Third Dispatch From The 27th Annual MIFF

Eight days down, two to go. More postings of substance will follow, but right now I'm choosing five hours of sleep over four hours + blogging. Thankfully, the last two late night screenings were well worth the sleep deprivation - Claire Denis's The Intruder and the Dardennes The Child, though why Denis and her film were relegated to an 11pm weeknight screening was a mystery, especially considering her very high profile (locally, of course) presence on the jury. Nevertheless, she anticipated the restlessness by gracefully promising, "if you don't like the film, it's only my fault."

The in-competition films have improved, thank God, with Peter Gardos's Hungarian folk tryptich, The Porcelain Doll, being the most pleasant surprise. The sole Russian entry, Dreaming of Space, received a distracting amount of attention - from the press and from the hordes of pensioners that somehow qualify as press and eat loudly from loudly rustling plastic bags at 9am and demand aisle seats to stretch their aching joints and...where was I?...yes, Dreaming of Space - but considering director Alexey Uchitel's last film, The Stroll, was a revelation at MIFF 2003, some of that attention was deserved. The new film is highly accomplished and merits more attention, but it takes a right turn - and I mean right turn - at its conclusion, sinking it beneath the new patriotism of apolitical nostalgia; an ending far more disturbing, after ninety minutes of sweetly somber ambiguity, than Von Trier's Manderlay (selling out all week at the Gala Screenings sidebar), which shocks only in the time it takes to belabor every one of it's two or three points, and in the degree to which it apes The Village.

Until next time, some quotes from Peter Greenaway, in town to introduce the "Russian Version" of The Tulse Luper Suitcases:

I have no truck with mysticism. Tarkovsky is not my favorite director. I am a rationalist. I believe in civilization.

There's more religion in my little finger than there is in the pope. But no, I don't believe in God. I am an athiest. A Darwinian evolutionist.

I am Welsh by birth, English by education, and European by nature.

I acknowledge Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. They are prostlytizers of English socialism preaching to the converted and telling us what we already know. Cinema is best served away from documentary neo-realism. I come from a tradition of post-post-Italian neo-realism in England, where we've produced the best television in the world. But to paraphrase Truffaut, the English have no visual imagination.

It should be noted that Mr. Greenaway was never asked, at any point in the press conference, to define himself.


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