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Karlovy Vary 2012, echoes and encores, with a Certain Geriatric Regard!

Besides the customary unveiling of new and upcoming talent from far and wide which is the hallmark of this festival,  Karlovy 2012 provided such an extensive look at film history that these selections alone could have constituted an entire festival on their own.  Among digitally restored new prints of landmark old films were Fellini's "La Strada, 1954, which among other things made burly actor Anthony Quinn into an arthouse icon, and Miloš Forman's "Fireman's Ball" (1967) the last film he made in Czechoslovakia before giving Communism the final finger. Hard to believe that this forward looking Czech director who later made prize winning crowd pleasers in Hollywood such as "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975) and "Amadeus"(1984) is now eighty and still going strong.  His next project concerning a new view of the Munich pact that sold Czechoslovakia down the river to Hitler in WWI is now in the works.

The first unveiling of a digitalic-restoration of David Lean's1962 masterpiece "Lawrence of Arabia" was also screened here as was  the very rarely revived "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" made at the height of the war in 1943 by the dauntless duo Pressburger and Powel. Blimp was a epic making sendup of the the stuffy British military class based on a lovingly satirical comic strip which so enraged British prime Minister Winston Churchil that he tried to have it banned. One of those films that is as timeless as Gone With the Wind.  In terms of film history what is arguably the film even of the year is the fifteen hour love letter to the seventh art put together with encycopedic dedication by Englishman Mark Cousins.  Hitting all the high spots and many of the hidden gems as well this amazing documentary was shown here in three easily digestible five hour istallments --with never a dull moment in any of them -- according to those who took time out to take in this special treat.

Now if we' are really talking about the advancing years, Manoel Oliveira of Portugal, 101 (!) is the oldest, still active (sic) film director in the world and a poster prominently displayed all over the festival premises with the large letters "101" announced a new  interview on film with the centenarian helmer from the edge of the continent.  Made by Spanish producer and longtime admirer Luis Minarro who worked with Oliveira on his last two films and spoke with viewers here about his experience with the incerdibly forward looking Mr.Century. Young fellow countryman Rodrigo Areias, 31, whose slow-paced meditative zen western  "Estrada de Palha" was shown in competition, was proud to report that when he showed his new film to Oliveira the elder statesman not only sat through it attentively but gave it his glowing praise.

Manoel de Oliveira 
Born 11 December 1908 (age 101)

As for older artists still working, and how --we have French director Alain Resnais who will turn ninety in June, and French actor Jean-Louis Trintigmant (81) in this lineup.  Resnais whose dazzling "Last year at Marienbad" changed time scrambling in film forever, checked in with "Vous n'avez encore rien vu" ('You ain't seen nothing yet') wherein a renowned dramatist arranges to have friends who appeared in his play Euridice come together at his funeral where the play is put on.  Full of references to earlier works this could be the famed directors swan song -- or could it?
One of the hottest tickets of the week was  "Amour"  the new meditation on old age, infirmity, and approaching death, by German Michael Haneke who is known for attacking difficult subjects in difficult ways. His principle performers, literally giving the performances of their lives and long careers, are Jean-Louis Trintignant (81) and Emmanuelle Riva (85) playing a loving octogenarian couple whose old age has not quenched their love -- even when she suffers a debilitating stroke. Both these films in the plush Horizons section. Riva came to the fore in Resnais' first feature "Hiroshima mon Amour" (1959) and is also seem in this festival in the Melville retro in "Léon Morin, prêtre" (1961).
Trintignant is one of those actors known for the penetrating intelligence of his portrayals as much as his charm and vulnerability. His debut next to Bridget Bardot in "'And God Created woman" (1956) was the start of a brilliant career not only in France. Some other landmarks of a filmography studded with them are "Z" by Costa Gavras, "The Conformist" Bertolucci, and "Three colors Red", Kieslowski (1994) and of course the international smash hit  "A Man and a Woman" in 1966. In 1986 he and co-star Anouk Simee did a reprise called "A Man and a Woman twenty years Later'' (!) proving that even then Jean-Louis was not afraid to show his age. Since the subject of Old Age is practically a taboo in cinema and nearly sure death at the box office this entrancing new treatment may be a hard sell outside of the Art house market, but it should do a rousing business there and one can even her tinkles of oscar bells in the distance ... Oh yes, Haneke's "Amour" was very justifiably awarded the Palme d'Or (Grand Prix) at this year's Cannes film festiva although it was up against Carax's infamous unholy gem "Holy Motors".

Trintignant at Cannes this year --

 Finally if the subject is elderly artist still active a word about Woody allen is certainly in order.
In the company cited above Woody may rank as a callow youth but he has been plying his unique brand of cerebral humor for nearly five decades, ever since "What's New Pussycat"  in 1965, and it is hard to believe that this international youth idol director is now 76.  Acting in his own film as a retired opera impresario he definitely looks his age but his atest work "To Rome With Love" is something of a return to the zany earlier form that made him into a living American legend.  There have been ups and down in Woody's last few outings but his new love leter to Rome is definitely an up and has some of the finniest shtik in it he has ever done.  One that will go down in the Allen cannon as a super landmark is the opera singer he has singing on stage in a real opera while taking a shower in a real shower stal!  It seems that Woody, on vacation in Rome, has disovered a magnificent new vocal talent in a mortician (funeral director!) who has a voice like Caruso, but only when singing in the shower. With typical Allenesque logic the way to fix that is put the guy in a shower on stage so he can let loose full force --and this he does to the great applause of the dignified opera crowd. Another feature of the film is a most enticing (even if getting a little long in the tooth herself) Pamela Cruz (38) packed mouth wateringly into a blood red mini dress while working as a hot hotel hooker. "Rome" opened the LA Film festival a month back and closed Karlovy a week ago, demonstratig once again that Woody's brand of filmmaking has evergreen appeal to both the mainstream and the art film circuits.
Next up a quick survey of the newer films at Karlovy.
Alex Deleon in Prague
Trintignant in "A Man and a Woman"  1966 which at the time was the most successful French film ever screened in the foreign market.
Riva at Cannes this year 
Resnais at 89

Cruz at cannes


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