While the days may be getting longer, energy levels are steadily depleting, but the end of HKIFF 2012 is in sight. With less than a week to go now, however, the festival is showing no signs of letting up and the final few days promise to be more packed full of cinematic treasure than those I have already managed to enjoy. So perhaps today represents the quiet before the storm...
Day 8 (30 March)
The Story Of Film: An Odyssey (dir. Mark Cousins, United Kingdom)
I first became familiar with the Northern Irish film scholar and critic Mark Cousins when he took over curating and presenting duties of the 1990s BBC film show Moviedrome. He has since become a filmmaker of note in his own right and last year produced an epic 15 episode exploration into the history of Cinema for Channel 4. Cousins has brought the entire series to the festival, which is screening in five 3-hour segments, the first of which I was fortunate enough to catch. Charting the conception of the technology from Edison and the Lumiere brothers, through Melies to D.W. Griffiths and beyond, Cousins' approach is both to highlight the evolution of the industry but also its development as an artform. He takes care to illustrate exactly how film language was developed, from the use of close ups to cross-cutting, flashbacks to line-of-sight and so forth, not only in commercial Hollywood Cinema, but also in Europe, Asia and the rest of the world. This is certainly an approach rife with opinion, but it brings a layer of welcome creativity to the series that would otherwise have felt staid and stale. While it is unlikely that I can afford the time to watch any more of the series while it plays the festival, I will most definitely be picking up the complete DVD collection when it is released later in the month, and I urge any self-respecting cineaste or film student to seek it out at the earliest opportunity. The Story of Film is an enthralling odyssey.
LIVID (dir. Alexandre Bustillo/Julien Maury, France)
The directorial partnership behind the much celebrated French shocker Inside returns with this gothic haunted house film that follows a young woman named Lucie (Chloe Coulloud) who takes a job as a care giver in her small fishing town, only to become aware that there could be unprotected treasure stashed in a remote house inhabited solely by a comatose old widow. With her imbecilic but ambitious boyfriend leading the way, Lucie accompanies him and his brother as they attempt to break into the house that night, only to discover all manner of secrets and nastiness lurking therein. The film has lots of things going for it, not least incredible art direction and production design that ensures every frame of the film oozes with an eerie air of neglected grandeur, however it continually undermines itself by introducing irritating and idiotic characters that are entirely implausible yet treated as leaders, while repeatedly pushing the story outside the confines of its pre-established reality. The result is an experience that is as infuriating as it is intriguing, and as unintentionally amusing as it is genuinely creepy and unnerving. That a film as batshit crazy as this got made at all earns the directors some level of respect, however one can't help but feel that they let a potential genre classic wrestle its way from their grasp and leave them with a beautiful-looking mess of a film.
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