The most important international film festival in Hungary provokes at every screening, every day the participation of locals watching and cheerfully commenting on films afterwards, at the big top just in front of the main screening room. Certainly, it helps that all screenings are free of charge, but the audience’s enthusiasm seems genuine and this is a fantastic way of transmitting film culture, of permitting mostly young people to watch films that would be impossible to see without the festival. For ten years, the festival brings to Miskolc films that cannot be seen in commercial distribution in Hungarian cinemas, 17 of them in the official competition, but also a selection of prize-winning films from other festivals across the world presented in the Open Eye section.
Blue is The Warmest of Colour (La vie d’Adèle, chapitres 1&2), this year’s Cannes Golden Palm winner, was one of these films. Beautifully accompanied by the last four feature films by French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche, it formed a good retrospective which perfectly connected Africa and Europe: his debut Blame it On Voltaire (La faute à Voltaire, 2000); the César winner of 2003, Games of Love and Chance (L’esquive); another César winner of 2007 and recipient of the Venice Jury’s Special Prize, The Secret of the Grain (La graine et le mulet); and another Venice-awarded film from 2010, Black Venus (Vénus Noire).
This year the Miskolc Film Festival also paid tribute to the Hungarian filmmaker István Szabó, celebrated in the screenings of Mephisto (Hungary, West Germany, Austria, 1981), Colonel Redl (Hungary, West Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, 1985) and Hanussen (Hungary, West Germany, Austria, 1988), all starring the director’s favourite actor, Klaus Maria Brandauer. The CineClassics section included two masterpieces, too: two lectures and Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (US, 1960), an homage to its Budapest-born Oscar winning production designer Alexandre Trauner, and the marvellous A Matter of Life and Death (UK, 1946) by Michel Powell and Emeric Pressburger, introduced by the British film historian Ian Christie. Every year the festival honours Pressburger — born in Miskolc in 1902 — with a flower wreath laid down at the house where he was born, which will soon become his museum, at least according to local council plans.
Back to today’s cinema, the OpenEye section’s highlights included Asghar Farhadi’s The Past (Le passé, France and Iran 2013); the recent film by François Ozon, Young And Beautiful (Jeune et jolie, France, 2013); this year’s British sci-fi parody The World’s End by Edgar Wright; and Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, starring the favourite actor for next leading male role Oscar award, Bruce Dern, who already won the Cannes award for Best Actor in this film.
Sometimes a prolific competitive section can leave an uneven impression, as was the case in Miskolc this year, mostly because of too many mainstream feature films, such as the US comedies Don Jon by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and The East by Zal Batmanglij… or J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost, Robert Redford’s all-alone-against-the-elements in the middle of the ocean.
But there have been fine surprises too, and the 2013 Miskolc edition can be considered a pretty good one. Such a surprise was the Singapore feature film Ilo Ilo: a tale about economic crisis by Anthony Chen, the film focused on an increasingly isolated middle-class family with a maid and a peculiar boy. The film won several prizes at Miskolc, and previously the Caméra d’Or in Cannes. The main Miskolc winner is Tore Tanzt (Nothing Bad Can Happen, 2013) by the German filmmaker Katrin Gebbe: this is an impressive and tough film that follows a Jesus fan, a young man who takes the brunt of everything whilst believing that he can be a new Jesus, especially in enduring acts of incredible cruelty in order to make sacrifices for his host family’s daughter. Other interesting films were Miele (Honey) by the Italian actress-turned-director Valeria Golino, the story of a young man who helps his terminal patients to die; and Gabriele Neudecker’s Glorious Deserter (Deserteur!, Austria, 2012), about the misadventures of some Austrian Third Reich soldiers who decide AWL. Last but not least, two films focused on the Balkan wars: Halima’s Path (Halimin Put, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2012) by Arsen A. Ostojic and Circles (Krugovi, Serbia, Germany, France, Slovenia, Croatia, 2013) by Srdan Golubovic, both on the consequences of losing loved ones, but made from different points of view.
Edited by Birgit Beumers
© FIPRESCI 2013