By Robert Koehler
You just can’t stop Lu Chuan, whose City of Life and Death I programmed last year in Los Angeles and has travelled widely on the festival circuit. This is the Chinese one-sheet hanging in the central hallway of the Culturgest headquarters for IndieLisboa. Lu’s film is in the festival’s Observatorio section, and is unofficially the most controversial film in the pages of Cinema Scope magazine. (See Shelly Kraicer’s initial highly critical review and Tony Rayns’ response and defense of Lu’s film. Tony and Shelly are co-programmers of Vancouver festival’s Dragons & Tigers competition.)
Another one-sheet in the Culturgest hallway: Herzog’s unfairly neglected other film from a fecund 2009, My Son My Son What Have Ye Done?, with Michael Shannon staring back at you. Note the presenting director, playing the role formerly performed by Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. IndieLisboa is showing double Herzog, including Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which I programmed in Los Angeles last year.
IndieLisboa’s Mr. Crow waiting for a late-arriving friend at the festival meeting point….
At IndieLisboa’s front desk at Culturgest, the video screen above staffers shows one of many absurdist “action” scenes from Alejo Moguillansky’s sublime Castro, which is in the international competition. I programmed Castro in Los Angeles last year. Moguillansky, unquestionably one of Argentina’s most interesting young filmmakers, is preparing his third feature, The Submarine War.
The IndieLisboa Big Board in the Culturgest entry lobby, adjacent to the main public box office. The modified grid schedule is clean and easy to read, with each day in no more than eight venues, including two screens at Culturgest.
Looking north at the Duque de Saldanha plaza to Avenida de Republica, one of Lisbon’s central grand boulevards. Lisbon is a markedly older city, with decades and centuries-old architecture (and monuments) dominating the center and not ceding to modernist corporate designs that have crept, American-style, across more and more European cities. Still, cranes are visible as construction is all over the place. Lisbon so far strikingly resembles what I first saw in 1980, but more cranes will change all of that. Continue up Avenida de Republica, turn right, and you arrive at Culturgest, the new headquarters for IndieLisboa after a move from the smaller Forum Lisboa, where the festival was housed for its first six years.
Get ready for May Day. This poster is all over the city, with a hipper design than most May Day promotions. May Day also marks closing night for IndieLisboa.
Audrey in Funny Face is the sight that faces me as I get on the elevator to my room at the Hotel Florida, a boutique number in central Lisbon styled in Hollywood nostalgia. My Jacques Tati room is something of an exception. The hotel walls are covered in movie quotes, such as “Top of the world, Ma!” from Raoul Walsh’s White Heat.
My room entry at Hotel Florida in central Lisbon. The only other French director I’ve spotted with his own room is Truffaut; much better to be inside Tati…
And here’s what it looks like inside the Jacques Tati room. Three-sheet versions of these same posters are visible in the hallway of the Cinerama cinemas in Rotterdam, one of the venues for Intl Film Festival Rotterdam. The black lump in the corner of the image is my black backpack, my perpetual companion at festivals…
While writing at my hotel room desk, CNN International begins airing the live edition of Thursday night’s second UK election debate. It features the Liberal Democrat’s Dickensian-sounding Nick Clegg, who shot to international prominence after he blew away Labour’s Gordon Brown and the Tories’ David Cameron in the first debate. Clegg held his own well enough; he won most late Thursday polls among viewers. Gordon Brown tried and failed to bounce back, while David Cameron continues to be dull. Cameron is your typical Tory in a younger package, but any American viewer can’t help but be struck at how Cameron’s conservatism would be drummed out of today’s GOP as “socialist”–so rightward is the GOP shift that the standard-bearer of its British counterpart is far to its left. Cameron reminds that no major party in the world’s major industrialized nations is as rightwing as America’s Republicans….
Opening night of IndieLisboa at the Sao Jorge movie palace, as the crowd assembles to watch Joao Canijo’s ironic found-footage film, Lusitania Fantasy. Note the open-air balcony, and the wall-sized banner on the side of Lisbon’s oldest operating cinema, a home to eclectic, non-commercial programming during the year.
The Sao Jorge movie palace fills as opening ceremonies begin, with IndieLisboa’s iconic image projected on the screen–along the ubiquitous crow mascot beamed onto the walls adjacent to the screen curtain. There was no red carpet–take note, American festivals. Director Joao Canijo’s opening remarks at the podium (flooded here in lights) elicited a loud and supportive reaction from the audience. My friend and chief critic of the weekly paper Expresso, Francisco Ferreira, will be providing me with a general translation/summation of Canijo’s remarks, which he says were highly critical of the current state of Portuguese cinema. The crowd clearly concurred….
Several one-sheets of films in the IndieLisboa lineup in a glass case in the Sao Jorge lobby. On the left is a poster for Canijo’s Lusitania Fantasy, IndieLisboa’s opening night film, while in the center is the poster for Javier Rebollo’s superb Woman without Piano, in the international competition here. I programmed Woman without Piano in Los Angeles last year.
One of two different three-sheets in the Sao Jorge cinema’s entry lobby of Joao Canijo’s week-received opening night film, Lusitania Fantasy. Note the poster’s deliberately anachronistic design, which is of a piece with the film’s cinematic strategy, to assemble found footage from the wartime 1940s that recorded the elaborate rituals, celebrations, events and actions by Portugal’s fascist Salazar dictatorship which attempted to promote a nostalgia for Portugal’s former worldwide dominance with a pathetic form of nationalist romanticism. Canijo’s film is rife with bemused irony, not anger, a tone unthinkable from any comparable film which may be made in a found-footage mode from filmmakers in other countries still struggling with their dark pasts, from Germany to Greece to Argentina to the U.S.
A few blocks away from the Sao Jorge and around the corner from my hotel is the Portuguese Cinematheque, whose lovely facade and elegant illuminated sign truly touched me in the late-night hours. The place exudes a sense of being a palace of cinephilia. Upcoming screenings this week include Antonioni’s Professione: Reporter and Walsh’s The Revolt of Mamie Stover, starring the great Agnes Moorehead.