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Locarno video competition and more

Video Competition
The Iranian entry “President Mir Qanbar” by Mohammed Shirvari is a most unusual documentary about a 74 year old man from a village in the Turkish speaking Azerbaijan region who mounts his own private campaign to run for president of Iran. He travels from village to village on a bicycle addressing whoever will listen with a portable megaphone and is accompanied by a deformed cripple riding a donkey cart. Being a poor villager himself he contends to be sensitive to the problems of the poor peasants and promises to improve their lot if, with the help of God, he is elected. Considered a completely honest and sincere candidate he actually manages to garInner a few votes here and there, more in each runoff, until in the last
one he has over 1000 votes against the 36,000 of the winning candidate.
Nevertheless, Mr. Qanbar persists and is convinced that he will eventually become president (with the help of God). Mr. Qanbar, a sprightly congenial gentleman in a green woolen cap, accompanied director Shirvan and his crew to Locarno to help present the film. In the Q and A session following the screening, asked about his impressions of Switzerland, Mr. Qanbar said he was impressed with the orderliness of things but was rather shocked by the scanty summer apparel of the women. While this film looks on the surface
like the study of a Quixotic quest for political office it provides a most intimate view of village life in Iran with lots of donkeys and sheep in evidence and implicitly speaks volumes about the popolat political atmosphere in today’s Iran.In the section “Semaine de la Critique” (critic’s week) a very interesting Swiss entry is entitled simply « Blau ». Co-directed by Norbert Wiedner and Stefan Kalin , this is a musical documentary about two alternative musicians, Riccardo Regidor, a composer with jazz roots, and Thomas Hosli, a really off-beat singer and performer in a slightly Elton Johnish way with a definite Swiss twis and perhaps a taste of Jacques Brel. The dialogue in the Swiss German of Luzern had the local audience in stitches, but even for
those who do not understand this arcane variation on German, the film is quite entertaining and offers an insight into a little known central European music scene.

The major competition film screened for the press in the morning was has the long title "S(c)eptique -- Vendredi ou un autre jour" (Sceptic Friday-- or some other day) and is yet another Robinson Crusoe tale, this time from Belgium. Not very different from the Tom Hamks vehicle "Castaway" of 2000, although this version naturally has a francophone twist. The lonely shipwreck survivor is Philipe Nahon, a famous actor of the Comedie Francaise in Paris, the castaway savage who eventually becomes his Man Friday (or any other day?) quickly learns to speak French, and the pirates who accidentally discover the uncharted Island are French speaking pirates. In the end Nahon, after 21 years of nearly timeless life in the raw, elects not to go back to civilization when he has the chance, but decides to remain on the Island where he is king in eternal anonymity. Directed by Yvan La Moine "Another Friday" is beautifully lensed and has some interesting philosophical touches, but one cannot halp asking, "Do we really need yet another Robinson
Crusoe flick?".
On the giant screen tonight we were treated -- although subjected would be a better word -- to an absolutely unwatchable premeire entitled "Rag Tale". This film by Irish first timer Mary McGuckian, is ostensible a satire of media moguls like Rupert Murdoch but the Dutch-angled fast camera, constantly swinging side to side and plunging in and out, is utterly stupefying. This film is the polar opposite stylewise of Nobuhiro Suwa's "A Perfect Couple" in which there is almost no camera movement at all. The effect of this frenzied camerawork, especially on the super large screen, is so off-putting as to drive an ordinary viewer schizoid after ten minutes. Piazza Grande viewers strode out in droves so that by the halfway mark the piazza was half empty, containing only diehard big screen fans staying on to see the second part of the twin bill, Terry Gilliam's 1981 "Time Bandits". Gilliam is one of the "Fantastic Four" here to receive special career distinctions, along with Wim Wenders, Iranian director Abbasd Kiarostami and cameraman Vittorio Storaro who is also the president of the international feature jury.
The Orson welles highlight of the day was his very rarely shown "Falstaff -- Chimes at Midnight", 1965, which Welles always claimed as his personal favorite. Loosely adapted from several Shakespeare plays in which the boisterous character of John Falstaff appears, Welles himself at the age of fifty plays the ribald central figure and is ably supported by a mainly English cast, notably John Gielgud as the king. French nouvelle Vague actresses Marina Vlady and Jeanne Moreau have cameos. Moreau, it is said, worked for almost nothing just to be directed by the great Welles. The film was shot in Spain and was an international coproduction with such complicated distribution rights that they remain unsettled to this day making the film well nigh unseeable under normal conditions. Kudos to the Munich film archive for getting the unadulterated "Chimes" to Locarno. One of Orson Welles daughters, Chris Welles, is also here to take in the retrospective and said that she is learning things about her own father she never knew before.
Alex Deleon


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