Film Scouts Diaries

2001 Karlovy Vary Film Festival Diaries

by Henri Béhar

Sunday, July 8 - ''My God, Henri, have you changed your medication?'' Okay, so this is definitely not my day! Granted, I went to see Ted Demme's Blow for the second time. So bite me! I wanted to check out the fashions (and on that front, the film, which follows the trail on a drug-dealer throughout the 60s and 70s, is quite accurate); besides, I find Johnny Depp to be a constantly innovative actor, even if the films he appears in sometimes are not.

No, the real reason why I am asked what kind of salad I may have smoked this morning is that unlike most of my colleagues, I liked, I really liked Monica Laguna's Spanish film Luna's Game (world premiere, in competition). The film deals with a thirty-year old professional gambler (Ana Torrent) who has spent her entire life in the world of gambling (mother died giving her birth, father lost everything, she becomes a gambler in part to avenge him). Gambling as a metaphor for life, for a woman's place in an all-male environment, right, what else is new? What is new (or new again) is a film that neglects neither the atmosphere (you can smell the booze, the cigarettes, the sweat, the fear) nor the supporting characters (they all have strong faces). What is new (or new again) is Ana Torrent in the leading role. Always been a fan of hers, certainly since she was thirteen (Victor Erice's Beehive). So, again, bite me, but believe me when I tell you she is definitely poised for international stardom.

Renowned - and controversial - Yugoslav director Emir Kusturica (When Daddy Was Away on Business, Underground) has a (no longer) secret life. Like actors Keanu Reeves and Russell Crowe, he is totally into music. With Super 8 movies, he performs a Jim-Jarmusch-does-Neil-Young on himself and his No-Smoking rock-meets-folk band. Using a Super-8 camera (hence the title of the docu), he interviews band members and films the band's rehearsals and concerts throughout the world. Pretty grainy (but that serves Kusturica's purpose well), but pretty lively. Musically? Well, the Rollings Stones aren't going to lose any sleep over the No-Smoking Band, as evinced by the concert they give tonight at the Premiere Villa.

With Gaudi Afternoon, Susan Seidelman enters Pedro Almodovar's territory. Featuring an all-star cast - Judy Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, Lily Taylor, Juliette Lewis - the thriller (sort of) takes place in Barcelona, in and around one of the crazily baroque apartment buildings designed by architect Gaudi. A writer-translator, Judy Davis is asked by super-sophisticated Marcia Gay Harden to find her husband Ben who vanished from San Francisco with their child. Turns out that ''Ben'' is actually Bernadette (Lily Taylor), a lesbian who had said child with Gay Harden, who is actually a transsexual, hence prone to uttering such weirdly funny lines as, "Well, I'm the father!". Pleasant as it is, more leisurely paced than it perhaps should, Gaudi Afternoon could use a stronger dose of Almodovar flamboyance.

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