51ST SAN SEBASTIAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL - 9/18/2003-9/27/2003
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2003
(written by Laura Clifford except where noted as Robin)

Girl with the Pearl Earring Girl with the Pearl Earring (Official Selection, New Directors) - click link for review

Girl with the Pearl Earring press conference (Director Peter Webber)

                                                Robin congratulates Peter Webber Robin congratulates Peter Webber

At another sadly underpopulated press conference, director Peter Webber is mostly greeted by questions about cinematography.  Granted, the film's visuals are one of its most extraordinary components, but Weber's subtle, sure-handed direction of a complex story told with sparse dialogue seems almost to have been taken for granted.  (One journalist was rather condescending when he asked how a first time director like Webber was able to work with esteemed cinematographer Eduardo Serra ("The Hairdresser's Husband").

Webber explains that he made films for television and was developing a thriller when a chance, overheard conversation with his producer's assistant about the impact his first viewing of "Girl with the Pearl Earring" (a replica was hanging outside the producer's office) had on him resulted in a chance at the job.  The casting of Johanssen was luck, as he didn't really think she looked the part at first, having met her on her way to a Knicks game.  When asked about Colin Firth by a female journalist, Webber laughed, saying that the ladies always asked about Firth, who was presently shooting "Bridget Jones 2."  Webber said that Firth had a brooding quality but that he could also express great tenderness on screen.  Webber went on discuss the film's costumes, which he said were stripped back and made simpler than the period would have dictated in order to pay attention to the characters.  In closing, Webber said he didn't really think his film was about art at all, but about sex and power.

Dans le Rouge du Conchant (Red Dusk) (Official Selection)
Red Dusk Michel (Bruno Putzulu) arrives in Paris from Buenos Aires smuggling the painting inherited from his French father that he believes will set him up for life, but the dealer he goes to sneers that this painting was stolen from a Jewish owner by Vichy and that it is also a fake. Clara (Marisa Paredes, "All About My Mother"), a psychiatrist, watches in horror as a female patient jumps off her office balcony.  Her ensuing sleepless nights are compounded when she receives a letter from an old friend in Argentina that brings back memories of long lost loves and a tragedy she sets out to revenge.  David (Feodor Atkine), a painter and forger, is haunted by memories of his wife, tortured and killed in Argentina.  Director Edgardo Cozarinsky (and coscenarist Jean-Marie Duprez) attempt to create a moody connection among these three based upon a haunted past, but the film is too fragmented to fully engage.  While Clara and David are connected by their Argentinean past, Michel is dropped early in the film, only reappearing near the end in a loosely thematic way.  Some individual scenes, such as when David visits an old Countess to assess a painting which he begs her to keep as a connection to her youth, are beautiful, but others run on too long with lesser impact.  C-

Robin:

Paris-based director Edgardo Cozarinsky tells the stories of three lives whose destiny lay on the “other side of the world” in “Red Dusk.”

Michel, the son of a Frenchman who migrated to Argentina after World War 2, journeys to Paris with the hope of starting life anew with a smuggled masterpiece inherited from his father.

Clara, a dedicated, middle-aged psychologist receives a reel of super-8 film from the other side that awakens old memories, ones of betrayal, and she sets off in search of the culprit of many years ago.

David, a promising artist turned expert art forger becomes disgusted with what he has become and decides to foil his bosses and find his true love lost on the other side of the world.

I was less than thrilled with both the narrative and the design of “Red Dusk.” The three stories told are unevenly balanced as Michel’s tale leads things off but is dropped in favor of the other two stories – neither of which either intrigued or held my interest. Truthfully, I actually nodded out during what is supposed to be a surreal dance number, woke what had to be minutes later and the couple is still dancing! To me, nothing happens on the “other side of the world” and I give it a D.

 
The Dreamers The Dreamers (Zabaltegi) - click for review

"The Dreamers" press conference (Director Bernardo Bertolucci, Actor Louis Garrel)

                                                        The Dreamers press conference

Bertolucci is guided in by Garrel and the film's producer.  He says his film is not a historic film, but a time machine.  He defers a question about his actors' foreknowledge of the '68 riots to Garrel, startling the daydreaming, smoking actor.  Bertolucci laughs and says it's like school, when the teacher calls upon a student who isn't ready.  Garrel says he speaks no English, and as there is no French translator available, a journalist steps in to translate Garrel's answer into Spanish.  Asked about filming once again in Paris, Bertolucci responds 'Paris seduces you and says come here and make a movie.'  He's questioned about which version we have seen, as the catalog listed the film with a 130 minute running time, but it was only 115, and Bertolucci says the catalog was simply incorrect, we've seen the same version which premiered at Venice.  He's also asked about the abruptness of the film's ending and says that he intended the police charge to be an umbilical cord from the '60s to the present day.  'My trend is to ask questions, not to give answers.'  Questioned about his stance that the '68 riots were not a failure ('how do you therefore explain Bush and Bertulosconi?'), the director says that the riots were a social phenomenon between people and that feminism was a very important outcome.

