Film Scouts Diaries

2005 Karlovy Vary Film Festival Diaries
Day 8: Crowd Moves

by Henri Béhar

Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, July 8, 2005 – Rushing from the Pupp Hotel to the Thermal, hordes of excited teenage girls cross paths with hordes of excited teenage boys rushing toward the Pupp and groups of, well, no-longer-teenagers strolling toward the Embassy Hotel and the imperial bijou-like Divadlo Theatre. There's a reason for these strange moves – a triple reason, in fact. Actresses Sarah Polley (so blond!) and Fairuza Balk (so dark-haired!) have just come into town to present Wim Wenders' and Sam Shepard's Don't Come Knocking – that's for the guys. Fairuza Balk had nothing but fond recollections of playing Cecile in Valmont, Czech director Milos Forman's take on Dangerous Liaisons, while Sarah Polley spoke frankly about her ambiguous relationship to acting and to Hollywood-style stardom.

Meanwhile, Mexican heartthrob Gael Garcia Bernal, of Bad Education fame, and Brazilian director Walter Salles (no slouch in the good-looks department either) were doing the interviews/press-conference minuet for their Motorcyle Diaries (inspired by young Che Guevara's early journey through Latin America) and actor-rocker Michael Pitt was gearing up to do the same for Gus van Sant's Last Days, based on Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain's final hours. Unfortunately, Pitt apparently came with a girlfriend, causing many a tear to be shed in the canal outside the Pupp.

Otherwise, while some were trying to catch a glimpse of French superstar Catherine Deneuve who, we are told, had been provided with more bodyguards than former president Vaclav Havel (though her visit was not related to the Festival), the rest of us went to the Sam Peckinpah tribute-cum-retrospective, attended by jury member Ali McGraw (Getaway, Convoy) and L.Q. Jones, who made no less than nine films with the maverick director, including Major Dundee and The Wild Bunch While Ali McGraw was ever so respectful and affectionate, L.Q. Jones had no problem calling Peckinpah "a blithering idiot at times", yet a great guy and "a total perfectionist" even though he was "a better writer than he was a director",

Be that as it may, the fact remains that Peckinpah was an eminently idiosyncratic auteur, as evinced by the restored version of Major Dundee. Color me nostalgic, but that decades-old film cut everything else down to size.

Marta Mészáros's The Unburied Man (in competition), deals with former Hungarian president Imre Nagy's fate after he was jailed (and executed) by the Soviets following the Budapest uprising in 1956 and the subsequent Communist crackdown. Historically precise, the film is, however, a little too predictable, despite the director's and her leading actor's obvious passion and empathy.

The main characters in Martin Sulik's City of the Sun (Czech Republic, in competition) are four proles who decide to start their own business after being laid off. But the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship in a newly capitalistic society (as well as their own inner turmoil) will drive them dangerously close to the brink. There is something Ken-Loachian about Sulik's approach, and if the script is at time a mite too pat, the actors are constantly appealing, in often unexpected ways.

French-Chilean director Raul Ruiz's Lost Domain (in competition) is the cerebral (imagined?), mostly thematic encounter of two of France's literary icons: writer-pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (of Little Prince fame) and Alain Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes, intermingled with shards of 1930s Chile, wartime London, and Chile's military coup of 1973. Not the easiest piece to fully grasp in the early morning (blame it on festival fatigue and the ever-present Becherovka), so a second viewing might be necessary before we discuss it in detail, closer to its US release.

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