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November 20, 2007

Denver International Film Festival - Love Hurts


The Duchess of Langeais/Ne touchez pas la hache/Don't Touch the Axe
Jacques Rivette - 2007
IFC Films 35mm Film


4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days/4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile
Cristian Mungiu - 2007
IFC Films 35mm Film

Seeing The Duchess of Langeais mostly made me nostalgic for both Jacques Rivette's earlier films and the theater where I saw them, Alice Tully Hall, the venue for the New York Film Festival. Part of this is due to the Starz Film Center auditoriums having the ambience of a small, dark warehouse. This was coupled with problems with a projector at the very beginning, causing the audience to be herded from one auditorium to another.

Although shorter than some of Rivette's other films, The Duchess of Langeais was for me less interesting or rewarding than the epic length Out One:Spectre or Celine and Julie go Boating. It's not that I have a problem with Rivette doing another exploration of love gone wrong. What perhaps wrongly bothered me was that The Duchess resembled the kinds of films that the Cahiers du Cinema crowd objected to fifty years ago - too well mannered, too dependent on dialogue, and no surprises of any kind. What The Duchess of Langeais needed above all was Out One's Jean-Pierre Leaud rudely showing up to badly blow on his harmonica and make a general nuisance of himself.

Better was 4 Days, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, although I was not prepared for how frank the film would be in depicting an abortion. Taking place in the Romania of 1987, Mungiu positions his camera for one shot that virtually positions the audience from the point of view of the young woman preparing to under the procedure. The effect is unsettling. That this was the top prize winner at Cannes is no surprise considering the somewhat contrarian choices made by the juries in recent years. Like last year's winner, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, 4 3 2 can be seen as being more than a look at the past.

* * *

I probably could evaluate this 30th version of the Denver Film Festival had I had the opportunity to see more films. While I am glad that some films that may never otherwise played here were screened, I still wonder about certain films that played other festivals but were not shown here. I am especially concerned with the new rules regarding films in Thailand that opportunities were lost to present Ploy and Syndrome and a Century as intended by their respective filmmakers, or to allow them to be seen at all. That Thailand was represented by the horror comedy Sick Nurses at a recent San Francisco film festival may indicate that the military government has already decided what is worthy for Thais, and by extension, worthy for audiences outside of Thailand.

While I could not make the panel held last Friday on film bloggers, it seemed that Walter Chaw was not considered worthy of inclusion either. To me it seems almost typical of the Denver International Film Festival that the organizers give short shrift to local talent.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 20, 2007 12:49 AM


If you think that the fifties Cahiers critics would've rejected this film, you don't understand where they were coming from at all...

Posted by: ransom stoddard at November 21, 2007 09:53 PM

I'm curious about your feelings that 4 3 2 was a contrarian choice. I thought the film was absolutely riveting, right up there with Haneke's bleak films, but much more personal.

Posted by: Marilyn at November 22, 2007 12:44 PM

Can you explain why you think DFS/SDFF gives short shift to local talent? Do you mean because you were not asked to be on the blog panel? Is this in regards to local film selction? Please clarify...and, by the way, I explained to you in person why Ploy and Syndromes were not in the festival. Maybe you forgot or perhaps you simply were not listening. Brit.

Posted by: Brit at November 23, 2007 04:20 PM

Marilyn: The winner at Cannes seems to be a film that seems chosen as much for any controversy that will be provoked as for any artistry.

Brit: I did listen to your reasons. Based on what has been happening in Thailand, it will be harder for non-Thai audiences to see some of the more interesting films. Not everyone knows how to seek out import DVDs or has a region free player.

I would have thought that the much better known Walter Chaw would have been on the blog panel. I don't know who else in Denver blogs about film but having local representation would have been nice.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at November 23, 2007 10:15 PM