Despite the unseasonably low temperatures, glamorous strappy cocktail dresses were still the order of the evening for the strictly blacktie opening of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. And the huge fleet of identical black Audis, with their distinctive lights, whisking back and forth along the cobblestoned streets of the beautiful spa town between the cinema and the elegant old Hotel Pupp gave an almost surreal party feel to the town for the duration of the festival. The fest was bookended by the latest filmic version of Jane Eyre (which stars among others Dame Judi Dench, in Karlovy Vary to receive a Crystal Globe for her Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema, and Australian actress Mia Wasikowska) and Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, signaling a new Eurocentric feel to the festival.
The A festival is embraced by Czech cinephiles as well as the industry and many film lovers make the ninety minute trip from Prague to Karlovy Vary to attend the festival even for a few days.
The Czech films were headlined by a gloriously restored print of the renowned Marketa Lazarová, a 1967 film set in mediaeval times and adapted from a novel of the same name. The contemporary selection included Martin Sulik’s awarding winning Cigan (Gypsy), on release before I had even left the Czech Republic, but represented at the festival by many of the non-professional Romany actors. A small focus on Elia Kazan gave an opportunity for all of the Netpac jury to re-visit his America America (again a superb new print) which reverberated strongly with the contemporary Turkish films mentioned further on.
The 46th edition of Karlovy Vary IFF saw Karel Och in his first year as artistic director. Former artistic director Julietta Sichel who will be honoured for her contribution to Korean cinema at this year’s Busan Film Festival, highlighted Asian cinema and presented many Asian retrospectives. But Och’s initial programme featured a relatively small selection of Asian films. The nod to East Asia included controversial directors Kim Ki Duk and Sion Sono but the focus was more on Western Asia. The fine selection of films from this area included Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation; first time Israeli director Joseph Madmony’s touching Restoration, which won the grand prize from the jury chaired by Istvan Szabo; and two Turkish films, including Seren Yüce’s Majority, which had collected the prize for the debut film at Venice last year and won several Golden Orange awards at Antalya. However the Netpac jury, chaired by Gonül Donmez-Colin and including Hauvick Habechian (Lebanon) and myself finally selected Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once upon a time in Anatolia “for its visual mastery in exploring doubt and the darkness of the human soul.”
by Anne Demy-Geroe