Before life sweeps me on, I just want to note four of the wonderful films I saw in this year´s Gijón International Film festival.
“The Don Juans” by Jiri Menzel (Czech): I chose to go because in my teens I saw “Closely Observed Trains” on the South Bank, and it appealed to me to have spent a lifetime´s watching films while he´s been making them! It´s about a provincial opera company putting on Don Giovanni, or, our human efforts to make magic: so, enchanting singing (the children are the best), funny, masterly portraits of so many people, and elegant architecture. I found it so lovely that I cried almost throughout. That´s how beauty gets me, sometimes.
“Ida” by Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland) had me involved from the very first moment in the quiet but intense story of a young nun, about to take her vows in 60´s Poland, who goes to meet her aunt, her only relative. It won best film, best screenplay, best actress, and best artistic direction.
Does anyone know where the line from Shakespeare “Thou gildst the even” comes from? I´ve just looked through the sonnets without success.. It was the title (in Turkish) of a tragi-comedy, both mystical and magical, yet earthed in the realities of small-town life – the images are still haunting me two weeks later, and I´ve still got the soundtrack on my brain. Onur Ünlü “Sen Aydinlatirsin Geceyi”.
Before the showing of “Los insólitos peces gato” (the Amazing Cat Fish) the director Claudia Sainte-Luce (Mexico) came on stage and briefly said that it was so wonderful for her to be able to show us this family who meant so much to her – from which I immediately took that it was to an extent autobiographical, and it was an added joy to presence the excitement of a young woman whose first work has got out into the world. If I say what it´s about it sounds grim, because It´s the story of a young woman, alone in the world, who ends up in hospital with appendicitis, next door to the mother of four children who´s dying of aids. But if I say how it feels it´s wonderful – the character of each of the four children as individuals beautifully delineated, the mother´s extraordinary ability to stay on the ball despite being in and out of hospital, the way the children share the difficulties and moments of fun – the young woman gets adopted into the family as just one more. A vibrant example of how – as we used to say in the sixties – sisterhood is powerful.
I specially liked “Blockbuster”, by Tirso Calero (Spain) for its theme: an elderly actor prefers to take a part in a film made by a youngster than do any more adverts. I´ve always thought that actors have it the worst: you continue to be a musician even if you´re just practising at home. But without an audience, an actor doesn´t exist. This film wore its heart on its sleeve, and – with the ageing population across Europe – it should have a huge audience!