Archive for Rotterdam International Film Festival


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2014 by dcairns


“No, wait, we made that,” says Tony Randall at the start of WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? as he realizes that the film he’s introducing cannot possibly be called THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT. And he’s right, of course. Because why would you make a film that was already made?

I know there are possible reasons or excuses. Maybe it was OK for Vincent Ward to make THE NAVIGATOR after Buster Keaton had already made THE NAVIGATOR, since even though that film is one of Keaton’s best, it’s not his best-known. But it was surely goofy of John Boorman to make THE GENERAL, under that title, since Keaton’s GENERAL regularly makes top ten lists. And indeed, you never hear about that Boorman film nowadays. Perhaps the only reason Ward’s film isn’t completely forgotten is that everything he’s done since has sucked so very, very hard.

Night Moves

And so to Kelly Reichardt’s NIGHT MOVES, which is excellent — saw it in Rotterdam — but did it need to be called that? Arthur Penn’s NIGHT MOVES isn’t going away. In Reichardt’s film, the title is the name of a boat. Now, the boat didn’t have to be called that. In fact, Dakota Fanning actually lists a whole bunch of alternative boat names, although admittedly one of them, Gone With The Wind, might also have caused problems.

Still, quibbling aside, this is an excellent film. Fanning plays an aspirant eco-terrorist intent on blowing up an unpopular dam with the help of Peter Sarsgaard (a blithe bullshitter in the tradition of Bruce Greenwood in MEEK’S CUTOFF) and Jesse Eisenberg (wrapped too tight for Oregon). Fanning is touching, Eisenberg confirms his reputation as American cinema’s leading depressive, folding up into himself as the story unravels, like a man with ouroboros of the soul.

Reichardt and screenwriter Jonathan Raymond do the most amazing endings — usually bleak or at least potentially bleak, mysterious, uncertain, troubling. This one, laid in a sporting goods store, is the most inexplicably distressing retail experience since Anne Bancroft’s Harrods breakdown in THE PUMPKIN EATER.

Meek’s Cutoff [DVD] [2010]
Wendy And Lucy [DVD] [2008]
Old Joy [2006] [DVD]

Dutch Treat

Posted in FILM, Sport with tags , , , , , on February 5, 2014 by dcairns


From right — James Benning, Richard Linklater, Gabe Klinger.

From Rotterdam —

Gabe Klinger had the right idea: when he couldn’t afford to see as many movies as he needed to see, he became a critic so he could see them for free. And now he’s made film for the best possible reason: to be able to see a film that wouldn’t exist if he didn’t make it.

About time. DOUBLE PLAY is all about time. Juxtaposing the work of friends James Benning (durational experimental films framing empty places as the seconds silently tick by, or revisiting environments and inhabitants after decades) and Richard Linklater (three films that follow a couple across ten years, and one that was shot over twelve years to show its child characters grow up for real), Klinger explores a friendship and two contrasting oeuvres, unified beautifully under a temporal umbrella. It’s particularly impressive to see him intercut different Linklater films — samples from a prolific and eclectic career — so that they all seem to merge into one big continuum, an uber-film containing both WAKING LIFE and THE BAD NEWS BEARS, SLACKER and BEFORE SUNRISE, making it seem possible that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy might at some moment round a corner and pass a pixillated/pixelated stoner from A SCANNER DARKLY.

And then there’s the central relationship, which is fun to be around and contains just enough contrast and disagreement to stop it becoming a love-in (and therefore tedious). I mean, I like King Vidor’s film about Andrew Wyeth, THE METAPHOR, it’s impossible to dislike, but its mutual admiration society set-up, Vidor loves Wyeth who loves Vidor, means it’s hardly a-crackle with tension. Benning seems to have enough inner steel and fire that a certain mild, agreeable tension is felt whenever he’s around.

Discussing tennis with Danny Kasman before the show — I remark that the sport seemed to have kept Richard Lester fit into his eighties and Norman Lloyd going strong at 99. A very early image of DOUBLE PLAY is Linklater peppering a court with stray balls as he faces off against an implacable tennis ball machine. We exchange glances. This sequence is good news for Linklater fans.

TEN SKIES by James Benning.

BTW, Gabe is a friend, but seeing as we live on different continents, I’m fairly sure I could have gotten away with NOT writing about his film if I didn’t like it.


Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , on January 31, 2014 by dcairns


Great screening in the a.m. Thursday here at Rotterdam International Film Festival. NATAN was double-featured with MONSIEUR X, which is a similar funny length and is a documentary about Leos Carax. Carax doesn’t appear in it in any new footage, and so it’s left to his collaborators and admirers to talk about his work amid generous film clips and atmospheric silhouettes evoking the auteur’s dangling-cigarette legend. It pairs up well with our movie, I think. The filmmaker was M.I.A. so I got the q&a to myself.

Hung out a bit with Danny Kasman of MUBI before the show.

As everyone says, Rotterdam International Film Festival is a cool and friendly place. I’m not good at cool and friendly places, without some sort of excuse to start conversations, so after the screening I kind of wandered around in an alienated state afterwards taking pictures of the more bleak parts of Dutch cinemas —



But then I had the good fortune to opt for the Scopitone Cafe, a free event screening music-themed documentaries and serving beer in a very lovely room —


And I made a good contact for a current project but also saw THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC, a delightful portrait of Chris Strachwitz, who records, releases and ENJOYS American “down home” music.

Afterwards, my photographs were more like THIS —