50th Viennale - Vienna International Film Festival

Austria, October 25 - November 7 2012

The jury

Jonathan Rosenbaum (US), Victoria Smirnova Mayzel (Russia), Diego Brodersen (Argentina), Alexandra Zawia (Austria)

Awarded films

Although the Viennale was officially celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, it would be more precise to date its present incarnation to 1997, when Hans Hurch took over its direction. (Alexander Horwath, the director of the Austrian Film Museum, who once codirected the Viennale, has collaborated with the Viennale since then by organizing a comprehensive retrospective annually that overlaps with the film festival.) This year, it was devoted to Fritz Lang; last year, the focus was Chantal Akerman, and three years ago, in collaboration with both Horwath and Hurch, I selected a program devoted to eccentric American comedies called “The Unquiet American” in the same series.

Two particular aspects of the Viennale over the past two decades seem especially worth noting. The first and more important of these is the virtual creation of an adventurous young audience that is fully attentive to the diverse challenges offered by the festival. At the five major screening venues apart from the Austrian Filmmuseum — the Gartenbaukino (the largest), Kuntslerhaus, Metro, Urania, and Stadtkino (the smallest) — one can usually count on something close to full houses regardless of what’s being shown, a tribute to the taste of Hurch as well as the audience and the lively film culture generated by the two together.

The other tradition worth mentioning is the brief Viennale “trailer” commissioned by the festival every year since 1995 from a major filmmaker, each one running approximately a minute long. This practice was celebrated in 2012 by the release of a DVD entitled 20 Little Films: Viennale Trailers 1995-2012 — a slight misnomer, because the films included (two apiece by Gustav Deutsch and Jonas Mekas, and single works by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Marin Arnold, Bruce Baillie, James Benning, Stan Brakhage, Leos Carax, Jem Cohen, Ernie Gehr, Jean-Luc Godard, Ken Jacobs, David Lynch, Chris Marker, Matthias Müller, PeterTscherkassky, and Agnès Varda) actually number nineteen. The most recent of these — a mordant reflection on the “perfect” viewer sought by Georges Méliès, D.W. Griffith, Orson Welles, and Jean-Luc Godard, and finally “found” in Osama bin Laden watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon on a TV — was by Chris Marker, and it may have even been his final work before his recent death — though not, alas, one of his major statements.  (Jonathan Rosenbaum)

Viennale – Vienna International Film Festival: www.viennale.at