Bertolucci then tells us about his next project, "Heaven and Hell," which will be a 1590 period piece made in Italy about a Naples musician rediscovered by Stravinsky, who believed he had found the secret of music of the twentieth century.  He says that the concepts of nostalgia and ideology have been degraded in today's use of language.  Returning to "The Dreamers," he's asked about his interest in incest, as shown in "La Luna" and today's film.  He says "The Dreamers" twins are heteropsychotic, that they were already one in the womb.  They are together so completely that incest is not really possible and technically not present in the film.

En la Ciudad (In the City) (Official Selection)
In the City Cesc Gay's ("Nico and Dani") eagerly anticipated new film, "In the City," turns out to be a minor disappointment.  Six friends get together in various configurations to share food, drink and romantic woes as marriages go through strains and new relationships are formed and broken in the city of Barcelona.

Irene (Monica Lopez, "Intacto") is arranging to have an abortion, unbeknownst to her blandly agreeable husband, Manu (Chisco Amado, "Nico and Dani").  She's also made very uncomfortable and evasive whenever she runs into her old college friend Silvia (Aurea Marquez).  Dost she protest too much?  Mario (Eduard Fernandez, "The Galindez Files") is perfectly content with his wife Sara (Vicenta Ndongo), a theatrical costumer, until he spies her entering the apartment of one of her play's actors in the middle of the afternoon.  Mario gets silent revenge by having a one night stand with Cristina (Leonor Watling, "My Life Without Me").  The recently separated Tomas (Alex Brendemuhl) is a thirty-six year old teacher who has fallen into an affair with his sixteen year old student Ana (Miranda Makaroff, in her debut), who happens to be his buddy Mario's niece.  Gloria (Maria Pujatte), overwhelmed by the first attention she has had from a good looking man, Eric (Eric Bonicatto), concocts a more serious relationship for her friends than she actually has.  She then destroys the fictional one when more earthbound admirer Andres (Jordi Sanchez, "Nico and Dani") enters the picture, only to break his heart when Eric reenters the scene.

Gay's ensemble fails to incite much enthusiasm because most of them are miserable and not particularly interesting.  While Monica's repressed lesbianism provides an emotional payoff when Manu throws the surprise birthday dinner party which closes the film, for the most part "In the City" leaves its characters just as we found them.  Gloria does arouse a wish for her comeuppance (which she gets in a nice piece or irony) and the slow arc Amado achieves makes Manu's unknowing plight truly sympathetic, but the only coupling that generates any interest is that of Tomas and the down-to-earth, plucky Ana (when they first sleep together she tells him 'I'd never had sex before!' the next morning, just to get a rise out of him).  Oddly, Barcelona itself isn't shown to particular advantage.  C+

Robin:

A group of friends in the big city have their paths cross and intertwine as each experience the ever-changing dynamics of life in Cesc Gay’s ensemble work, “In the City.”

Barcelona is the backdrop for this modern tale about the lives of a group of friends and acquaintances as they try to get on with life. Irene (Monica Lopez) is married to Manu (Chisco Amado) and works in a contemporary art center. She has doubts about herself and her marriage and needs to make some major decisions. Manu, on the other hand, is devoted to his wife and young daughter and hasn’t a clue about Irene’s inner turmoil.

Mario (Eduard Fernandez) is an architect married to Sara (Vincenta Ndongo). He is the timid type while she needs to be at the center of things. She wants to live life to its fullest while he is the kind who is too afraid to dance.

Sofia (Maria Pujalte) lives alone with her two parakeets and is Sara’s best friend. She has a one-night stand with Frenchman Eric (Eric Bonicatto) and, in her mind, builds a fantasy life with him. But, he is married, though he tells her that he will be moving to Barcelona, alone. Meanwhile Sofia begins to date Andres (Jordi Sanches), a high school philosophy teacher and a kind, loving man - the type she should be thrilled with, but is not.

Tomas (Alex Brendemuhl) is a musician, a drummer, who makes ends meet by giving lessons. He is recently separated and has a five-year old son. He is having an affair with Ana (Miranda Makaroff), though he doesn’t know, at first, that she is a minor and the niece of his friend Mario.

Sylvia (Aurea Marquez) is a photographer and has known Irene since they were at college. When she rekindles their friendship she helps Irene to find her true self.

We meet all the players and the new directions of their lives are set in motion but there is little to draw me in, emotionally, to their stories. One exception is Sofia and her uncaring treatment of Andres. I only hoped that, in the end, she would get her just desserts. Otherwise, there was little in these characters that compelled me to like them. Two exceptions are Tomas and Ana but there was not enough of them in the film.

“In the City” could have been in any major city and director/writer Cesc Gay does show skill as a filmmaker, but the movie left me flat. I give it a C.



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