Fri, Mar 01, 2002 - Page 7 News List

Film festival looks to Europe

Although Taipei has served as the backdrop to many films, it does not have the historical richness of its European counterparts

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

This year, the Taipei Film Festival has focused on two European cities which represent everything Taipei would like to be and is not. But that is part of the attraction. Focusing on films set in Paris and Prague -- and by extension films generally from France and the Czech Republic -- the Taipei City Government and the Taiwan Documentary Development Association (紀錄片發展協會), this year's organizers, have provided a feast of European art-house films which will tax the minds of even the most dedicated. With tickets at just NT$150, it will not tax their wallets.

According to a statement made by Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), one role that the selection of films will play is to show how cinema can enrich, and be enriched by, the atmosphere and culture of a great city. Taipei has served effectively as the background for many local films, but does not have the same historical richness that can been seen in the outstanding traditions of the French and Czech New Waves, which continue to be exceedingly influential.

The opening film of the Festival features one of the major directors of what has been termed the Post-New Wave movement in French cinema -- Leos Carax, who will be visiting Taipei next week. Polar X has been regarded by critics as yet another milestone in a career spanning 20 years but only four feature films. The screening of all his films in the section Focus on Leos Carax starts with his breakaway work Boy Meets Girl (1984), then Mauvsis Sang (1986), Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991) and finally Polar X (1999), all powerfully visceral works that have pushed the limits of visual communication.

The closing film underlines the Czech theme. Darker Than Blue (2001) is the most recent film of Czech filmmaker Jan Sverak, a member of a highly talented younger generation of artists to emerge after the Velvet Revolution. Sverak picked up the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture in 1997 with Kolya, which served as a signal for the revival of Czech film on an international scale. The recent playing of Jan Hrebejk's Divided We Fall (2000) in local mainstream cinemas attests to their popular appeal.

What: The Taipei Film Festival When: March 3 to March 16 Where: Chungshan Hall and Social Education Hall Tickets: NT$150

The great advantage of the current film festival is that it has historical segments, allowing audiences the chance to understand the development of film in France and the Czech Republic over the last half-century. During this period, movements called "New Wave" have dominated both countries, but this is rather deceptive as the direction and style of the films they have produced could not be more different.

The section called The Golden Age of Czech Film History looks at works from the amazingly dynamic period of the Prague Spring that preceded decades of repression under Soviet hegemony. Early works by masters such as Milos Forman like Black Peter and The Fireman's Ball establish the tradition which the New Wave of Czech directors such as Sverak continue to build on.

While in the French arena the focus is on Leos Carax, a number of directors are given attention. Jiri Menzel and Vera Chytilova both represent the amazing continuity of Czech cinema, a continuity that nevertheless manages to continually push the limits of creativity.

A highlight of the festival will be the visit by the now 73-year old Chytilova, who is the undisputed matriarch of Czech cinema. Making films since the late 1950s, her films continue to challenge audiences, and her most recent work Ban from Paradise (2001) almost didn't make it past Taiwan's censors.

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