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Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Rotterdam Roundup


Tim Brown, CINECITY co-director, sent this roundup of his visit to the Rotterdam Film Festival:

A visibly smaller and more focused programme than previous editions, this second festival under the stewardship of director Rutger Wolfson had less of the related installations and exhibitions but was felt by many to be a step up from last year’s programme and highlights a festival in a period of transition. Rotterdam has always been focused on the art rather than the red carpet glitz and glam that dominates other festivals and the fact that many titles from last year’s fest never got picked up for UK distribution says much about the challenging times for arthouse cinema; Rotterdam is always a pleasure and offers a range of delights celebrating cinema at its most innovative that keeps it as an essential visit for organisations such as CINECITY.
We caught around 20 titles with much anticipated THE TEMPTATION OF ST. TONY from Estonian director Veiko Ounpuu living long in the memory. His last feature AUTUMN BALL appeared in CINECITY 2008 as part of our New Europe strand and the rich mix of pitch black humour and visual sophistication was once more present and correct. With many wonderful set pieces and nods to Pasolini and Bunuel - the drumming from Bunuel’s home village of Calanda that appeared in a number of his films provided a suitable climax towards the end of …ST. TONY – the film is a parable about the new compassionless capitalism in Eastern Europe and also features a great turn from Denis Lavant.
The VPRO Tiger Awards were given to AGUA FRIA DE MAR by Paz Fábrega from Costa Rica, MUNDANE HISTORY by Anocha Suwichakornpong from Thailand and ALAMAR by Mexican director Pedro González-Rubio. MUNDANE HISTORY was a particularly effective debut feature from Thai film-maker Anocha Suwichakornpong about a bitter young man who is paralysed from the waist down after an accident and has been appointed a new nurse. The psychological drama explodes in a hallucinogenic ode to the universe and a meditation on our place within it.
US independent film-maker James Benning’s RUHR was a wonderful piece of cinema at its purest, a stunning series of static camera shots of landscapes where apparently little happens. With just 6 shots in all for the 2-hour running time, the little details like a car or plane passing take on a dramatic significance. The final shot of an enormous chimney which belches out smoke is quite stunning.
Other highlights included HIROSHIMA, the first solo feature from Uruguyan Pablo Stoll after the death of his companion Juan Pablo Rebella with whom he made the widely praised 25 WATTS and WHISKY. HIROSHIMA is almost a silent film with the dialogue appearing as inter-titles. The soundtrack is driven by the post-punk and techno that the central character, a slacker, played by Stoll’s brother Juan, listens to on his Discman.

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