It’s the fifth anniversary of my first column for this paper – my, how time flies. Five years of searching – usually in vain – for some transcendence among the many flickering images in dozens of darkened rooms. And then, as if by magic, transcendence appears.
It has taken a few weeks – and a second viewing – to properly process Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Often baffling, frustrating, unhelpful, yet emotional and evocative in ways I couldn’t put my finger on, I wrestled with it throughout the two and a half hour running time – searching for answers and meaning among the beautiful images, floating, soaring camerwork and weird diversions into cosmology and vulcanology.
Despite the shocking and inexplicable decision to omit Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Ruins from this year’s Film Festival (a disaster applicable only to me I think) the actual line-up is as good as everyone says. At least I think it is from surveying about 20 out of the 160+ titles in the programme – hardly a representative sample but when most of those 20 bring such joy and only a few land with a dull thud you have to think that the rest of the programme is similarly proportioned.
Last year the big Cannes winner, Of Gods and Men, was missed by the International Festival, a situation that was remedied at Easter’s World Cinema Showcase. This year, of the big Cannes movies, only Godard’s Film Socialisme is missing in action. The great Swiss iconoclast may well have produced his most interesting work in years but it will take a trip to Amazon to find out for sure. Even the redoubtable Aro Video are unlikely to take a punt on it without the Festival’s imprimatur.
As usual, I asked the helpful Festival people to point me towards the less likely, the unheralded, the little battlers, the kind of film that is easily missed when skimming the 80 page programme. Any fool can tell you that The Tree of Life is going to be interesting. Capital Times readers want more than that.
Firstly music: two documentaries impressed me and they worked so well together I wish they were a double-feature. Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself is a biography of the outlaw country star as he settles in to an uncomfortable old age. Actually old age to Haggard is no less comfortable than every other age – I can’t think of a great star less at ease in his own skin.
For this year’s World Cinema Showcase preview I started with a list of all the films I wanted to see and then realised that I had used up my entire world limit. So, forgive me if these briefs are brief but this year’s Showcase is as heavyweight as it’s ever been (and runs for three days longer so everything can fit).
I’m not sure why one Festival would need two films about New York street photographers but if you have to choose between them, skip Smash His Camera – about the paparazzi self-publicist Ron Gallela – and tune in to the delightful Bill Cunningham New York instead.