Film Scouts Diaries

2005 Karlovy Vary Film Festival Diaries
Day 6: It’s a *Film* Festival, Too, You Know

by Henri Béhar

Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, july 6, 2005 – "Names" come and go - or stay - to celebrate the Festival's 40th birthday ("Life begins at 40", as the Fest trailer puts it), but films continue to be screened like clockwork. So many are being shown, both in- and out-of-competition (some of which were already discovered at the Cannes Festival), that it seems wise to focus on the competition itself. It gives one's coverage some sort of a spine, despite the blurring caused by an over-consumption of a local brew named Becherovka…

Canada's Life with My Father (in competition) could be renamed Life with OUR father. Brothers Paul and Patrick are as different as can be. One would perfectly enjoy his bohemian lifestyle (long hair, baggy pants and scruffy shirts) were it not for that novel he's been trying to write ever since he could remember. The other, Patrick (dark suit and tie), runs a pharmaceutical company, his motto is "pragmatism, precision, reliability". Needless to say, the brothers are hardly on speaking terms, and would have remained so, had their father not returned unexpectedly. The one-time best-seller-writer and bon-vivant is now broke and dying. Having to cope with the return of the Prodigal Father will (of course) bring the estranged brothers back together. It would be unfair to compare Life with My Father to Denys Arcand's similarly-themed yet infinitely superior Barbarian Invasions, for Sebastien Rose's film is not devoid of qualities, even though, long before the end, the characters begin to outstay their welcome.

Poland's My Nikifor (in competition) is a strange piece of work. Based on the true story of a naîve painter in the middle of the 20th century, it brings into self-imposed coexistence a painter, Mariŕn, whose youthful artistic ambitions were thwarted by the necessity of making a living, and an eccentric old man, Nikotor, who is endowed with a huge, spontaneous artistic talent. Increasingly complex, the relationship between the two men soon resembles that of a master and his disciple, as the former teaches the latter that knowledge, wisdom and true art come less from the craft than from the heart. Once you accept the idea that you might be lectured for two hours (and agree to spend that much time with that unlikely duet), the film becomes an intriguing objet d'art, all the more so as Nikifor is played by an 85-year-old woman, Polish actress Krystyna Feldman, whose performance is as impressive as Linda Hunt's in Peter Weir's Year of Living Dangerously.

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