How best to define the Rotterdam Film Festival’s Spectrum sidebar? The site declares that it “brings together highlights of the film year, new work by prominent auteurs and topical, strong and innovative films by accomplished filmmakers.” So really, any old tat. This year’s assortment is particularly lively. As well as a prime cut of Dutch perversity, there are tactile love stories from Thailand, a pair of robust films from the Philippines, the return of Chris Petit, and an Austin-set horror flick. Sharp and sexy, the Spectrum is festival popcorn without tears.
Ang Mundo sa Panahon ng Bato (Stone is the Earth)
Last year the world got the first intimations that Filipino cinema was undergoing a kind of renaissance. Ramon Mes de Guzman moved to filmmaking after becoming a literary success with the short story collection Barriotic Punk. He follows up his festival hit The Road to Kalimugtong with the story of a rural family. A homecoming is followed by a discovery which threatens to undo them all.
Writer/director Chris Petit’s 1980 debut Radio On was the kind of film it’s hard to live down. Shepherded by Wim Wenders, the mix of British road movie and rock ‘n’ roll is still a touchstone for cultists and psychogeographers alike (Petit is profiled in Iain Sinclair’s Lights Out for the Territory.) His latest promises more of the glorious same. Another journey is mediated by a new century and the zen of the stick shift.
Rock journalist Geoff Edgers has a mission in life. He wants to reunite the Kinks. Easier said than done—Ray and Dave Davies enjoy a rather fractious relationship. That don’t trouble Geoff. His film lets him play “Waterloo Sunset” with heroes like Sting and zippy Zooey Deschanel. The question is, how much do you want to watch one critic mouthing off about the Kinks?
Mesa sto dasos (In the Woods)
The woods are a powerful presence in Western thinking, whether it’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Antichrist. Greek director Angelos Frantzis sends a woman and two men into the countryside and watches as nature tickles at their inhibitions. There’s a little Tarkovsky-larking, some tree trunk snogging, cell-cam erotica and just a bit of The Blair Witch Project. It’s never less than ravishing.
Red White & Blue
Erica (Amanda Fuller) is the village bicycle and her saddle is getting a little worn. Then she meets an Iraqi War vet. Nate seems more interested in herself than her body, and Erica considers putting promiscuity behind her. This life-changing moment is interrupted by an old fuck-buddy with a hard-on for revenge. British director Simon Rumley helms this horror thriller, set in the bohemian paradise of Austin, Texas.
Refrains Happen Like Revolutions in a Song
The second Pinoy film in this year’s Spectrum line-up meets contemporary Philippines head-on. Multi-hyphenate John Torres follows up his 2009 documentary about his father, Years When I Was a Child Outside, with a diary-like tour of his country. On the way, his film questions themes like colonialism and inequality. That it shares a title with Nick Deocampo’s landmark 1986 doc is no coincidence.
Experimental gay love stories from Thailand may soon be their own sub-genre. After the great Tropical Malady, Thunska Pansittivorakul takes a fragmented approach to the affair between a teacher and pupil. The sensuous trailer is all bodies, obscured faces and suggestive fruit peeling. The film is both homosensual celebration and a protest against the censorship of last year’s This Area is Under Quarantine.
The centerpiece of Nicolás Pereda’s new film is a recitation of “Primero Sueño,” a masterwork by the mother of Mexican literature, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. While performance artist/activist Jesusa Rodriguez performs the poem, Pereda’s exquisite black and white cinematography exposes the apparatus of the theatrical moment. Dark, avant-garde and probably a little heavy-duty.
The directing team of Maartje Seyferth and Victor Nieuwenhuijs are still beloved in BDSM circles for their 1995 adaptation of Venus in Furs. Their current muse Nellie Benner (Crepuscule) returns for this story about a butcher whose meat isn’t exactly kosher. The illicit trade has sexy repercussions for the willful butcher’s girl. This Dutch curio is very likely to give “baby back ribs” a whole new meaning.
This may be the Spectrum’s most conventional film, but a little crowd-pleasing is sometimes necessary. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days’s Anamaria Marinca plays Maria, a dreamer marooned on the island of Texel. During World War II, her dreams of escape are fed by a squad Georgian soldiers, who nurse their homesickness with repeated screenings of the propaganda film, The Aviatrix of Kazbek.
Tags: 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, All Things Were Now Overtaken By Silence, Amanda Fuller, Anamaria Marinca, Ang Mundo sa Panahon ng Bato, Angelos Frantzis, Antichrist, Chris Petit, Content, Crepuscule, Dave Davies, De Vliegenierster Van Kazbek, Do It Again, el silencio lo ocupaba, en fin, Geoff Edgers, In the Woods, Ineke Smits, Jesusa Rodriguez, John Torres, Maartje Seyferth, Meat, Mesa sto dasos, Nellie Benner, Nick Deocampo, Nicolas Pereda, Radio On, Ramon Mes de Guzman, Ray Davies, Red White & Blue, Refrains Happen Like Revolutions in a Song, Reincarnate, Rotterdam Film Festival, Simon Rumley, Sting, Stone is the Earth, The Aviatrix of Kazbek, The Blair Witch Project, The Kinks, The Road to Kalimugtong, This Area is Under Quarantine, Thunska Pansittivorakul, Todo, Tropical Malady, Venus in Furs, Victor Nieuwenhuijs, Vlees, Wim Wenders, Years When I Was a Child Outside, Zooey Deschanel