If some of you wonder why is it that the films celebrated at film festivals find it hard to find audiences back home, the South Korean film ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT ALONE by noted and award winning filmmaker Hong Sangsoo may answer the long lurking question adequately. It’s a kind of ‘harakiri’ cinema that kills the art and craft of cinema itself. Those who provide platform and artistic legitimacy to ‘blabbering’ cinema of this kind are complicit in this heinous ‘halal’ murder. They may think differently but I’m certain that the spirit of the great Indian auteur Satyajit Ray will be nodding its head in approval at this irreverent assertion of his compatriot.
The worst and the laziest and most self-indulgent thing to do for a filmmaker is to draw inspiration from his filmmaking milieu to tell his story. It often turns out to be some kind of an armchair effort at juvenile philosophizing. ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT ALONE is exactly that. This story of a meandering cinema actress on a sabbatical is some kind of a blabbering, hysterical, and childish monologue about love and life. The South Korean auteur seems to take himself and his art as seriously as the festival programmers who put him on a pedestal and worship him. It’s time he cuts the crap, relaxes a little, and let some fresh air into his moribund upper chamber, cluttered with boring, decadent, and elitists notions of cinema as an art form.
JOAQUIM by the Brazilian director Marcelo Gomes is a period film about the Portuguese colonization of Brazil and how the Portuguese royalty milked the colony and even gave a raw deal to soldiers who enriched its coffers. It seemingly is the story of a Brazilian national hero who fought for the natives and against the reign of oppression and exploitation by the Portuguese elite in their colonies. What we get to learn from the film is far from a hero’s tale.
Second Lieutenant Joaquim does the bidding of his officers dutifully. He is ambitious, smart and hard working and in love with a Brazilian black slave called Blackie and as soon as he has enough money he intends to buy her off her owner, another black Brazilian who won’t sell her at any cost. Blackie kills her owner and runs away. Joaquim is sent on an impossible mission to discover upstream sources of gold with a promise that after he succeeds he can keep a part of it. He does not find gold but discovers a source of sapphire like stones. He is also captured once by Brazilian rebels led by Blackie. She let him go. The meandering tale ends with Joaquim colluding with Christian padres and rich Portuguese in the colony who are fed up with the exploitative ways of the Crown and have colluded to free themselves from its control. They need someone like Joaquim to become the face of the anti-regime movement.
It’s an inconsequential film and probably would have found it tough to get into in the Panorama line up about 5 years ago. Now it’s in competition. Berlinale surely has come a long way since the days of A SEPARATION and THE TURIN HORSE.