VIFF ’10: Day Six

Around a  Small Mountain – The latest from Jacques Rivette (and somehow only the second film of his that I’ve seen) feels more like an Eric Rohmer film than anything else I’ve seen in awhile.  A traveling Italian meets Jane Birkin, who’s recently returned to her family circus.  Sensing emotional turmoil, the Italian hangs out with the circus people solving problems left and right, Quantum Leap style.  What elevates it above that kind of Bakulaesque slightness is Rivette’s fluid visual style and focus on performance: some of the best sequences in the film are of the circus people at work.  Particular focus is paid to a clown routine, which we see three or four times, going a little bit further into the routine each time, which pays off hilariously at the film’s climax.  Birkin’s pretty good as a middle-aged woman with an undealt with trauma in her past, but Julie-Marie Parmentier as her cute redheaded niece pretty much steals every scene she’s in.
Oki’s Movie – If Hahaha (seen here a couple days ago) was the most conventional Hong Sangsoo film I’ve seen to date, with his traditionally split narratives smoothly intercut into one integrated story, this might be his least cohesive.  The story isn’t bifurcated: it’s quad-furcated.  Four movies (complete with a different title credit sequence for each section of the film, though all four use “Pomp and Circumstance” (of all things) as title music) tell the story of a love triangle involving a film professor and two of his students.  Or two professors and four students.  Or two professors, one of whom was one of the students in an earlier love triangle (this is my interpretation, I think it makes the most sense).  Hong never explicitly spells out what’s happening when, or which stories are “fiction” and which are “fact” (that each of the principals in each story is a filmmaker only makes everything that much more ambiguous).  I’d never really thought of Hong as having been influenced by the French New Wave before, but the bulk of the third film is made up of a single-take Q & A between professor and the two students that could have come right out of mid-60s Godard: gnomic and hilarious.  It might be my favorite Hong film thus far, in fact, I’m pretty sure I’d rank his films in reverse chronological order.  I guess he just keeps getting better and better.

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