“Depressing,” unsentimental or subversive (ie: made for adults)
movies don’t win many awards or many fans back here in the USA, as a couple of recent news stories reminded me.
Here, it seems, taboos, conflicts and anxieties are more conspicuous
by their absence on screen than by frank and courageous confrontation and
When asked what he was looking for in a winning movie, the Jury President Jiri Menzel (director of the
great, bittersweet 1968 Czech New Wave classic “Closely Watched Trains”) said “I
hope to find a nice film about people." Sorry, wrong
festival. As noted below, what you’ll find here is a lot of alcoholism, child
abuse, intractable depression, violence against women, dead cats, faux cynicism, genuine
cynicism, corrupt officials and overall despair.
As it turned out we did have
Thanksgiving dinner in Thessaloniki.
The festival organizers were thoughtful enough to throw one for the Americans
in town, and so I was fortunate enough to have Turkey
in an Italian restaurant in Greece
with Danny Glover, John Sayles (John Malkovich had already left), numerous
Another Thanksgiving in a country without Thanksgiving.
Speaking of family get togethers, fathers are definitely taking a beating at this festival. In addition to the "Hamlet" mentioned before, several other films offer a dark view of paternity and the legacy of inherited evil. In "Vasermil," no dads are present, and good riddance ("Do you want to turn out like your father?).
Chances are John Malkovich might have been in a sour mood during his master class, the legions of statuesque female fans notwithstanding. At the ceremony where he received the Golden Alexander he thanked, among other worthies, British Airways for "helping me to evade my tendency to overdress by losing my luggage." Otherwise he seemed gracious and pleased by the encomia heaped on him by the presenters, who hailed his ability to merge into a role using various hairpieces, though they didn't mention any in particular or show any clips (ironically, they did screen "Being John Malkovich," in which he plays himself in the most solipsistically way possible).
Athens, being the cradle of Western civilization and all, might overshadow its northern rival, Thessaloniki. But the less touristy Thessaloniki is still the second largest city in Greece. Historically it's nothing to sneeze at, either, founded back in the 4th century BC by Cassander, one of the late Alexander's generals, who named it after his wife, the world conqueror's half sister, perhaps to make up for the fact that he murdered her mother to take over the throne.
Let me join the chorus in saying that a cultural era passes
with the death of Norman Mailer, a time when writers (and filmmakers and
artists in general) were regarded as something heroic and iconic and not just purveyors
of products and backdrops for corporate advertising. Also, I’m personally
pissed off because I was looking forward to the next two installments of
Mailer’s Hitler trilogy that began with the publication this year of “The
Castle in the Forest
Josh Brolin plays some really tough guys in his two new movies
“American Gangster” and “No Country for Old Men,” and after a confusing
encounter in the hotel lobby when I did a double take and he may or may not
have misinterpreted it, I wasn’t about to begin the conversation by saying that
I saw him one night in the parking lot of a fish and chips place on Martha’s
Vineyard with Diane Lane clinging to his arm.
As I’ve mentioned before, whenever I wax a little political
or philosophical in discussing films like, oh, "300"
or any of The Lord of the Rings movies or any other movie in which crypto
fascist fanboys can act out their sad little gotterdammerung fantasies, I am
always reminded , “It’s only a movie” (among other usually unflattering or
otherwise anatomically dubious