Solitude and Loneliness

in 12nd Brisbane International Film Festival

by Kenichi Okubo

“Je ne suis jamais seul avec ma solitude”, so sang George Moustaki (“I am never lonely with my loneliness”). This verse echoed in my mind all the way through the travels from New Dehli to Tokyo and to Brisbane. In New Delhi, the CINEFAN international film festival had seminars titled “Notions of Solitude”, continuation of the previous year’s seminars, “Changing Faces of the Families” and we, participants from Asia and European countries, have discussed about the descriptions in the films to show the emotions and realities of current societies.

One of the ideas expressed there inspired me much. “Solitude is not the same as Loneliness”. “Solitude” is more explicit in mind and it is something like facing one’s own self. We see very exciting expressions of it with actors like those in Ozu films. At the Brisbane festival which showed 11 Ozu films, Setsuko Hara, Ozu’s favorite actress always kept us amazed to see heroin’s decisions and staying away from all futile explanations. Brisbane had two interesting shows of Ozu silent films, “I Was Born, But…” and “A Story of Floating Weed” with live musical performances. The former with a Shakuhachi, Japanese vertical bamboo flute and a cello. The latter had Shakuhachi and a kind of soundscape which had a nice and deep comunication with visuals.

Among the 11 nominated films for FIPRESCI award, Indonesian Garin Nugroho’s “Bird Man Tale” shows documented footages of Papua’s struggle for independence and drama of a boy’s desire to kiss a young woman. This woman shows nation’s trauma in her silent tears of solitude. Nugroho made it with Digital Video camera and transfer it to 35mm prints. Brilliant colours and precise editing shows Nugroho’s steps beyond many DVfilms which stay in easiness.

Also “Turning Gate” by Hong Sang-soo from Korea and “Springtime in a Small Town” by Chinese director Tien Zhuangzhuang have very impressive heroins. The latter, a remake of the classic 1948 chamber drama directed by Fei Mu shows a very delicate emotional triangle of two different kinds of men and a beautiful and sensual woman. An ailing husband and his old time friend who comes back to the small town to find his old lover is now a wife of his friend. Actress Hu Jing Fan amazingly shows subtle and secret emotions with least expressions and at a time with bold directness. We can see clearly she has lived with solitude and also with sincerity to her husband.

In “Turning Gate”, the wife of a well respected man in town meets in a train an actor she knew from his stages and also with another reason. Out of job, out of confidence, the actor try to follow her and she accepts him, but even she tells everything he cannot catch her. Director Hong Sang-soo gets details of actions with humore and shows clear will of a woman, begging of a man and also ambiguity of love and lust. These films show Hong’s boldness and confidence for the anti-climax narrative with exact shot framings (my collegue Chris Fujiwara mentioned Eric Rohmer for it) and superb acting to portray miserable and funny souls.

Brisbane had some specials including “the Austrian avant garde now” and “Sunrise,noon, and midnight in Buenos Aires ” which showed strong presense of three Argentine woman filmmakers. Being smaller as a size but with wider range of the films, Brisbane showed the serious adventure of the filmmakers who try to expand the boundaries of narration and filmmaking itself.