Goa Film Festival

Abhijit Ghosh-Dastidar

The International Film Festival of India at Goa (November, 2013) caught up with the changing tides of film form, film plots and film fashion, with a debut signature film ‘‘Dances of Peacock’’ (30 secs, colour) by Shaji Karun. The logo film, shot in 3D, portrays fluttering peacocks, springing in splendour, in sun and rain. A retro of Agnieszka Holland (Poland) and recent films from Japan, completed the world cinema selections,  combining the aesthetic with the allusive.

The Don Juans
Jiri Menzel’s ‘‘The Don Juans’’ (Czech Republic, 2013, 102 mins, colour) retains opera as the main character in the efforts of a provincial company, mounting Mozart’s opera, ‘‘Don Juan’’. In the numerous rehearsals, inter-cut with sketches from real life, more than one Don Juan appears. Opera remains the pinnacle of culture, but the cast believes that a good film should end with weddings. Leader of a children’s choir, teacher Marketka (Libuse Safrankova) does not like opera, but often listens to opera on the radio. The opera director, Vitek (Jan Hartl) also does not like opera, but has a fondness for soprano singers. Children run out in a peak, with an aria from Verdi’s ‘‘La Traviata’’. Security forces are alert in the town as the opera director enters Divaldo Theatre for rehearsals. Singer Marketka steps into a police vehicle, and starts singing at the police station. The opera director has been initiated in opera from an early age. Close-ups of painted faces are accompanied by arias from Verdi and Pucchins. Marketka continues to sing while police raise questions. She recalls her life and her affair with an actor from ‘Don Juan’. Day trips on cycles and rehearsals, sparks from ‘Mephisto’, psychiatric clinics, bars, parks, and the novelty in relationships clutter the narrative. A song to the moon, teenager Rusika in bed in self indulgence singing an aria from Pucchinis ‘‘Madame Butterfly’’ pervade the visuals, without impairing ‘Don Juan’’ as the opera of operas. Originality brings a motor bike on stage, a cycle cart, an animal carcass and a man in ablutions. While music is the most important thing, to invent is being original. Drama is in the singing.

There are introductions to actors and actresses, as new actresses sing. An actor is upset, as lead role of Giovannis is given to Leo. Placards of profiles and bubbling champagne complement first baritones and minuet dances. At the children’s school, a mother quarrels with a teacher for giving less singing to her daughter. Vocal sopranos float from an open bedroom window, as the opera director, Vitek makes love with different sopranos in rapid suceession. Maretka is the head of four generations of single mothers, all abandoned by singing Don Juans. She is arrested once for holding rehearsals in an abandoned 17th century theatre. Her second brush with the police is when she notices masked bank robbers packing money in the trunk of a stolen car, owned by Vitek. Though she cannot drive, she takes the wheel, and crashes the car through a butcher’s shop. Jakub (Martin Huba), an old womanizer is given the role of ‘Commendatore and Vitek’s and Marketka’s ancedotes crissross. Pale faces signify the colour of death. Communism nor privatization failed to improve opera buildings, stage and props. In the baroqueera, the left side of the stage symbolized evil. The local council decides that opera is unnecessary, and sells the opera house to private bidders, but not to a bank nor casino. There are more hockey fans than opera lovers. The soloists sing and the opera cast dance. The sound track is filled with Mozart, Smetana and Dvorak. Accidental encounters of the two protagonists and minor characters develop their own storylines, in the staging of impressive opera. The gags come at a terrific pace, and Jaromir Sofr’s camera retains the rapidity of Menzel’s  high opera. ‘‘Don Juans’’ retains the grace of opera.

‘‘Jealousy’’ (France, 2013, 77 mins, black and white) by  Phillipe Garrel, begins with a note of sadness, as girl friend and pale office worker, Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant) with heart breaking sobs pleads of her friend, Louis (Lovis Garrel) not to leave. Their child Charlotte (Olga Milshtein), eight years old, wakes up from sleep and watches the breakup through a key hole. Louis’ new lover is Claudia (Anna Muuglalis), a stage actress without any major roles for several years. Louis is also an idealistic stage actor, who has not been paid for sometime for acting. Claudia and Louis now live in a modest garret apartment. Louis finds time to visit his daughter, baby sits as Charlotte draws and sketches. Charlotte and Louis go for long walks, along the streets of Paris. Sometimes Charlotte joins Louis and Claudia, as they stride through parks and streets.

The scenario steadily shifts to theatre rehearsals. The old director, who has written a book on Mayakovsky, is now staging a Seneca play. Louis has a fling with fellow actress, Lucie (Manon Kneuse). Claudia finds Louis’ apartment too small and stifling, and searches for romance in bars. Life and love continue in a void, even as tight framing and tracking shots record Louis and Claudia’s romps through Paris. Louis finds time to spend at home with Claudia, and searches all explanations to love a girl. He has fears of loving someone else. An actress relates that she was in love with Louis’ father, who is no more. An architect friend offers Claudia an office job. As it is she is fed up with Louis’ cramped residence, where there is no light and happiness. Claudia takes Louis to her new apartment, which has come as a gift from a friend. Louis is in tears. After a dinner at Louis apartment, where friends are invited, Claudia declares decision to finally leave. Louis unsuccessfully shoots himself, and is admitted in hospital. His younger sister, Esther (Esther Garrel) takes care, and advises him to leave Claudia, for self liberation. Louis has been replaced in a play. Daughter Charlotte and Louis spend time in a park. ‘‘Jealousy’’ exalts love and theatre art, which steadily drift in void with declining value. Romantic and ideological super structures are stripped. Phillipe Garrel’s screen-play sketches present day Paris. Action, drama, romance and the lack of money lose energy at an equal pace. Order and stability still survive as a unified family; love affair and a commitment to theatre fall apart. The occasional humorous drama is full of emotional warmth. Willy Kurant’s black and while monochrome camera lens has a cool, distanced theatrical style, along with rapid pans.

Vol. 47, No. 2, Jul 20 - 26, 2014