Sverak, Zanussi, Schultz, and Cox Screen New Films in Tokyo
by Andrew Thomas
TIFF justs gets better, and from a diverse range of films from global
cinema, it’s interesting to report that common themes are emerging. Uppermost
is ‘the freedom of the individual’. Whether it be for art, political expression,
in love, or to travel, many of the films here seem to be about
celebrating the will and identity of the individual human spirit.
Jan Sverak’s “Kolya” and Krzysztof Zanussi’s “In Full Gallop“
are superb – wise, mature and very funny – movies revealing the pain and
absurdity of life under Soviet rule in Czechoslovakia and Poland. The
post-communist situation in both countries has been unstable, but both Zverak
and Zanussi look back, not in anger, more in relief and celebration at the
demise of the communist state. I anticipate equally interesting films about
the current situation in eastern Europe, provided the funding becomes
available for the highly-talented filmmakers to develop and produce.
With so many amazing and inspiring works having come from Russian, Polish,
Czech or Slovak cinema, it’ll be really interested to see the work of the
new generation of independent filmmakers. What will their themes be I wonder?
Capitalist critique? More moral anxiety? Whatever, I really loved and highly
recommend both “Kolya” and “In Full Gallop” and they set me to thinking.
Check them out, probably not coming to a screen near you……
US director John Schultz is in town with his film “Bandwagon“, an entry at
Sundance this year, and is going down well. A deal for distribution has been
made with the discerning DAIEI and my feeling is that it will prove a success
here. In the vein of Linklater and Hartley, the film has a very witty script
about the formation and near self-destruction of an indie band, Space Monkey.
With an overly-shy lead singer-songwriter, unhinged bassist, space-cadet
guitarist and a pain-in-the-ass philosopher-drummer, the band hit the road
around the southern states accompanied by the enigmatic Linus as road
manager. The development of the characters in painfully familiar situations
is neatly worked, and the dilemmas that face indie bands is entertainingly
portrayed – ‘It’s all about the music.’
“Death and The Compass” is also a hot ticket. Alex Cox, the
creator of the classically cult “Repo Man“, originally made the
film for BBC Television in the UK, but its stylistic bravura was recognised
and with money in place, the original 55-minute film was extended to further
illuminate the multi-layered plot. By adapting Jorge-Luis Borges’ nightmarish
original story into a serio-comic, meta-physical, mystery/thriller, Cox adds
to an already diverse range of films with imagination and tongue-in-cheek
humour. Sometimes it becomes “spot-the-influence”, but I feel that’s an
intentional aspect of the style, and adds to the enjoyment. Because of the
retro feel, the film has received a mixed response, but for the invention,
wit, great production locations and cheesy soundtrack alone, I feel that Cox
enhances his reputation as a filmmaker who is prepared to take risks, weaving
the narrative from his source material to make significant and
most-importantly, CINEMATIC, movies….Hasta Mañana.
[Andy is a Tokyo-based producer/director and writer on film and performance art who has recently relocated to Japan from Britain as part of cultural exchange “experiment”.]