36th Montreal World Film Festival

23rd August – 3rd September  2012

‘The Montreal  World Film Festival is one of the World’s great Film Festivals’, said veteran Swedish director Jan Troell as he accepted the Best Picture Award for his film Dom Over Dod Man (The Last Sentence) at the festival. Filmed in black and white the film tells the story of the fearless Swedish journalist Torgny Segerstedt. Proving ‘that the pen is mightier than the sword’, Segerstedt  fought a one man battle against Hitler from 1933 to his death in early 1945. Fearing Nazi invasion various ministers and even the King asked him to desist. He continued.

Actor/director, and UNESCO Ambassador Liv Ullman, a patron of the Montreal Festival, returned to launch Liv & Igamar. Directed by Indian–born  Dheeraj Acolar and made with the co-operation of Ms Ullman, this documentary  covers all aspects of their almost fifty-year relationship. They were partners for five years, had a daughter Linn together and  made twelve films including Saraband in 2003. Last summer Ullman returned to Bergman’s home on the Island of Faro with first-time director Akolkar. There she told him of all aspects of their relationship, which  ended the day of his death in 2007.

At a ‘standing room only’ press conference Ulmann said “’Male actors e.g  Max von Sydow and Erland Josephson were Bergman’s alter egos. But especially me I was Bergman’s alter ego. If I hadn’t existed perhaps Max would have had more roles.

This loving documentary with clips from all the films Bergman and Ullman made together deserves to be widely seen.

Award-winning actor director Danny Huston returned to the festival with  Two Jacks. Based on the Tolstoy short story ‘Two Hussars and directed by Huston’s frequent collaborator Bernard Rose, the film shows the dark side of Hollywood both in the early 1970s and at present.  At a  crowded press conference Huston said ‘Two Jacks is about nostalgia for the past and a son’s relationship with his father.’

An egocentric film director ( Danny Huston) arrives in Los Angeles trying to raise money for a project to be filmed in Africa.  He’s befriended by Brad, a writer trying to advance his career. Brad becomes the director’s ‘go for’ driving him first to his favourite hotel . The director tries  to check in. He’s told the hotel is full and there will be no space available to him until he pays the balance of his previous bill. Brad foolishly  pays the bill. Then insists that the director stay with him. They drive to an industry party . The director is captivated by Diana (Sianna Miller). In a scene reminiscent of ‘ The Maltese Falcon he makes passionate love to her. Later the director encounters his nemesis Lorenzo. In a high-stake poker game he beats Lorenzo and secures funding for his project. All this is conditional on his ending his relationship with Diana. Flash forward twenty years , the director’s son Jack junior (Jack Huston) arrives in Los Angeles to make his first major film. He doesn’t like the size or the decor of his hotel suite. There’s nothing else available. His assistant insists that he stay in his apartment. There he meets Diana’s daughter and is besotted. She insists that he move to her apartment. Later he meets Diana (Jacqueline Bissett) and the retired Brad. Jack junior is almost as arrogant as his father. Will he make the same mistakes?

Filmed in sepia and later in colour, the film is obviously a labour of love by all concerned. The jarring factor is that apart from Diana all the characters seem  self centered. A noble effort!

End-of-life issues were strongly featured in three films. Two of these ‘Dearest (Anatae) directed by Yoshuo  Furuhata  (Japan), and ‘Coming of Age (Anfang 80) directed by Sabine Hiebler & Gerhart Erti (Austria) won  awards, while the third  The Stoning of St Stephen (La Lapidation de St. Etienne) directed by Pere Vila i Barcelo ( France/Spain) greatly impressed.

Commended by the Ecumenical Jury of the Festival  as ‘illuminating the transcendent dimensions of life and human relationships’, Dearest tells the story of how a new widower, honouring the final request of his wife to take her ashes to Nagasaki for burial, learns of her past, and  finds the courage to continue his own journey. As Eiji Kurashima , the grieving husband veteran Japanese actor Ken Takakura  gives a pitch perfect  performance.

