Back from Moscow

in 25th Moscow International Film Festival

by Yves Thoraval

After 22 years of absence, Moscow looks radiant with its hundreds of restored mansions, palaces, galleries, museum, boutiques etc… refurbished in an array of colours – pistacchio, red, blue, light and dark green… – that give the city center an italo-austrian touch, not to speak of beautiful orthodox churches whose painted galore bulbs are seen from almost everywhere in the center. A city which also boasts its many theaters, concert-halls and opera houses so much the Russian were, and still are, dedicated music lovers since several lustres, though not everybody can afford all these amenities today…

Russia also remains a land of filmaking since the very beginning of the 7th Art, as our visit to the mythical “Mosfilm” complex remineded us. What struck me most in Moscow was the extraordinary thirst for films by thousands of people, joung and less young alike, who stormed the some 15 venues devoted to the Festival, catering for some 200 available features from Eastern and Western Europe, the Americas and Asia at large -the latter being a bit scarce for my taste- saluting the 25th anniversary of this major Festival in the Federation of Russia under its flamboyant Director, Nikita Mikhalkov, whose hospitality was superb, if not “glamour”. There was also a panorama of “New Russian cinema” (some 25-30 features are expected this year) that one could catch when once our ‘duty’ was over, that is when the Fipresci Jury members had seen the 25 films -quite dissimilar- on their “menu” (with no “a la carte”…).

I am not a purist, on the contrary, I appreciate very much a good blend of “auteur” and “commercial” films, to an extant, but it seems to me that some films at least in the competition, were not quite fit for such an important Festival. Some of them appear as having been selected to fill a gap (or a quota?), some of them unbearebly boring that I would not victimise here. Thank God, our jury was unanimous on the Dane Soren Kragh-Jacobsen’s “Skagerrak” (the detroit that links the North Sea with the Kattegat, between Norway and Danish Jutland) whose radiant main actress, Iben Hjejle, and her male counterpart, Bronagh Gallagher, illuminated a story of love and spirituality. Our jury was also unanimous to give a well deserved mention to the Russian Boris Khlebnikov and Alexei Popogrebsky’ s debut film film “Koktebel” (sic) “for taking their camera out of the typical modern urban setting for a provincial road movie of remarkable simplicity about a father and son taking separate path to the same destination”. Happily and of course without any concertation, our colleagues of the national jury of the Russian Film Critics had reached the same conclusions on both the films, a “plus” for their eventual release…