The Poor Man’s Cannes: DIFF’s Look at Films Around the World
It’s laughable to think that you’re as distinguished as Dr. Fritz Godard when it comes to navigating a film festival; so for the next five [week]days leading up to the 30th Starz Denver Film Festival, Fritz will be sharing his killed-for knowledge with thee. You may thank him in Armagnac Twisters and sexual favors; please hold your applause until the end.
The amount of importance Denver holds in international world of cinema can be measured in tablespoons, but that rubs the Denver Film Society the wrong way. Despite being beaten to the punch for the North American debut of films screened last May in the South of France, the 30th Starz Denver International Film Festival has many of the popular films appearing on the schedule. Including the winner of the Palme d’Or, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” and the Jury Prize winner “Persepolis,” DIFF is showing six films that had their day at Cannes, and that isn’t including 1967 winner of the Palme d’Or, “Blowup.”
Two of the most intriguing Cannes runoffs are the aforementioned “Persepolis” and the Israeli film “The Band’s Visit.”
The American way to sell cartoons is made up of one part innocent storyline, two parts visual extravagance, and three parts celebrity voices; but “Persepolis” ignores the time-tested formula, and chooses to show animation in the void of color and relies on a thought-provoking storyline. The film is an adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel with the same name. She has joined forces with French graphic novelist Vincent Parronaud to co-direct.
A young girl growing up in a politically-charged, black-and-white world shows the potential of cartoons to be the new gateway to political awareness. With an English language version due for a limited Xmas release, this may be the only time Denver audiences have a chance to see this film in it the original French.
If the Iron Maiden reference wasn’t enough to arouse the curiosity, the Iranian government criticized this film before it was ever screened. (A preemptive bad review of cartoon – do you see the kind of people we’re dealing with? I now fully understand the reasons for engaging in war with Iran. Oh, Mister Bush, why would anyone question your noble foreign policy?)
“A Band’s Visit” is the debut film from Israeli director Eran Kolirin. It looks to be a smart comedy made even smarter since it is a foreign film. The misguided band in a foreign land has the potential to transcend the social implications and make this film the darling of the festival. The film cleaned up at Israel’s versions of the Oscars and looked to be a contender in for a Best Foreign Oscar at the 2008 Academy Awards, until it was disqualified on account of half of the dialogue is in English. So, for all of the philistines out there, the excuse that you don’t want to read won’t work for this film, but that won’t apply to anyone with enough sense to be reading Donnybrook.
Yet, despite the Denver International Film Fest’s increase in Cannes premiered films, the most pleasing foreign films usually happen to come with no South of France fanfare. Last year’s Emmanuel Mouret’s “Change of Address” was the best film at the festival nobody saw. Some of the non-Cannes foreign films won’t even get DVD distribution in the states, so, what’s more elitist than seeing a film nobody else will ever have the opportunity to see?
Carlos Ameglio’s “The Rind (La Cáscara)” is a magical realism coming-of-age story from a culture where magic-realism is in the blood. This is the story of Pedro (Juan Manuel Alari), a down-on- his-luck creative assistant. He is vastly under qualified for his job, but lucks into a job as creative director after his boss mysteriously dies. Feeling overwhelmed with his new responsibilities, but not wanting to lose the raise that accompanied the promotion, he set out on the ultimate journey of procrastination. This film shows slackers are slackers the world over.
The other sleeper foreign film is Stéphane LaFleur’s debut film, “Continental, A Film Without Guns.” Another dark comedy with mystical elements, the story is spread over four different intertwining characters. This film could be the comic version of anyone of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s films. The plot appears to be a little vague, and from the plot synopsis I wouldn’t be surprised if a gun did pop on screen at some time during this film.