Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Whit Stillman and others at JDIFF

Look, I’ve taken a photograph of Whit Stillman, director of such fine movies as Metropolitan and Barcelona, as he makes his way into Cineworld for Friday night’s screening of his new piece Damsels in Distress. If you look carefully (well, …

Sun, Feb 19, 2012, 21:06

   

Look, I’ve taken a photograph of Whit Stillman, director of such fine movies as Metropolitan and Barcelona, as he makes his way into Cineworld for Friday night’s screening of his new piece Damsels in Distress. If you look carefully (well, not that carefully) you can spot festival director GrĂ¡inne Humphreys.

I really, really liked Damsels. It tells the story of several terrifying female students at an Ivy League university. (Mr Stillman admitted an autobiographical element, so we can assume we’re looking at a version of Harvard.) There’s a new oddness to the characterisation that pushes it into more surreal territory than that traversed by his earlier films. I was particularly fond of the faux-English student who denounced — with sharply hit vowels — “playboys and operators”.

It’s been a busy few days already. This afternoon, lucky punters got to have a glance at Joseph Cedar’s Footnote. I’ve been going on about this picture for ages: it some how extracts high comedy from the unlikely world of Hebrew studies and that’s something you can’t say about every film. I also saw Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the least said about which the soonest mended. Then there was The Monk. Students of Gothic literature will be aware that Dominik Moll’s film is based on a famous novel by Matthew Lewis. This take on the story starred the indestructible Vincent Cassell as the troubled man of God. It was good fun, if a little less unhinged than I might have liked.

The most arresting experience I have had to date was probably the European premiere of Ron Fricke’s Samsara. Fricke was the cinematographer on Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi and went on to make the equally freaky Baraka. “Arresting” is surely the correct word. Fricke’s films arrange amazing images into freaky collages accompanied by carefully selected music. (I particularly enjoyed the clips from Keith Jarrett’s Spheres in this piece.) Now, you could argue that the philosophy is a little lacking in nuance — simple tribal folk are good, big cities are bad — but there is no arguing with the power of those images. When stretched across the big screen in Cineworld 17 they take on the quality of lovely weather systems.

Anybody seen anything they fancied…