Thursday, July 17, 2003

Cambridge Film Festival log (part IV)

Three - or two and a bit - films last night.

Arsenal: a 1929 silent by Soviet Ukraininan film maker, Dovzhenko is regarded as a classic, but most of the review material I've seen talks about incidents - the empty trench, the laughing gas - that happen in the first few minutes, or at most the train wreck half an hour in, leaving me wondering about the stamina of the reviewers. The idiom and technique of film have changed a great deal over the last 75 years, so a film with static cameras (or at best mounted on train or gun-carriage), with the camera rolled so that up is at 45 degrees from the top of the screen being about the limit of camera work, and with most scenes being of people - roles usually not obvious to modern Western eyes - standing still, striking poses, with only the movement of children, animals, or grass in the wind telling you that this is not a still (as I am sure a few scenes were), is somewhat hard on modern eyes. So too the lack of clear narrative continuity, and different sorts of stylisation of violence. What is clear is that, despite being a Ukrainian nationalist himself, Dovzhenko portrayed the nationalists as less than competent, and the iconic Bolshevik worker-soldier, who stands unscathed amongst a hail of bullets, is clearly meant as some new Messiah for the Revolution.

Quench: an ultra-short - maybe 100 seconds - parody of an award winning German animation of recent years, Quest, probably means more if you've seen the original, as the somewhat embarassed young maker - a Texan, now resident in Hamburg - explained to us. But filmed on the €1000 fee for an animated ad, and a grant of 12 cases of beer - and the refund on the bottles when empty - actually managed to finish in the black, financially.

Planet of the Cannibals: a recent German B-movie style skiffy film, shot in b&w and set in a 2020 that is a cross between modern angst extrapolated, and a c1960 vision of the future, but one that has gone bad. The economy has melted down, the police are cracking down on illicit smokers, and the last two TV companies are vying for the position of the official - and then only - station. The ratings war has one channel trying out a Millionaire variant, Gold or Grave, in which the winners get the gold, and the losers…; while the other channel has Cannibal Talk, a phone-in talk-TV show with a Lecter-esque cannibal responding to viewer calls. The young woman in charge of audience trend prediction at the former channel is framed for murder, as the ratings war turns hot.

And meanwhile documents from the security services indicate that there are some extraterrestrials on the loose…

Good schlocky fun.

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