8 1/2 FILMS

“Eight And a Half Films” is one of the oldest and most popular programs of the Moscow Film Festival. For the first time it appeared in 1999. 

What is “contemporary cinema”? What is it like? Is a restless camera obligatory? Are the newest digital technologies a must? As well as the intricate CGI? And the visual whirlwind of editing, blending together the smallest fragments into a new reality? Post-doc? Or is it post-post-doc? The hyper-realistic acting? Neo-conservatism? Denial of pure genres or, on the contrary, overemphasizing them? Or all of the above mixed in quantities accessible only to the brilliant mind? Every new festival provides you at least with some clues if not the answers. And the program for its part registers the moment of the author’s amazement at the fact that, without the approval of theoreticians, something unexpected is born on the screen. The Dardenne brothers’ ruthless style (the filmmakers were frequent participants of the program “Eight and a Half”) seems to have exhausted itself, but all of a sudden the very same Belgium provides Fien Troch with the movie “Home” and her ruthless unpleasant discussion of domestic violence forces us to speak about a new dimension of social realism. In never-ending discussions about Lav Diaz’s style, not sharing his adherence to over-the-top runtime figures, I was totally overcome by the outstanding Filipino’s ability to present an epic narration about something small, intimate in the film “The Woman Who Left” which won the “Golden Lion” at last year’s Venice Film Festival. I was equally carried away by Kim Ki Duk’s tragi-comic epic “The Net” which opens one of the festival programs. I was amazed at the impressionistically modest and muted tragic style of Stéphane Brizé’s narration of Maupassant’s “A Woman's Life”, which has been adopted for the screen hundreds of times. In our present collection there is a movie that seemingly can hardly be classified as a stylistic breakthrough. It is the very modest “After Love” by Joachim Lafosse (another Belgian, incidentally). The degree of psychological immersion into the life of one single family, which is simultaneously  happy and unhappy, is such that a new language of condensed chamber realism is born before your eyes. That is not to mention Jean-Pierre Léaud grand solo which in the course of two hours destroys the very notion of realism so lovingly nursed by Belgian groundbreakers. It would be appropriate to speak about super-realism, showcased by the brilliant Albert Serra in “The Death of Louis XIV”. How can one classify the unique experiment undertaken by Bruno Dumont in his punk-trash-hard-rock opera about the youth of La Pucelle d'Orléans? And so I get back to the initial question: what is “contemporary cinema”?


Peter Shepotinnik