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Established 1995 serves and documents relentless the festivals community, offering 92.000 articles of news, free blog profiles and functions to enable festival matchmaking with filmmakers.


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Besides the usual emphasis on Latino and Made-in-Spain films, new directors, and the Open Space (Zabaltegi) catch-all international sections, one of the eye openers of the 56th edition of this tasty Basqueland festival is a forty-three (43!) film overview of so-called "Japanese Film Noir". Film Noir purists who love to split hairs over the definition of the term, and over which films qualify for inclusion in the category and which ones do not, may be taken aback by some of the entries in this saucy sidebar, but anyone who takes them in is in for some unusually uproarious festival fun.

Titles seen so far in the first weekend of the fest were: "Karakkaze Yaro" (afraid to Die) by Yasuzo Masumura, 1960, starring Novelist Yukio Mishima as a lowdown gangster, "Pigs and Battleships", (Shohei Imamura, 1961), "Yaju Shisubeshi" (The Beast to Die) by Toru Murakawa, 1980, and "Hakuchu no Buraikan" (Greed in Broad Daylight) by Kinji Fukasaku, 1961. Many are basically cheap gangster flicks churned out after the war with noirish elements and definite American influences, while other are of the Yakuza or just plain gangster genres, however, all are interesting and provide a fresh new view of the popular Japanese cinema which tends to be overlooked by the breed of snooty western academics who do most of the writing in the west about Japanese cinema. The collection is called "JAPON EN NEGRO" and puts out an eye-catching poster from the early Kurosawa film "Stray Dog" (Nora Inu) with a handsome young Toshiro Mifune as a clean-cut detective in a white cap on the cover. A T-shirt with the same image is on sale. Details on these films will follow in subsequent reports.

The daily festival routine here starts out with two press screenings of competition films in the vast main hall of the beachfront Kursaal (CASINO) Cube, each of which is followed by a major press conference in a Kursaal basement hall set up for this purpose. Arriving only on the second day I missed the big ones for Woody Allen and Banderas, but have managed to attend three so far on the first weekend of the fest. The Friday noon film was a little known sleeper from Sundance entitled "Frozen River", a first film from femme director Courtney Hunt. This is a story of an antagonistic relationship between a white trailer-trash woman of middlish age and a younger Indian woman, based on their mutual economic misery and their attempts to survive based on the dangerous smuggling of illegal immigrants over the Canadian border --the frozen St. Lawrence River in winter --to the Mohawk Reservation on the American side.
This grim and gritty picture won the Grand Jury prize this year at Sundance. One American reviewer stated that Melissa Leo, who plays the down but not-quite- out spunky white heroine, "Ray Eddy", should win the next Best Actress Oscar, and that might not be a bad choice --although I think that Amerindian actress Misty Upham, deserves equal credit for her taciturn portrayal of Mohawk smuggler "Lila Littlewolf". The film was roundly applauded by the large press gathering with is a very positive indication of Golden Concha (best film) potential. At this early point I would say that Frozen River has the inside track.

The following press conference with the two main actresses and director C. Hunt at the press table was, to my surprise, sparsely attended, and did not last very long as there were not many questions from the scattering of Spanish scribes. It did turn out, however, that Misty Upham is actually a member of the faraway Blackfeet tribe in Browning, Montana, not a Mohawk from upper New York State. She is at least, an authentic Native American, Seattle based, and would seem to have a promising mainstream film career ahead of her. Other Indians in the film were real Mohawks from the reservation, not Hollywood Indians with Bronx accents.

By way of contrast, the next press conference of the day was SRO packed to the rafters, mainly because it featured straight from Hollywood big-name talent, athough for a shmucky film that forced this writer to walk out at the halfway mark to avoid brain damage. The film in question, Ben Stiller’s latest frenzied brain storm, “Tropic Thunder”, and the conference participants Director/actor Ben himself, and his main co-star, Robert Downey, Jr. Stiller radiated calm and confidence, the mark of a young man (43) who has definitely arrived at the pinnacle of Hollywood wheeler-dealership, whereas Downey, facing the press at his side, appeared and acted droopy-lidded, wasted, and spaced out on something … or other. The pair carried on what amounted to something like a private in-joke dialogue – more or less like a David Letterman show without David Letterman -- in sum, a waste of time as far as press conferences go.
As for the film, incredibly an official selection of the fest, it was apparently meant to be a satire of Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” and maybe all war films –as well as a send up of all the foibles of Hollywood itself, and features a numberof Hwd superstars, notably Nick Nolte and Tom Cruise, in unrecognizable makeup. The first five minutes, a fake trailer, is really funny, and if it would have ended there this writer would have had his laff for the day. However, it quickly descended into such trashy shlock and endlessly repetitive mayhem that it left one stunned rather than amused halfway threw. Different strokes, and different bashes over the head for different folks –some of the Spanish journalists I talked with later found it amusing and “worthwhile”. But, as the Spanish hemselves say, “sobre gustos no hay nada escrito”.
A welcome change of pace was offered by the romantic French competition entry “La Belle Personne”, which director Christophe Honoré explained at his Monday morning press conference, is a timeless update to contemporary Paris of a 16th century French classic, “La Princesse de Clèves”. This tale of criss-crossed lovers, some of them gay, others just unhappy, is now set in an upscale Parisian lycée where a very attractive new student, busty, sultry Junie, 16, (Léa Seydoux) signs up for an Italian class and is soon upsetting everybody’s romantic applecart, including that of her Italian teacher, Mr. Nemours, (Louis Garrel) who, until her arrival reigned as Monsieur Irresistible among all the horny co-eds. To me this films reads a bit like a more subtle Gallic version of “High School Confidential” with Miss Seydoux providing the sexual voltage instead of Mamie van Doren – but this may be stretching a point. At any rate “La Belle Personne” starts out as a tender tale of teenagers in Paris, and is a bit slow and over tender under hard-to-get Junie flashes opens her winter coat, wearing nothing underneath -- to expose her wondrously proportioned torso and breastwork to shy goggle-eyed boyfriend Otto –from which point the pic takes off to its tragic, almost noirish conclusion. When Otto suspects that Junie is also carrying on with Mr. Nemours –which she isn’t –she’s just teasing both him and herself – poor Otto jumps from the balcony of the school to his death on the concrete below. Junie takes a quick look at the corpse on the ground then quietly splits town, but you can be sure that the Lycée Henri IV will never be the same without her. I’m almost sorry I attended the press conference because young Léa Seydoux in loose blonde hair without the severe black Cleopatra hairdo of the film, was just a shy kid herself nothing like the teenage femme fatale that had so excited my adrenaline and other secretions during the course of the film. Sometimes we’re better off with our fantasies, but ain’t that, after all, just what the flickers are all about …?


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