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Cuarón-- San Seb Zabaltegi perlas - asks if we have a future

The attention grabbing film on day number three was "Children of Men", a British pic directed by Mexican helmer Alfonso Cuarón and starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine. The film, projected in the special side-bar, ZABALTEGI- PERLAS or "Pearls of the Open Zone", is set in the not too distant future, one generation from now, and presents the possibility that humanity could die out if the last pregnant woman on Earth does not give birth. In the film all females in the world (all but one) have become sterile as the result of a disastrous biotechnical glitch which obviously means that the days of the species are numbered.

The year is 2027 and no children have been born anywhere on earth for 18 years. Science is at a loss to explain the reason as African and East European societies collapse and their dwindling populations migrate to England and other wealthy nations. In a climate of nationalistic violence, a London peace activist turned bureaucrat, Theo Faron (Clive Owen), joins forces with his revolutionary ex-wife Julianne (Moore) in order to save mankind by protecting a woman who has mysteriously became pregnant.

Although some people might think that this refers to the coming of the next Messiah, Cuarón denies that he intended to make a religious film. “The idea of the film was to make the microcosm of London the setting for the most burning questions of the early 21st century. We have tried to reflect on emigration, terrorism and the threats to the environment which are the major concerns of mankind at the present time. I have a very pessimist vision of the present but a very hopeful one for the future” said the director when he presented his latest film "Children of Men" yesterday.

Cuarón, born in Mexico City in 1961 is now, at 44 -- after many hassles with the Mexican film establishment followed by fitful starts and stalls in Hollywood -- one of the hottest of recently recognized international directors. In 1998 he directed an updated version of "Great Expectations" for FOX (with Paltrow, Ethan Hawke, De Niro and Ann Bancroft) which showed he could work with the best, but was more or less overlooked. He was later enlisted to do "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" fot IMAX (2004), but his real breakthrough picture was "Y tu mamá también" ('And your mama too, baby!' -- 2001), an intelligent, politically hip, rip-roaring sexually explicit Spanish language film, for which he picked up a basketfull of awards around the world, including an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay.
He was then recruited to direct "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" in 2004, for IMAX, after which he contributed the "Parc Monceau" segment of the new omnibus film "Paris, je t'aime (2006) in which 22 different directors (!) each present a three minute personal take on their concept of Paris. "I love you, Paris", currently a ubiquitous novelty item on the festival circuit, was screened at Venice and Toronto and is also on view here in Donostia.

The director's most quotable quote: When people see some depth you never intended in your film that's really cool -- you just put on a face and say "Oh, yeah, that was deep". What are you going to say? -- I'm just a moron with luck? -- -- In this writers opinion, it's the questioners (as is so often the case at press conferences) trying to display erudition by projecting long-winded emptiness onto depths which aren't there, who are the real morons.

Also presented was Jonathan Demme's (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) "Neil Young: Heart of Gold" (2006), which is, as the title clearly suggests, a tribute to one of the great voices of the musical revolution of the sixties, now a senior citizen but still going strong on the international pop music circuit -- even after brain surgery. Partly concert film and partly reflections of an old rock legend looking back over his career, this is one not to be missed by Niel Young fans (many of whom would now be getting rather long in the tooth themselves) or by anyone at all familiar with the work of this outstanding composer-performer, as well as an example of a really well-made musical documentary.

Another interesting pic which has moved over from Venice and is being presented here in the OPEN ZONE, ZABALTEGI section (seems that most of the better films are to be found in this spacey zone) is Manoeil de Oliveira's tribute to Luis Buñuel, "Belle Toujours". In this slightly hallucinogenic opus, the sadistic Henri Husson, (played by the ever salacious Michel Piccoli who was himself the same Henri Husson in the famous Buñuel film "Belle de Jour" made 38 years earlier), thinks he's recognized the kinky
part-time prostitute of the earlier film, Severine -- and stalks her through the streets of Paris to see if this is really the same woman of his furthest out sexual fantasies, or not. In the original, Severine was Catherine
Deneuve at the peak of her glacial beauty -- and was glacially frigid before her respectable husband, but a hot and horny number in the afternoon brothel bed with the kinky clientelle. Here her doppel-gänger is played by the charming French actress Bulle Ogier, a younger contemporary (by eleven years) of la Belle Catherine. Ogier is one of many stars putting up at the stately Maria Cristina hotel, which is the VIP venue and cocktail party oasis of choice during these festival days.

Meanwhile, speaking of visiting stars, despite festival director Mikel Olaciregui's opening day disclaimer to the effect that San Sebastian is not really in a position to compete for top star presence with other top
festivals, the following is a short list of not exactly unknown names who have been here, are here, or are expected to be here before the festival concludes: Max von Sydow, Matt Dillon, Clive Owen, Oliver Stone, Diane Kruger, Barbet Schroeder, Kate Beckinsdale, John Boorman, Jonathan Demme, Agnieszka Holland, and Steve Buscemi, to name only a few of the more prominent -- not exactly "sloppy seconds", what! Von Sydow and Dillon are here to receive lifetime career awards in a continuing Donostia tradition of
recognizing quality actors rather than vapidly grinning movie stars.

Alex Deleon,
Donostia, Spain
Sunday, September 24, 2006

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