Winner of both the audience  Prix du Publique as most popular film , and The Best Actor awardComing of Age tells the story of eighty year old Rosa (Christine Ostermeyer). Diagnosed with terminal cancer Rosa returns from hospital to learn that her niece has installed new tenants in her apartment without informing her. Disoriented she rushes out into the street and bumps into Bruno (Karl Merkatz) a retired printer. Bruno helps Rosa find a hotel room and when leaving tentatively kisses her. She returns his kiss. Embarrasse,  he flees. They meet again partly by accident. They have coffee and find they’re soul mates. Rosa is completely honest with Bruno. Bruno confesses that he’s in a lackluster marriage. They  decide to have a relationship. There is opposition from both their families. In spite of everything they decide to spend their remaining time together. However Rosa’s condition is terminal. She wishes to die with dignity. Can Bruno help her?

Accepting the award for Best Actor Karl Merkatz  confessed, ‘I’m eighty years of age. This is the greatest honour I’ve had as an actor. I pay tribute to my directors and share this award with  my co-star Christine Ostermeyer.’

The Stoning of St. Stephen tells the story of an elderly art restorer in his eighties, who has lived surrounded by art objects his whole life. He wishes to maintain his dignity and will not move into care. His daughter, the local social worker, and his neighbours conspire against him. He simply wants to die where he has lived. Appalling and difficult to watch, this film is a plea for tolerance and human dignity. As the elderly man, French actor Lou Castel gives the performance of his career.

Closed Season ( Ender der Schonzeit) directed by Franziska Schlotter of Germany. This German/Israeli co- production won both the Ecumenical Jury and Best Actress Awards.

The Ecumenical  Jury commended this film ‘for its fresh approach to issues related to Nazi Germany’. In the early 1940s Albert, a German Jew, fails in an attempt to cross from Southern Germany to Switzerland. Drenched to the skin he’s found by a Bavarian farmer and given shelter. Childless , the farmer asks Albert to impregnate his wife Emma (Brigitte Hobmeier). He watches their embraces. The farmer is at once jealous and loving towards Albert.  Gradually  Emma begins to have feelings for her lover. She makes her feelings known but is rejected by Albert . She then takes revenge. The ‘menage a trios’ ends tragicall. Much later Emma’s son journeys to Israel with a letter from his mother.

Accepting the Best Actress Award Brigitte Hobmeier said, ‘I’m very proud and honoured to receive this award. Thanks to my co-actors and my director.’

As a dishonest bisexual attorney in small town Texas Aidan Quinn steals every scene he plays in the ‘film noir’ Rushlights. Directed by Swiss-American Antoni Stutz, and  with a stellar cast helmed by Quinn and both Beau and Jordan Bridges, the film works on all fronts.

Newcomers Haley Webb and Josh Henderson acquit themselves ably as Sara and Billy two lovers from Los Angeles, who turn up in Northern Texas to claim the estate of  bachelor landowner Zackary Neils. Sara claims she’s the late ranch owner’s niece. Cameron Bridges, the local attorney (Quinn) accepts Sarah’s claim and even offers to help expedite matters. He’s challenged by his brother, the local sheriff,   (Beau Bridges). The sheriff smells a scam and also questions the manner of the ranch-owner’s death.

The young con artists are deeply indebted  to a  psychopathic grafter (Jordan Bridges). The latter wants his share at all costs.  This film works on every level. Hopefully it will be picked up. Director Stutz , a former actor does a stellar job. A small masterpiece that will greatly enhance Quinn’s career!

Ireland was represented by two films at the festival  Desmond Bell’s  ‘The Enigma of Frank Ryan  was warmly received by audiences at all screenings. Mitchell Banks the respected New York film distributer has picked up U.S. rights.  Foxes Lorcan Finnegan’s  satirical short, drew praise  for it’s script, acting, and production values.  ‘Imagine what Finnegan could do with a larger budget?’ , said critic Pat Donnelly.

Anthony Kirby



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