Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Some films seen at the Glasgow film festival

There's something to be said about a guy who, at the age of 101, continues to make films, which are not only being made, but are also good. I could only be talking about one man, the Portuguese Manoel de Oliviera. On and off I've come across his films, but never on regular release, only on festivals or cinemateques. A couple of years ago I saw Belle toujours (2006) and, admittedly, I didn't like it. But since then he's made several long and short films, and the latest of these are The Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl (Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura 2009) which I liked a lot. Friends of Oliviera will probably feel at home, although newcomers might be put off by the leisurely pace and the feeling of people rather posing than acting. It's under an hour and it's about a guy who falls in love with a blonde girl across the street from his office and what happens to that romance. It's got an interesting structure in that the guy is telling his story to a stranger he meets on a train. He's very upset and he needs to tell someone, and the woman sitting next to him is willing to listen.

It's a story which is sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating and sometimes rather moving. The subject matter might not be all that exciting, but after the film I did feel enriched by it.

The Turkish film Autumn (Sonbahar 2008) is also sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating and sometimes rather moving. Although the frustration has a different cause than in The Eccentricities... Autumn is the kind of film where characters are standing still for what seems like hours, looking at mountains and/or the ocean, whilst smoking. And sometimes they're walking on a beach or perhaps in a forest. In general it's not the kind of thing I particularly like to see in films because it can become a boring cliché, and not nearly as "meaningful" or "heartfelt" or whatever the filmmakers might think. So there was a lot of that going on. But it had also enough of good scenes about friendship and family life, and even a little bit of romance (with a prostitute of course), and in the end I kind of liked it. It told the story about a man in his 30s who's released from prison because he has a lung disease and he travels back home to his old mother. The reason he was put in prison was because he was a communist political activist, but now the old ideals seems to have died, or are dying with him.

There are a lot of films shown at the Glasgow film festival but I think those two will do for now. The festival also has a Cary Grant retrospective, but I won't write about that because I won't be able to stop.

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