The Hands of Bresson

Sundry observations on the art of cinema and world film culture

Archive for the ‘Stockholm International Film Festival 2010’ Category

Stockholm International Film Festival, Dispatch Three

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On Saturday night, I went to the 572-seat Skandia Theater on Drottninggatan, a busy pedestrian-only shopping thoroughfare in the heart of the city, for an event honoring Gus Van Sant, recipient of this year’s Stockholm Film Festival Visionary Award. The Skandia, designed in 1923 by Eric Gunnar Asplund, is Stockholm’s grandest movie palace, a neoclassical landmark that embodies European elegance and the modernist architect’s own fusion of Italo-Nordic influences (perhaps best expressed in his world-famous public library). It was the perfect setting for a tribute. After rolling an odd selection of scenes from Van Sant’s films (keyed to Elliott Smith’s Good Will Hunting track “Miss Misery”), the two-time Oscar-nominated director was brought onstage for a Q&A. He seemed tense and shy, even slightly embarrassed (Me? Really?) by all the attention. His responses to an interviewer’s queries about his beginnings in photography and film, the influence of Belá Tarr, and his use of sound design were stiff and unforthcoming, though he grew more relaxed by the time the audience had a turn to pepper him with less technical questions: What was River Phoenix like as a person and an actor? Any advice for aspiring filmmakers? Then it was time for jury president Holly Hunter and hometown hero Stellan Skarsgård to present him with the Bronze Horse, a hefty trophy that has previously gone to Wong Kar-wai, Terry Gilliam, and (last year) Luc Besson. Skarsgård slapped Van Sant in the face; Van Sant returned the favor, then explained that the gesture came from a drinking game the actor had invented late one night in a Boston bar, when they were all hammered. Skål! Read the rest of this entry »

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Stockholm International Film Festival, Dispatch Two

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My first full day at the Stockholm International Film Festival was unusually adventurous, at least for me. I was staying at the Elite Hotel Marina Tower, a relatively new masterwork of modern Swedish design in residential Saltsjöqvarn, overlooking the fog-laden harbor, and had planned to spend the day watching films in Norrmalm, the city center. Unbeknownst to me, my hosts had arranged for a day trip through the Stockholm Business Region Development office, perhaps as a grand gesture of welcome. I’m not one for sightseeing tours, however sophisticated, but thought it would be rude to decline. So late Thursday morning, I boarded a minivan with an equally puzzled Italian journalist fromVogue, a Croatian festival director from Zagreb, and an editor at Variety, all fun, easygoing people, and it was easy to bond with them as we all had only a vague idea of where we were headed. It turned out to be worth the trip. Fifteen minutes out of town, we landed at Regissörsvillan, an elegant farmhouse restaurant at Filmstaden Solna, the historical grounds where Ingmar Bergman shot many of his movies. Joining us for lunch were Sweden’s film commissioner and Katinka Faragó, Bergman’s longtime assistant (and production manager on Fanny and Alexander), who regaled us with stories of the moody maestro. Then it was off to the scenic island district of Södermalm, Greta Garbo’s birthplace and the city’s chic artistic hub, for a VIP tour that was focused, unfortunately, on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. Despite the fact that none of us had read the late author’s books, our guide was unfazed and disarmingly enthusiastic, proudly showing us the real-world settings for Lisbeth Salander’s adventures. Cynicism has no guard against such hospitality.

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Stockholm International Film Festival, Dispatch One

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A couple of weeks ago, the press officer for the Stockholm International Film Festival got in touch with me with a generous offer, wondering if I’d like to travel to Sweden at their expense and cover this year’s programming, an international meld of features, shorts, and documentaries, most making their Nordic debut. After a glance at the competition films (many of which I’d seen at the 2010 Berlinale or elsewhere) and sidebar sections (Latin Visions, Asian Images, Twilight Zone), I decided there was enough here to chew on: a dozen or so world premieres, works-in-progress by up-and-coming Scandinavian filmmakers, and plenty of entries from Cannes, Venice, and Toronto. Besides, I’d never been to Stockholm, a beautifully preserved archipelago city with cinematic associations stretching from Victor Sjöström and Greta Garbo to Ingmar Bergman and Stellan Skarsgård. Never mind that it would be wet and wintry, or that the sun sets sharply at 3:30 p.m. in late autumn. The thought of stuffing myself on foreign cinema and braised reindeer meat a few days before Thanksgiving seemed to be the only antidote to post-election November blues.

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