The 2012 Jeonju International Film Festival begins this Thursday, April 26th, with screenings continuing for over a week until the following Friday, May 4th. This is always my favorite festival every year, partly because of the smart and cinephile friendly programming, and partly because of the experience of Jeonju in the Spring. And while I’m sure Jeonju will be as beautiful and fun as always, the program this year is not as exciting as in previous years. The main omission is the Master Class section, in which filmmakers or film critics would give a lecture along with a screening of a related film. Such important filmmakers as Bong Joon-ho, Claire Denis and Pedro Costa have participated, as well as major critics and academics like Adrian Martin, Raymond Bellour, and Noel Burch. Its absence will make the festival less unique. Also, the lineup of films isn’t quite on par with past years. That said, there are still many films worth seeing, and I trust that the Jeonju programmers have found some hidden gems. The following is a preview of some of the films and programs I’m most anticipating.
First on my list is WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN (1973), a film made by Hollywood maverick Nicolas Ray after he left commercial filmmaking and began teaching at Harpur College in Binghamton, NY. The film was made in collaboration with students, and is both experimental and politically radical in a way Ray was never allowed to fully express in Hollywood (although he slipped in lots of subversion). Also screening is the 2011 companion documentary on the making of the film, DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH.
I’m also looking forward to a small retrospective on the films of Lee Jang-ho, often considered one of the forerunners of the Korean New Wave of the late 1980s/early 1990s. In particular, A FINE WINDY DAY (1980) and THE MAN WITH THREE COFFINS (1987) are films that I have read about extensively but have not yet been able to see. Both are screening in 35mm prints and are important viewings to those interested in Korean cinema history.
The program that looks most intriguing is “Ruptures: Cinema in Breakdown”, curated by film critic Chris Fujiwara. It is a selection of nine films made between the years 1962-1973, when world cinema was transitioning from the classical to the modern era. The films were chosen by Fujiwara to “reflect the breakdown of the distinctions between the art film and the commercial film, between the personal film and the studio film, and between the classical and post-classical film.” Among the films I’m most excited about seeing are Frank Tashin’s THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY (1964), Claude Chabrol’s LA RUPTURE (1970), and Youssef Chahine’s THE CHOICE (1970).
The filmmaker retrospectives are on directors who I am unfamiliar with, but hopefully I will catch up with at the festival: Uchida Tomu from Japan, Albert Serra from Spain, and Edgardo Cozarinsky from France. One of the short programs features many of the experimental works of Austrian Martin Arnold, including his acclaimed 1998 deconstruction of 1930s Andy Hardy features ALONE. LIFE WASTES ANDY HARDY. A great review of that film by Jonathan Rosenbaum can be found here.
Most of the rest of the festival features little known directors and films without a great deal of prior notices, so it is difficult to put together recommendations. A couple of exceptions would be the new Guy Maddin film KEYHOLE and Azazel Jacobs’ TERRI. But more than any other year, one should explore this year’s lineup, taking in the Korean and International Competition films and hopefully finding some surprises along the way. While this is not the way I personally approach a festival, it can at times lead to rich rewards (and, truth to told, some disappointments). And once you arrive at any festival, you tend to get some word-of-mouth buzz. I’m sure this year’s festival will be no exception.
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