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Cronenberg Opens Stockholm Film Festival

"Lifetime Achievement Award" recipient David Cronenberg cut the 'ribbon' - a strip of celluloid - at the Stockholm Film Festival kick off November 17. "Are you sure you want to give me those scissors--that's kind of dangerous", he quipped to fest director Git Scheynius, and introduced the opening film: A History of Violence. He joked as he cut that he was going to do some fast editing of his latest feature, the one he is most proud of, the one he admits to "selling out" on because of its huge budget. At the press conference held for the Canadian director earlier in the week, he revealed that he saw several Bergman films before he came to Stockholm and was inspired to make films because of him. He even looked forward to the time when a sequence of film could be called 'Cronenbergian'.

The aesthetics of hard-boiled violence in feature films, more 'noir' than feelgood, is the signature of this festival and some of the previous Bronze Horse winners easily fit the theme--such as Quentin Tarantino who claims Pulp Fiction was written in part in Stockholm and who won two Best Film Awards for that film and Reservoir Dogs and Gaspar Noé's Irréversible. David Lynch, Roman Polanski, Roger Corman and noir queens Lauren Bacall and Gena Rowlands have all received Lifetime Achievement Awards at past festivals.

According to indie king actor Steve Buscemi acclaimed in the work of Tarantino and the Coen Bros: "Stockholm Film Festival rules".

A History of Violence has some of the comical and aesthetic touches that Tarantino is known for despite Cronenberg's claim that he tries to show violence for what it is, a complex psycho-social phenomena in the USA. And there were more than a few chuckles when the film debuted in Cannes which caused one spectator to ask the giggling (US) journalists to show some respect. Cronenberg said the amused were right about the reading of his film providing comic moments because strangely enough that is how we often react to scenes of violence, perhaps something was lost in the French translation , he thought. At any rate, the Stockholm audience at the opening giggled at some of the great dialogue executed by among others William Hurt and Ed Harris, magnificent in their roles, actually probably some of their best work. Not to mention a suspiciously excessive use of the American term of endearment "baby" by the besieged nuclear family.

The festival runs during the dark Swedish days of the year (sunset at - ten days of 'Halloween' screenings - including Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, chainsaw massacre clone Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects, slasher/teen horror flick inspired Luis de la Madrid's The Nun and why not the suspenseful A History of Violence. And maybe some of the 'slice em and dice 'em' flicks seem exotic to Sweden which produces a tame national production of about 20 odd films each year. Storm by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein is the only Swedish film in the international competition that seems to fit the formula. As the festival organizers put it :"we are not used to these kinds of films in Sweden, dark science fiction, meticulously choreographed fight scenes and impressive CGI effects is something they do elsewhere, not here in the land of Bergman and Widerberg."

A Tarantino inspired title this year at the festival includes Kill Gil Vol 1 by Gil Rossellini. When he attended the Stockholm festival a few years back he was struck by a mysterious illness, the subject of his documentary made with assistance from half sister Isabella Rossellini that debuted at Venice.

Terry Gilliam will receive the Stockhom Film Festival "Visionary Film Award" in a special ceremony during the festival: "Through his daring and unquenchable creative power, Gilliam has defeated the mighty windmills of the film industry". Thereby another notable trademark of the Stockholm Film Festival, rewarding the work of independents and mavericks in the film industry. Gilliam has selected a few of his favorite films to be screened at the festival including Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957), Toto the Hero by Jaco van Dormael (1991)and One-Eyed Jacks by Marlon Brando (1961).

Miranda July will also be attending, and her film which won several awards at Cannes - Me and You and Everybody We Know is a fresh injection in narrative cinema, one of 19 films in the festival competition.Another is The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes by the acclaimed Quay Brothers who won the 1995 Best Film Award at the Stockholm fest. Deepa Mehta's Water adds a third part to the Canadian helmer's repertoire, folliwng Earth and Fire. Using an innovative camera style, UK director Stephen Wooley will be in town who resurrects the mystery surrounding the death of Brian Jones of the Stones in Stoned.

A still from Park Chan Wook's Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is the festival icon and the closing film. The South Korean director will also attend the festival. The film has sparked off a Face2Face seminar on "Female Revenge" on the screen. In an effort to balance out testosterone-driven hard boiled features, several films will be shown with women wielding the blade. "Equality is a word that doesn't seem to exist in the realm of female revenge except as a utopian idea", writes editor in chief of the Swedish journal "Arena", Karolina Ramqvist. The seminar and films such as Bloodrayne (Uwe Boll, Germany/USA, 2005), This Charming Girl (Lee Yoon-Ki, South Korea 2005) have been selected to help illuminate this theme.

Of course, not all films fit the theme of aesthetized violence with some cinematic treats handpicked from the larger festivals at Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin and Edinburgh for a variety of categories in over 160 films to be screened at the festival. There is both an international jury and a FIPRESCI jury. Sections include the Stockholm International Competition for debut directors, short film competition, Open Zone, American Independents, Asian Images, Spotlight on Nordic Films, Cronenberg retro, Terry Gilliam selects, Collage and Twilight Zone.

Some of the highlights of the festival include several Face 2 Face meetings with directors such as Cronenberg, Gilliam and Wooley, screenwriting and film productions seminars and discussions on some of this year's cinema themes such as "Double Identities: representation of immigrants in Nordic film", and a documentary to commemorate the 100th birthday of Swedish emmigrant Greta Garbo from TCM.

Moira Sullivan, Nordic Correspondent


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