News from the Locarno Festival

Artistic Director's Blog
Locarno - where films and ideas meet

Artistic Director's Blog
Locarno - where films and ideas meet



Every film festival, be it small or large, claims to offer, if not an account of the state of things, then an updated map of the art form and the world it seeks to represent. This cartography should show both the major routes and the byways, along with essential places to visit and those that are more unusual. The Festival del film Locarno is no exception to the rule, and I think that looking through the program you will be able to distinguish the route map for this edition.

If a map requires a clearly articulated system of signs, each distinct from the other, this year’s program foregrounds overlapping, sharing, exchange. Locarno has always been a productive site of encounters. A crossroads, a junction: where diverse experiences come into contact and inevitably some kind of exchange between them.

The image of a crossroads, the point at which different roads intersect, is like allied to the idea of the Piazza as a site of exchange of ideas, and much else besides . But rather than focus on enclosure, a central space protected by tall buildings, it is more about the intersection of different roads leading into that space. I am thinking of these roads as journeys made by the viewers who come to Locarno and who then go their separate ways after enjoying and benefiting from those exchanges stimulated by the festival program. Cinema itself is an art of exchange. Images are exchanged for reality, an individual trajectory  for a vision of the world.It is a sleight of vision, but at the same time a kind of magic, something that enchants and enriches. Cinema is an art that that takes advantage of intersections, overlaps, hybridization. The legacy the Nouvelle Vague has left us contains this notion of cinema. And it is precisely this experience of formal freedom and hybridization of film languages that this year’s program explores. Hence the tribute to Agnès Varda, a major influence in that movement, since, like it or not, she will always remain associated with it, and Olivier Assayas, one of those who has drawn upon that experience. In a wider sense, the presence of Víctor Erice and, in the Concorso internazionale, that of filmmakers such as Pedro Costa, Paul Vecchiali, Martín Rejtman, are also part of this conception of cinema.

Similarly with the major retrospective, which, after years of auteur-based tributes, takes on the challenge of recounting the history of production studio Titanus, looking at a crucible where popular film and auteur cinema were forged and fed into each other, ending up being a reflection of an Italy whose identity is the result of a continuous process of reconstruction from fractured lineages. The program of films in the Concorso internazionale, as well as enabling a tour of the world in 17 titles, contrasts two different modalities: on the one hand, films that rely on the power of story invention, on the other, filmmakers who work on the scattered traces of stories that have already taken place. Fiction films and documentaries, the essay and the film told in the first person, flow into an array of work that evidences the vitality of cinema as an instrument with which to recount the self in the world and the world in the self. This is perhaps even more obvious in the competition section Concorso Cineasti del presente, a veritable laboratory of ideas and emotions, risk-taking and intuition that prove highly productive.

If last year’s Festival opened up to 3D, this year there are three films in the program that are the outcome of considered aesthetic research and invention in this domain: alongside Jean-Luc Godard’s Adieu au langage and Tsui Hark’s Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (as part of the tribute to Nansun Shi) there is Edgar Pera’s latest film, Lisbon Revisited.

As it did last year, the Festival welcomes both established and emerging directors, well known actors and new faces and promotes dialog between them. Such is the program for the Piazza Grande that ranges from ensemble comedies to dramas, from American independent films to those made by the majors. Over ten days the spectrum of these offerings will seek to show the variety of the contemporary world, touching on current hotspots and wounds that are impossible to heal, eternal existential questions and events buried in the past.

Another essential aspect of Locarno as a kind of cinematic intersection, sharing experiences and feelings, is the presence of guests who embody the diversity of an art form that never ceases to surprise. For some, it will be their first time here, and I am sure that the appeal of this Festival, free and courageous in its choices, hospitable and generous, will not leave them indifferent. Thus I salute and thank Juliette Binoche and Mia Farrow, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Melanie Griffith (the protagonist of Thirst, Pardi di domani), Jonathan Pryce and Jason Schwartzman for having accepted our invitation and helping us make Locarno the home of all forms of cinema.

Once again this year Swiss production has left its mark in the Festival program. Two names make a welcome return, featuring in the Concorso internazionale: Andrea Štaka’s vision becomes even more acute and sensitive with Cure – The Life of Another and even more courageous, and riskier, than her award-wining Das Fräulein. L’Abri concludes the trilogy that Fernand Melgar has dedicated to those citizens who are all too often invisible. Centered once again on a highly symbolic site, a shelter for fifty homeless people open in the coldest months of the year, the film confirms the hypothesis that often it is in the microsphere that what is happening on a macro scale can be seen with greatest clarity. There are also two films on the Piazza Grande that speak to the plural identity of this country which, despite everything, remains a splendid and contradictory living laboratory for what is happening in Europe. To complete the picture, there is Matthias Huser’s film debut, the compelling Yalom’s Cure by Sabine Gisiger, and Richard Dindo’s re-reading ofHomo faber.

Carlo Chatrian

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