Fri, May 23, 2008 - Page 17 News List

What we think we see isn't always what we see

In a new series of films under the heading Films on Film, cinema audiences are tantalized by films that consciously seek to undermine our belief in what we see

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

Screen shots of Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt, Isaac Julien’s Derek and Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF SPOT-TAIPEI FILM HOUSE

Another thoughtfully curated program in the POP Cinema series presented at SPOT - Taipei Film House (光點台北電影主題館) will be launched May 29 and run through June 13. The series, which specializes in showcasing the work of influential filmmakers or exploring cinematic themes, is likely to spark considerable interest with its selection of films about film, an exploration of the uses of media and how cinematic interpretations have changed over the decades.

The current series, titled Films on Film, will open with Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsian's (侯孝賢) Flight of the Red Balloon (紅汽球), which has thematic connections with Albert Lamorisse's 1956 work The Red Balloon, which is also being shown. There is another "cover version" featuring in the festival, a remake of Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men (1957) by Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov, which is the closing film of the event. Sadly, the Hollywood original in this case is not being screened, but the idea of similar themes being treated by different directors at different times is firmly established. Although a remake, Mikalkov's feature has garnered some prestigious awards, and has been nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the 2008 Oscars. Hou's film has not been so lucky. While many reviewers have praised its technical mastery, the whole confection seems rather too contrived and self-reflexive to actually say very much. Then again, given the theme of the showcase, the whole point may be in creating a dialog between Lamorisse and Hou, and seeing if Hou really does take us anywhere.

The selection is designed to appeal to a wide audience, though art-house definitely dominates. There is Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 Blow Out, a spaced-out meditation on the reality of what we see and what we imagine we see, which is said to have influenced a whole series of films about seeing what we want to see including Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation, Brian De Palma's Blow Out and David Lynch's Blue Velvet. Then there is Isaac Julien's Derek, a cinematic biography of filmmaker Derek Jarman, a combination of interviews, readings and excerpts of footage from Jarman's work, which gives an intimate portrait of one of Britain's great cinematic talents.

Festival Information

What: Film on Film

When: From May 29 to June 13

Where: SPOT - Taipei Film House (光點電影院), located at 18 Zhongshan N Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市中山北路二段18號)

Tickets: NT$200; a book of 10 tickets for NT$1,800; available at the venue or through NTCH ticketing

Screening times: Visit www.spot.org.tw or call SPOT at (02) 2511-7786 for updated information

Screenings in Taichung from June 17 to June 22 at the Wonderful Cinemas (萬代福影城) located at 38 Kungyuan Rd, Taichung City (台中市公園路38號), and in Kaohsiung from June 21 to June 29 at the Kaohsiung Film Archive (高雄市電影圖書館) located at 10 Hesi Rd, Yencheng Dist, Kaohsiung City (高雄市鹽埕區河西路10號). Screenings in Taichung and Kaohsiung are free


Documentaries account for a significant part of the films on offer. It is perhaps more accurate to say documentary-style works, for another current that is apparent in the festival is a study of the power of the media to shape what we believe. This is powerfully presented in films like Dark Side of the Moon, which takes as its departure the story that emerged after Stanley Kubrick's death that the filmmaker had the active support of NASA in creating his film 2001: A Space Odyssey in order to promote its vastly over-budget space program, and weaves a web of speculative history that "hijacks" archival footage and uses it out of context in an exercise of conscious manipulation. Another take on the shuffling up of fact and fiction can be found in Zak Penn's Incident at Loch Ness, which sees filmmaker Werner Herzog playing a version of himself in a film that leaves the viewer eternally unsure if the characters are in on the joke or not. There is much more in the same vein, and a full rundown of films can be found at the festival Web site at www.twfilm.org/film_on_film. While many of the films are far from new, the combination makes for a fascinating study of the forces that our 24-seven media world creates. These are all films to talk about, and the coffee shop and upstairs bar at SPOT will hopefully become the venue for plenty of heated discussion about what it all means.

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