RIGA - It's the best of the best - a gathering of offspring from the Cannes, Venice and Berlin international film festivals. Between Aug. 22 and Aug. 31, the international festival of film actors presents Baltic Pearl, a survey of what may be the world's most prestigious collection of contemporary film.
This year Baltic Pearl is offering a wide and solid program with films that, for the last two years, have either been vying for or received these golden awards. The festival is divided into six separate categories: Revolutions of the 20th Century, Crowned With the Palme D'or, The Choice of the Royal Venice, Berlin Presents, Cinema Gormet, and Beyond any Bands.
Perhaps the brightest constellation out of the Baltic Pearl's sea of stars includes Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's 15th feature, "Bad Education," South Korean director Park Chan-Wook's film "Old Boy," and Canadian director Denys Arcand's "Barbarian Invasions: Then Decline of the American Empire II."
Pedro Almodovar, traditionally clowning his way through themes of sex, drugs and comedy to delight his audience, composes "weariness" into his familiar Almodovar style in "Bad Education." Critics have proclaimed the film to be his most intimate yet. "Old Boy" earned the Grand Prize of the Jury in the 2003 Cannes festival while "Barbarian Invasions," which discusses society's changing values, was awarded Best Screenplay, Best Female Role, Best Screen Script, Best Foreign Film (The Oscar of the Cannes) and the Cesar award for best film, best direction and best script.
The festival takes an interesting twist this year with a branch devoted entirely to unusual and shocking films, almost all of which have lead to controversial scandals. The film cutting closest to the edge is Bruno Dumon's "29 Palms," followed by French director Catherine Breillat's "Sex is Comedy" and "Anatomy of Hell." In addition, the festival will be showing three Silver Bear films from the Berlin festival.
Almost more than 50 years ago, the Cannes Film Festival discovered "The New Wave," which, according to director and screenwriter Francois Truffaut, is neither a movement nor a school, nor a group, but an attitude to the world. Among those to join this new "attitude," which redefined the boundaries of French film in the late 1950s, were Jean-Luc Godard, Louis Malle, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, and Agnes Varda. The Baltic Pearl's Revolutionaries of the 20th Century category is dedicated to "The New Wave."
As quality films with both depth and controversial intrigue seldom make their way to the Riga silver screen, the Baltic Pearl film festival is a much-needed breath of fresh cinematic air. To miss one of these masterpieces would be pushing the definition of sin.
The Baltic Pearl film festival Aug. 22 - Aug. 31 Congress Hall, Kino Riga, and
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