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SATURDAY 4th February, 1.25pm
Another late night last night: awards ceremony then various drinks in various bars with various persons. Fellow jurors; journalists; directors of other festivals (Lisbon / Delhi); Dutch pals. The latter congregate each night in the downstairs bar of the Schouwburg building on the main square, just opposite the Doelen festival centre and the vast Pathe multiplex. The Schouwburg bar is nothing to write home about at the beer selection is pretty poor (bottled Palm – prounounced "Pollum" here – the safest bet). But it is wildly popular every night and from 11.30 to 1.00 there is a scrum-type queue at the door to get in. I waited about 20 minutes in cosy close confinement with my fellow queuers, and used the time productively by reading an article in the Canadian magazine Cinema Scope (which I used to write for a couple of years ago) about a supposedly-terrific new no-budget Chinese picture, the intriguingly-titled Oxhide.
I'm keen to see if it matches up to my current favourite Chinese no-budgeter, the Tiger award candidate Taking Father Home by YING Liang. Predictably went home empty-handed at last night's prizegiving: the Tigers went to Old Joy, Walking on the Wild Side and La Perrera (The Dog Pound), our Fipresci prize to Madeinusa. I'd hoped that Ying might have won the 'Netpac' award for Asian films, but later found out that it wasn't even included on that jury's list of eligible candidates. This might charitably be described as a bizarre decision. Turns out I have been seeing Ying in the breakfast room of the Parkhotel most mornings – I'd noticed this tall, unassuming Chinese-looking bloke sitting quietly with a woman who may be his producer and/or girlfriend, but had never realised it was the director of my favourite film of the festival. I'm keeping my eye out for him as I must pass on my enthusiasm and congratulations before I go home tomorrow.
No films yesterday due to various factors – I just saw a couple of shorts in the videotheque: Haze [6/10] by Shinya Tsukamoto, a horror tale that begins well, becomes brilliant, then starts going downhill in the final third of its 28-minute duration; and Optical Sound [6/10], a beguiling piece of sound-and-vision experimenta, technically superb but expresing a fundamentally trite message about the mechanisation of depersonalised modern life.
Aim to get back into the big-screen swing today, with Lino Brocka's Insiang (from 1976), Japanese proctology pic Analife and, at the marvellously porn-cinema like Luxor, NAGASAKI Shunichi's latest, Heart, Beating in the Dark. Apparently I was misinformed by my reliable "insider" last week: no sign of George Clooney and apparently he was never here, though there are still hopes that he might pop up for tonight's closing-event showing of Good Night, and Good Luck.
In the computer room at De Doelen. At next terminal, checking his e-mail, Jia Zhang Ke, director of The World and producer of Tiger winner Walking on the Wild Side. Rubbing shoulders with the stars, or what? And who needs Clooney when we've got Jia and Hou Hsiao-Hsien (the presence of the latter has led to many confusing conversations of the "Is that Hou over there?" "Who?" "Yes, Hou…").
Just saw my first film for two days and the first really decent one since the revelatory Taking Father Home on the 1st: Lino Brocka's delirious Insiang [8/10] from 1976. Appreciative public audience in the cosy screen 3 at Cinerama. I'd been told it was a masterpiece by a reliable colleague; for first half hour I was skeptical, though the pre-credits opener is a straight-between-the-eyes shocker of docu-style footage in an abattoir (prefiguring Michael Glawogger's Working Man's Death by three decades).
Steamy tale of passion and revenge gradually takes shape: title character is hard-worked teenager living with harpy-like mother and the mother's much younger, gigolo-ish lover, a "known killer" who clearly has the hots for the reluctant Insiang. Increasingly frenetic developments ensue, leading to a cracking full-blooded climax. Great stuff in the Fassbinder/Sirk traditions of deliberately overblown melodrama.
Last full day in Rotterdam. Fatigue setting in, not helped by excesses of last two nights. Dry mouth and mild irritability are sole remaining traces of hangover. Will grab a "Suriaanmse broodje" (Surinamese sandwich) on my way to the Venster cinema, where the potentially-terrible Analife kicks off in 20 minutes. Forgot to mention a short I caught in videotheque pre-Insiang: Coleman Miller's 26-minute avant-garde spoof Uso Justo [7/10], perfect antidote to the more po-faced examples of Rotterdam experimenta. Found of footage from Mexican hospital melo from the 40s is resubtitled with intermittently hilarious, occasionally Borges-ish results.
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