Cork Film Festival
EVERY YEAR the Cork Film Festival is praised or condemned on the basis of the feature films screened. It is sometimes forgotten that the main objective of the Festival is to furthcr an interest in the short film as an art form. This year the gcneral standard of the sixtyone short entrics was very high indeed but, as usual, thc features were the talking point and tended to overshadow the real purpose. Too much publicity is givcn to so-called" controversial" features and not enough to the main objective in which Cork succeeds so admirably.
In the Gencral Intcrest Scction the St. Finbarr Statuette Award went to the U.S.A. for Why Man Creates, a bitingly funny satire on man's attempt to find himself in a world of matcrial progress. Combining cartoon and live action, it made excellent use of the medium and proved to bc a very popular winner. Directed and scriptcd by Saul Bass, creator of the now famous credit scquence in The Man With The Golden Arm, it is worthy of a wide showing and I hope some enterprising distributor will give Irish audiences an opportunity of seeing it.
The Shepherd (U.S.A.), about a shepherd searching for a job in New York, won the award in the Animated and Cartoon Section but personally I did not think it good enough, as it depended to a great cxtent on a closing one-line gag to make its point. The Hungarian entry, The Kidnapping of the Sun and Moon, made much better use of the crcative possibilities of the cartoon medium, but its serious theme of the possible destruction of mankind would certainly not have made it a popular choice.
Subject matter and technique
The Films on Art category is often confusing because it can be quite difficult to differentiate between the subject matter and the actual film treatment. This year there was no problem because Test of Violence (U.K.) brilliantly detailed the paintings of Spanish artist Juan Genoves and managed to marry the subject matter with the film's technique so that the result was a cohesive whole, one depending on the other. This brilliant piece of cinema was so easily ahead of its competitors that there was no doubt about it capturing the award. It too is deserving of a very wide showing. The boring travelogues we see in most Dublin cinemas have earned the short film the poor reputation that it certainly does not deserve. Cinema managers should credit Irish audicnces with a little more intelligence.
The Jury decided not to present an award in the Short Fiction category as no single film reached the required standard. They did, however, award a certificate of merit to the Israeli entry, The Other Side. The U.K. entry, One of the Missing, admirably conveyed an atmosphere of tension and drcad during an incident in the Amcrican Civil War and makes me believe that its young director, Anthony Scott, will find no difficulty in making his way into the ficld of feature films.
Controversy and Condemnation
The "controversial" Ardmore fcature I Can't, I Can't, which opened the Festival, rcceived far more attention than it deserved. A glossy, commercial production, it had prctensions to social drama but rarely rose above the woman's magazine level at any time. Had this film been made in Britain or America, I doubt if it would have received much critical comment, good or bad. Howevcr, the fact that the film was made in Ireland, and deals with contraception and extra-marital sex, made it worthy of a few newspaper headlines and condemnation by at least one notablc figure. The fuss will probably be in vain because the film, at least in its present form, is unlikely to be screened publicly in this country and will probably receive scant attention abroad. Incidently, I didn't notice anyone walk out during its showing and no one was aware of any controversy until we read the newspapers during the week.
Three Into Two Won't Go, with a script by Edna O'Brien, was a very entertaining version of the eternal triangle but with far more punch than usual. Director Peter Hall seemed happy to allow the cast dominate the film and Rod Steiger turned in a stunning performance as a salesman whose marriage flounders because of his involvement with a teenage hitchhiker. It's a pity this one is also unlikely to be seen on Irish screens. The characters are approached with sympathy and understanding and the treatment is by no means sensational.
I had great hopes for The Royal Hunt of the Sun but it proved somewhat of a disappointment. Based on the play by Peter Schaffer the film bctrays its theatrical origins with long stretches of dialogue interspersed with short passages of minor spectacle. Basically, the story concerns the confrontation between a conquering Spanish general and a vanquishcd Inca king, and it questions the validity of imposing the Christian ideal on a civilisation that has built itself on the belief that the sun is God. It has a few excellent moments, especially the slow motion massacre sequence, but it all succeeded much better on the stage. Robert Shaw gives an interesting performance as General Pizarro and manages to convey the emotions of a man torn between his training as a soldier and his pity as a human being. But Christopher Plummer as King Atahuallpa steals the show. Near naked, and attempting a musical voice that sounds something like Neddy of the Goon Show, this incredible performance must be seen to be believed. It alone is worth anyone's money. That apart, however, it is a pity director Irving Lerner didn't use his camera to better cffect. It could have been a great film.
One of the best Festivals
For me, the best feature of the week was Wajda's Hunting Flies, a Polish version of the Amcrican Mom cult. Its hero is dominated by his mother and wife, who plague him with day-to-day routine requests which drive him into the arms of an attractive young university student. However, it is not long before she also begins to spur him intO similar tasks and he decides that returning to his wife is the better part of valour. This was a surprisingly slick production with first-class colour photography and a snappy music score. There is also a marvellous send-up of television programmes. (Every time the hero walks through the living room his aged father sits gazing at the screen and the same programme about fish canning is being transmitted.) I sincerely hope this one gets a Dublin screening.
One pleasant surprise was an American film called Greetings. This was missed by most people because it was shown on Saturday afternoon and had not the benefit of advance publicity. It could hardly be called undergound but it was certainly sub-surface. Made on a shoestring in New York, it was a mixture of Andy Worhol and At Last the 1948 Show. Brilliantly vulgar, it satisfied everything from Vietnam to stag movies and really deserved a later showing.
I would agree with Festival Director Dermot Breen that this was one of the best Festivals in recent years but I do wish the serious aspect of the short entries received better publicity. Maybe next year