sff 2017 day 4

Day 4 and it is the weekend at last. So too, a full day of filmfestivaling with 5 flicks ahead. The day started with a double serving of Kurosawa as part of a retrospective of his works. I think the festival is showing 10 altogether including many of the works best known to western audiences such as Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress, the latter being the inspiration for Star Wars. David Stratton curated this retrospective and is on hand to introduce each movie.

The first movie of the day, and of the retrospective is Rashomon (Japan), the film that ultimately introduced Kurosawa to the rest of the world, via its screening at the 1951 Venice Film Festival where it won the Golden Lion. This was an extraordinary film exploring ideas around the nature of truth and perspective. It’s set in a broken house where some people have sought refuge from the rain. Two of the three 3 men, share perspectives of a court case they had attended around a horrible murder. Ultimately 4 perspectives are shared of the circumstances around the murder, sharing common points but each point diverging in some way. This was in black and white with excellent use of light and shade. A strong start to the day.

That was at the Dendy Quays, and from there I strolled across to the Art Gallery of NSW for the second Kurosawa of the day, Ikuru (Japan), or Living (english). The success of Rashomon, gave Kurosawa more freedom to create other films and particularly this one which is about an ageing bureaucrat who discovers he has stomach cancer. He is unhappy with the life he has had looks to change direction in his remaining time. It’s also a film about how people are perceived with a long scene at the end of his colleagues arguing over his legacy and their different takes on what he’d done and who he was. A fascinating character study of sorts though I found it a wee bit long myself as Kurosawa allows plenty of time for character development to play out.

Third movie of the day was Mrs K (Malaysia, Hong Kong) which was a homage of sorts to its star, Kara Wei, a veteran performer in Shaw Brothers martial arts movies in the 70s and 80s. Since those times, she’s developed as a dramatic actor and Mrs K was both a return to action and also her last action movie as she’s in her 50s these days and doesn’t want to do action roles anymore. This was more of dramatic piece fused with occasional martial arts parts with a good story development, good engagement and humour and it flowed well.

I was intrigued that the programme description compared House of Others (Georgia, Russia, Spain, Croatia) to the likes of Tarkovsky and Bergman, but particularly the former. Set in the 90s in the peace following the Georgian civil war, it’s a story of families moving into a remote, deserted village. Gorgeously shot, this was very much about the people adjusting to this new life. Initially focused on a new family that moved in but broadening to a family of 3 girls and ultimately, perhaps about one. The film developed gradually as the viewer is drawn in and comes to know these people; there was something of the sense of the alien and belonging, or rather failing to fit in.

It was a proper filmfest day and I managed five films finishing with Ember (Turkey, Germany). Set in modern day Istanbul focusing on a mother coping in the absence of her husband. As the blurb notes, the film revolves around the clash of new and old Turkish values and particularly on how how women continue to be dependent on the men in their lives and struggle to achieve their own independence. The film had a slow burn (pun not intended) that ultimately didn’t quite grab me yet at the same time, it charted an interesting path through conflicting emotions while stepping around easy resolutions.

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