Sidestepping tough competition from the Czech city of Karlovy Vary, the XXIII Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF) is kicking off a month earlier than usual. In doing so it combines with the Theater Olympics, which closes June 29, giving the city a truly international feel.
While the earlier dates may serve to protect MIFF’s steadily growing status around the world, it has forced the organizing committee to rush their preparations. Festival programs have been late in getting confirmed, and the public remains at a loss to know where to go and what to watch.
The potential for confusion is reflected in the numbers: The official program will include 17 competing films, plus an additional 17 that will not be runners in the competition. There will also be four retrospective showings and two forums. It is hardly possible to see everything, and it is not necessary either. To help you narrow down your choices, LifeStyle offers you a breakdown of the best films being offered.
Of the 17 films on the competition program, showing in the Pushkinsky movie theater, there are only two that deserve serious attention. The first of these is Sergei Bodrov Sr.’s "Quickie." An American-German production, the film stars Jennifer Jason Lee and Vladimir Mashkov as a Russian millionaire from Los Angeles. The other choice production is "Shilje Sanghwang" (Real Fiction), the work of South Korean director Kim Di Duk. The plot of this film is refreshingly simple: A street painter sees a girl with a video-camera one day, and goes after her. "Real Fiction" was filmed live on the street with ten movie cameras and ten video cameras, over a spell of some three hours. Production took a little long, though: another three years.
Although the standard of competition films may be a little weak, there are plenty of other productions worth seeing. This year’s sensation – Italian Nanni Moretti’s "La Stanza del Figlio" (The Son's Room) will be showing as part of a special program at the Pushkinsky movie theater. The film received a Golden Palm at Cannes, and has been credited with single-handedly boosting Italian box-office revenues by 20 percent. Moretti directs and stars, and his wife joined him onscreen, they play a couple whose son has died. The strength of this production is, perhaps, related to the fact that the Moretti family has actually experienced a similar tragedy.
Another must-see is Patrice Chereau’s "Intimacy," hailing from France. This will also be shown in the Pushkinsky movie theater, as part of a special program. A winner from the Berlin festival, Intimacy" has drawn attention not so much for its plot as for the way it portrays the intimate details of the love lives of middle-aged people.
A new program called "AiF – Drugoye Kino" is showing at the Rolan movie theater. The highlights include the film "Odishon"("Audition"), said to be extremely erotic. This film is the work of Japanese director Takashi Miike. "Audition" is showing June 23, at 9 p.m., and again the next day, at 3:30 p.m.
"Before Night Falls," an American drama by artist and film director Julian Schnabel, features the life of one of Fidel Castro’s associates. The film, which follows the life of homosexual Cuban revolutionary and poet Renaldo Arenas, is showing on June 24, at 9 p.m., and June 25, at 3:30 p.m. "Before Night Falls" features an all-star cast, including Johnny Depp, Sean Penn and Javier Bardem.
The comedy "Don’s Plum," directed by American R. D. Robb, is showing on June 28, at 9 p.m. and June 29, at 3:30 p.m. Many will consider this film worth seeing simply because it stars a young Leonardo Di Caprio. A large part of the film features Di Caprio, aged 20, wandering around town looking for a girl to take to a party at Don’s Plum cafe. The film, about Los Angeles youngsters, was made in 1995, using hidden cameras, and its montage was completed in 1998. Di Caprio’s lawyers managed to have the film banned in the United States, but Danish director Lars von Trier bought the rights to sell the movie in Europe.
The movie program "8 1/2 filmov" (Eight-and-a-Half films) is the work of film critic Pyotr Shepotinnik and has been enormously popular at MIFF for several years now. This year it is showing at the 35mm movie theater, June 22 and 28, at 7 p.m.
Almost all of the films at MIFF are worth seeing. But keep in mind that it will be difficult to get tickets to "Bamboozled," directed by American Spike Lee, and "Mesto na zemle" (A Place on Earth), directed by Artur Aristakisian. The latter was scheduled for the competition program until the director decided to take it to Cannes and show it at the Director’s Fortnight.
"Unknown American Avant-Garde," a collection of American Avant-Garde movies, will be showing at Muzei Kino. This production was put together by the Anthology Film Archives curator, Bruce Pozner and is poised to become the festival’s major sensation. Such a comprehensive selection of American avant-garde movies has never been shown before, even in the United States. The program, which will not open there until early July, and includes 160 films, produced between 1893 and 1947.
A selection of the most notable films directed by Roger Corman, the American king of B-movies, will be shown at Muzei Kino. This show, too, promises to be a sensational event. Corman has produced 550 movies and directed 50. During his extensive career, he has experimented with different genres, including Westerns, gangster films, science fiction and musicals. Although most of his movies have been low-budget productions, Corman has strongly influenced American cinema. The festival will feature a selection of his works as producer, including "Saint Jack," directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
A Youth Forum will open on the evening of June 26 and will run for three nights at the Romanov Dvor of the MGU Faculty of Journalism, Mokhovaya Ulitsa. The forum will feature music and films made by the young for the young. The famous French ad collector Jean-Marie Boursicot, who staged "La nuit des publivores," (The Night of the Ad Devourers) is expected to attend the forum. The film "Memento" and bands Auction and 76p will feature on the opening night. The second night will be a Bodrov Night, showing "Quickie" and "Sister." The third will belong to the Japanese and feature Takashi Miike’s "Dead or Alive" and "Monday," a grim comedy, directed by Hioyuki Tanaka Sabu. British band the Tiger Lilies will play June 27, and Leningrad will play June 28. DJ List will be keeping the atmosphere going each night.
The most eventful day of the festival will be on the date of its closing, June 30. St. George statuettes will be awarded for the categories of Best Film, Best Actor and Best Actress. There will also be a "Special Prize of the Jury." German director and actress Margarethe von Trotta will head the jury, which will include the Lithuanian-born Russian Ingeborga Dapkunaite, who now lives in London, and the director of the Sundance American Film Festival, Geoffrey Gilmore. Baz Luhrmann’s "Moulin Rouge," starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, at the Pushkinsky movie theater, will be the final film of the festival. It will show at the Pushkinsky movie theater June 30, at 6 p.m.
To wrap things up, Gorky Park will host a day-long party, "Intervention," from 10 a.m. through 11 p.m. In addition to Russian DJs Kolya and Grad and British DJs Fatboy Slim and Paul Oakenfold will be taking to the stage.
The festival schedule can be found in the cinema calendar.