East is East

in 39th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

by Yves Thoraval

Among the many filmmakers present in Karlovy-Vary was Rituparno Gosh, who has been enchanting his compatriots in the course of twelve years with films, some already known in Karlovy-Vary, such as ‘Crossfire’ (Dahan, 1997) and ‘The Lady of the House’ (Bariwali, 1999). Gosh comes from Bengal, probably one the most literate states in India (with Kerala, in the South). His films are set in Calcutta well known for its ultra-literati with ‘feminist’ leanings, with the love of theatre, music, filmmaking… and the idle chatting (‘adda’) while sipping tea with milk cherished by the intelligentsia. Among his some ten opuses to date, Ghosh’s ‘Raincoat’ (2004) is once more a love story set in a ‘huis-clos’ set in a small town where hopes collide with the insidious corruption of a big city.

Also at the festival was the welcome reminder of Turkish cinema, one of the most prolific in the world from the fifties to the seventies, through twelve films from 1964 to 2002, starring the late Yilmaz Güney and also Yavuz Turgul’s delightful ‘Muhsin Bey’ (1987), and the greatest of all Turkish cineastes being Ömer Kavur whose ‘Motherland Hotel’ (1986) was shown in his presence in Karlovy-Vary. Not to speak of the famous ‘Distant’ (Uzak, 2002) by Nuri Bilge Ceylan that went all over the world. Zeki Demirkubuz’s daring ‘trilogy’: ‘The Third Page’ (Üçüncü Sayfa, 1999), ‘Destiny’ (Yazgi,2001 ) and ‘Confession’ (Itiraf, 2001) are like X-rays of the contrasting mental and socio-politics that weighs on the destiny of millions Turks attracted by the immense metropolis (Istanbul).

On the Chinese ‘front’, ‘Drifters’ (Er di, 2003, Taiwan/China) by Wang Xiaoshuai, follows adventurers ready to embark at their own risk to go to the West while China modernises itself. But more than the consequences of it are the family ties that is most important, despite its apparent detachment. From China again, Diao Yinan’s ‘The Uniform’ (Zhifu, China/ Japan, 2003) uses a style and a topic stemming from the ‘new Chinese neo-realism’ praised by debutant cineastes. Here, in an industrial centre, a young man works in a laundry while trying to get his old and ailing father his pension after the factory was closed. One day he finds a non-reclaimed police uniform in his laundry and he starts talking to truck-drivers and bus drivers. His imposture takes a certain time and he dates a ravishing young video cassette and CD dealer, before the latter rapidly understands that she has nothing to expect from such a man: she then starts prostituting herself for a better life, or so she thinks. Back to turpitude with ‘Pirated Photographs’ (Man Yan, 2004) that can change the life of those who sell pirate dvds etc. on the sidewalks in spite of the heavy ‘taxes’ levied by the police. The good side of it is that they also manage to encounter beautiful intellectual women ready to do everything to get the much-coveted films of Almodovar, for exemple. Finally, young Lee Kang-Sheng’s ‘The Missing child’ (Bu Jian, Taïwan, 2003) narrates in details the desperate odyssey of a grandmother in a day-long search of her grandson, whom her husband had taken to the fair without telling her.

Some figures concerning the Festival that give an idea of what the Karlovy-Vary Festival has become in a span of 39 years: the Festival issued 4900 passes, 817 for Festival Partners, 250 for Filmmakers, 429 for Journalists and 564 to the Industry. On the other hand during the 9 festival days 416 screenings were attended by 123 749 viewers catering for the 235 films offered, including 15 world premiers, 28 international and 5 European premiers while 60905 tickets were sold in the 9 days of the Festival. Another asset of Karlovy-Vary is the city’s 13 venues at a walking distance from the delightful ‘roccoco’ 18th and 19th palaces painted pistachio or pale orange, in a city that is a paradise for people who like to walk. All these assets account for the fact that the city of Karlovy-Vary welcomes a major film festival open to all the continents.