This year’s festival edition was a special and highly anticipated event. Although, eventually, it was a festival that was marked by the omnipresence of Jim Jarmusch, notable also were the films that had women in leading roles, films that were full of inner tension, absurdity and personal association. All this set against the backdrop of beautiful Thessaloniki in November with its contrasting stormy seas, dizzying sunsets and music.
It all started on a Thursday, an unusual day for the opening ceremony, and ended up unusually as well, on a Sunday. There were also some changes that happened in the festival director’s team. From now on the General Director of the festival is Élise Jalladeau. In the intensive program, many French production and co-productions works were added, a new Argentine program, and the number of Greek films has increased significantly too. Actually, a personal selection of films to watch turned out rather intuitive, with the purpose to have a pure pleasure from the films proving to be surprisingly successful.
So, to one of the most important directors – Jim Jarmusch recorded a laconic and stylish audio message to guests of the festival and showed two movies: a feature film Paterson and a documentary Gimme Danger (the last one as an exception, since the documentary part of the festival takes place in March). By the way, many Greeks present admitted that the documentary festival is more interesting for them. But to wait until March was impossible! Paterson strongly impressed, first of all, with its high-caliber director skills and a special sense of peace, comfort and charisma that envelops you during the screening and a long time after. Paterson, in his behavior, resembles very much the director himself, if you have ever seen him.
After Paterson, there was the film Porto by Gabe Klinger, about which almost nothing was deliberately known or read about in preparation. Seeing Anton Yelchin reminded one of Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, and at the same moment the title “Executive Producer – Jim Jarmusch” appeared. The films were now seemingly choosing its recipient. Porto proved to be very atmospheric, with many scenes that were shot on different types of films.
Also important was an experimental documentary It May Be that Beauty Ηas Strengthened Οur Resolve: Masao Adachi by Philip Granriyo. It concerns a Japanese film director and activist, made in a rather meditative and intuitive manner, which leads into a specific state of immersion. According to Granriyo, the film moves from one director to another, and there is no restriction for format or genre.
Gimme Danger is an exclusive all-encompassing documentary of archive photos and video, animation, interviews and a lot of music, gathered in an intimate story about “the most outstanding group of all time” – the Stooges by director-musician-fan and, first of all, a friend, who has also created the supplementary music with his super-marginal rock band SQÜRL.
Regarding women, as another friend of Jarmusch, Tilda Swinton, once wittily remarked: the reason to constantly make films about the extraordinary women may be the fact that to constantly make films about extraordinary men could be even worse. Several movies about women, were a little bit extraordinary, but at the same time about their rather mundane and routine life with work, career, poetry, love, murders, despair and clothes; with their irony/black humor and the freedom to be themselves, whatever cost it may have (no matter what it takes).
The first one was Lady Macbeth by William Oldroyd. The director himself wished the audience to dip into a film and, at least for these 90 minutes, forget about the US election results which were announced that morning. It was easy to do; the film appeared to be intense and visually wonderful, and eventually won the FIPRESCI award. The heroine wore an incredible blue dress, and her prototype was the “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” from Leskov’s novella. Indeed, one wonders how many cobwebs cinema can hold. There was also a sensuous and intimate film A Quiet Passion (Terence Davis, 2016) about Emily Dickinson, her family, loneliness and strength to defend her personal views and beliefs; and Christine with an impressive performance by Rebecca Hall that showed how personal drama could blow up the live broadcast.
The last film that was somehow difficult to resist was Student by Kirill Serebrennikov. It took on board heavy subjects: radical religious crisis, diseases of society, while at the same time was also concerned with something much more global. There is a protagonist, but it becomes clear that the heroine has the strength to confront him. Symptomatically, the film has just won the prize of the European Film Academy for its music: “The music, with its contemporary sacred structure, expresses intensely the dark fascination of the spiral of intolerance that religious fanaticism can generate”.
By Polina Moshenska