The uncertainty of the judgment By Matthieu Chéreau
Motovun is the hot place to be this summer, and not only because of its weather. During the festival, with its nice film and musical programmes, the streets and theatres are full of people. Motovun is, first of all, a popular success. Regarding the average age of the audience, it sounds like all those teens crave for creative cinema, for films they cannot see elsewhere in Croatia. This is the main virtue of the festival, to offer new perspectives for the new Croatian generation.
I had the pleasant surprise, during the festival, to question myself about the way I was watching movies. This doesn’t sound original at all, but maybe that’s just normal. Anyway, I was wondering how it might be if, sometimes – like in that funny and rather interesting movie called The Yes Men (in competition in Motovun) – critics take some movies seriously, whereas they are meant to be provocative, fake and excessive. How shall I react to a film such as Battle of heaven (also in Motovun), the same way I guess as I did to Manderlay, or maybe not. There is always the temptation to denounce, as Anderson puts it in one of its stories, “…the king is naked”. However, it is never totally the case: Lars von Trier might be too clever, and take the risk of seeming pretentious and artificial. On the other hand, some could argue he adds, with Manderlay, another stone to its monumental and metaphysical trilogy. Is it always a matter of degree of interpretation? I am not sure.
Sometimes films tell a lot about its intentions. Take the very first scene of Battle of Heaven, a close-up on a man’s face, then a pan, a girl appears, giving a blowjob to the guy, the camera turns around, then we see the girl’s face, suddenly he comes, one tear appears on her face. Meanwhile we hear the music getting louder and louder, in a massive crescendo. Everything to me is clear from the very beginning, that Carlos Reygadas want to impress me at any price. This sequence is lyrical, delicate and raw at the same time. There is a kind of discrepancy here that continues throughout the movie. I wanted to like that movie (I did), but I was too bothered by this strange way to attract and reject. This has nothing to do with the sublime feeling that exists in a negative pleasure. There is no negative pleasure, nor any delight in Battle of Heaven. Maybe some elegance, some intelligence too, but too much calculation or intentions. On the other hand, I keep on thinking that maybe I am wrong, that those ugly bodies need to be there, like in Larry Clark movies, that it means something, for instance that those bodies are somehow beautiful in their misery, in regards to the caress they gives to each other. I think that maybe the king is not totally naked, or not at all.
A word or two on that Russian film called 4, which is amazing, full of simplicity and virtuosity. This is clearly one of the best movies I have seen in Motovun. I liked its silence, the beauty of its old faces, the craziness of its characters that seems so natural and strange. This is the Russian cinema I like the most: the certainty of the esthetical principals combined with the uncertainty of the world it has to deal with.