nadav Lapid after meaning to catch up with Policeman then The Kindergarten Teacher all decade.

Placeholder post until I watch this again on blu-ray, since it didn’t stay long in theaters. Doomed adventure story in a hopeless land, like a post-apocalyptic Fantastic Mr. Fox. The animation, voice acting, production design all perfect, and an overwhelming joy to watch in theaters. Haven’t yet read the articles about how Wes’s representation of Japan and treatment of women are problematic, so I’m free to love the movie in blissful ignorance, for now.

Things I Can Remember: Yoko Ono is the scientist who leaks the government-suppressed cure for snout fever to the exchange-student leader of the revolutionary youth. The conflicted lead dog of the pack who finds young Atari is a long-lost brother of Atari’s companion/bodyguard Spots, who now runs with a gang of suspected cannibals. And I can’t think too hard about the ending when they swap dog-to-human translation devices because it makes me emotional.

EDIT: watched again two months later on blu-ray

“This is a distant uncle’s worst nightmare”

That familiar Fantastic Mr. Fox feeling… whenever I think about this movie for any reason, I have the strong urge to rewatch it immediately.

“You want to be happy. There are more important things.”

A woman (Domiziana Giordano of Godard’s Nouvelle Vague) is a faithless tourist in an italian church, cluttering its ancient traditions with her modern feminist ideas. An interesting, beautiful scene but I knew Tarkovsky wouldn’t have a female protagonist, so it turns out she’s the Italian translator for our Russian poet hero Andrei (Oleg Yankovskiy of The Mirror and The Man Who Cried). He’s visiting some ancient hot baths as research for a book he’ll write on an 18th-century Russian composer who spent some time there.

Andrei becomes fascinated with local madman Domenico (Erland Josephson of The Sacrifice and some eight Bergman films). Visits his rainy, ruined house and listens to his superstitions. Returns to the translator, who is leaving in a rage, says Andrei is so charmless and boring that he may not even exist. She acts like she’s breaking up their love affair, even though they didn’t have one. But later, safely back in Rome with her boyfriend (a humorless-looking businessman) she phones Andrei telling him to meet Domenico in Rome.

Instead, Andrei goes back to the baths and attempts to complete Domenico’s quest to walk from one side of the pool to the other holding a lighted candle, while Domenico himself gives a speech atop a statue then lights himself on fire. Andrei has two failed attempts and a single success in one mobile ten-minute shot, after which Andrei seems to collapse, leading to a long, crazy black-and-white shot of the poet with Domenico’s dog in front of a Russian house within an Italian cathedral.

Co-written with Antonioni/Fellini screenwriter Tonino Guerra, won three awards at Cannes. Can’t say I understood the movie’s intentions, but I enjoyed it for being a gorgeous bit of cinema. Some fun trick photography and lots of very long takes, plus imagery I recognized from other Tarkovsky movies, though it’s been a while since I’ve seen one – ruined houses in My Name Is Ivan and Stalker, plants waving underwater in Solaris.

Acquarello says he filmed it “in exile,” calls it a “symbolically obscure … cinematic abstract of spiritual hunger” that “mourns an irretrievable past and an uncertain future.”

Tarkovsky: “I do not harbor any particularly deep or profound thoughts about my own work. I simply have no idea what my symbols represent. The only thing I am after is for them to give birth to certain emotions.”

“I want to give expression to the impossibility of living in a divided world, a world torn to pieces.” In interviews, Tarkovsky says that his lead character is an architecture professor and Domenico a former math teacher. “Let us say that what I like the most in them is the confidence with which the madman acts and the tenacity of the traveler in his attempts at achieving a greater level of understanding. That tenacity could also be called hope.”

One more: Tarkovsky says he most values in this film “its almost unbearable sadness, which, however, reflects very well my need to immerse myself in spirituality. In any case, I can’t stand mirth. Cheerful people seem guilty to me, because they can’t comprehend the mournful value of existence. I accept happiness only in children and the elderly, with all others I am intolerant.” And when asked about his pessimism: “The true pessimists are those who continue to seek happiness. Wait for two or three years and then go and ask them what they have attained.”

Thanks very much to for their collection of translated interviews and articles.