The film festival

It’s that time of year again for the Chicago International Film Festival. We pack up our bags, grab Walnut and head to Chicago for 2 weeks. We never go to opening or closing night presentations and mostly avoid main stream movies that will release soon anyway. We instead focus on world cinema and smaller movies. It’s a gamble but sometimes we get lucky and see a small gem that hasn’t yet been discovered. I’ve always loved foreign movies. It’s a good way to vicariously travel the world when we’re home. Since Saturday we have seen movies from France, Switzerland, Mexico, China, and Greece continuing this week with Poland, Iceland, Turkey, Germany, South Korea, Russia and Ireland.

One of the first foreign movies I remember seeing as a teenager was a french comedy called “Cousin Cousine” from 1975. The movie was about an adulterous affair between two distant cousins who fall in love. I saw the movie at least seven times and it shaped how I viewed love and defined what I hoped for in a relationship. One of the actors in Cousin Cousine, Guy Marchand, happened to be in the first movie we saw this year at the festival. He had disappeared from cinema after having success as a TV actor and jazz singer. The movie is called L’arbre et la forêt, or Family Tree, which is about family secrets. The movie opens with the father refusing to attend his sons funeral and the other family members reactions. It was beautifully filmed, but a bit heavy handed in parts. I found myself distracted by the beautiful granddaughters wardrobe. She changed sweaters in practically every scene and all of the sweaters were fantastic. Did she really pack all that for a weekend??

In past years I have marveled at how we can pick 3 movies from different countries, see them and afterwards find similarities in the movies. In three movies from Mexico, China and Greece, each one had a horse die from exhaustion. Another interesting thing that happened to us was after the documentary on Daniel Schmid, a little known Swiss director who died in 2006. The last scene in the movie took place in Shanghai in the fog. When we left the theater, after many days of beautiful, clear warm sun in Chicago, a fog was rolling in and the weather turned cool. Random coincidence?

In college I discovered the new german cinema of Werner Rainer Fassbinder (The Marriage of Maria Braun), Wim Wenders (The American Friend) and Volker Schlondorff (The Tin Drum). So we were excited to see the documentary about Daniel Schmid, who worked with Fassbinder in Berlin and also acted in The American Friend. It was a well made documentary and I would highly recommend tracking it down on Netflix someday. He grew up in a small town in Switzerland where his family were hotel proprietors. I loved that they lived in the hotel and moved to different rooms in the hotel depending on high or low season. In low season they lived on the first floor, by high season they had moved to the attic. I have never seen Daniel Schmid’s movies but one stood out in the documentary. It’s about the first nursing home in the world for retired opera singers. The film clips were just wonderful.

Before each movie begins, the Film festival show slides of movie stars and directors from past years. A few directors and actors have quotes on the slide. Francois Truffaut’s quote is “Vive la Cinema” and the guy next to me blurted out “That’s all he has to say?” My response was is that I really liked the quote. It is honest and simple. He thought the director was being arrogant (probably because Truffaut is french and we all know American’s think the french are arrogant) I disagreed and said that I thought the quote was better than Spielberg’s, which I found arrogant. He asked me what Spielberg had said which is “I haven’t made my Lawrence of Arabia yet, I haven’t made my Grapes of Wrath yet. It makes me hungry” This is after he has won Academy Awards and become the highest grossing director ever. To me it makes him sound arrogant. The quote was from 2006 and what film has Spielberg made since then? Munich?!? The guy disagreed with me but it was a lively debate.

I’m going to close with a few thoughts on movie etiquette. I think that VCR’s ruined watching movies in theaters. I love popcorn as much as anyone, but I cannot stand the noise that people make during movie crunching away on their bucket-o-popcorn. It’s one thing during a blockbuster when surround sound conceals the noise but in a quiet movie it’s incredibly disturbing. The same goes for talking during the movie. I attract these people like magnets too. No matter which movie I see, inevitably at the last minute someone sits next to me with the super size popcorn. Last night the snack of choice behind us was a super size drink and a pizza in a box. Do people really enjoy their mindless eating in the dark? Wouldn’t it be more enjoyable to talk to a friend over dinner before or after the movie? The movie theater always asked that we turn off our cell phones, don’t text or talk in the movies, but last night the woman in front of me kept checking her Facebook page for updates. How do you think she would like it if I shined a flashlight in her eyes during the movie? Even in silence people can be rude and distracting.