RIGA - The upcoming Baltic Pearl film festival in Riga will come as sweet relief to film-lovers after a particularly barren summer at the cinema. Although not quite as large in scope as the Arsenals Film Festival, Baltic Pearl screens a fantastic selection of old classics to complement its more modest quota of good quality new films. And this year there really is a lot to look forward to.
This year, there will be a comprehensive offering of classic Italian films, with a particular focus on the neo-realism of the post-war years. Vittorio De Sica's "The Bicycle Thieves" is one of the simplest, most moving films ever made, and it still appears wonderfully fresh after all these years. Likewise, much of Frederico Fellini's early work, such as "La Strada" and "Nights of Cabiria," is still astonishing for its vibrancy and breathtaking sense of cinematic language. How dull most modern directors seem in comparison.
There will also be a special focus on Luchino Visconti, who represented the other extreme of post-war Italian film with lavish epics such as "Obsession" and "The Leopard," and Roberto Rossellini, whose gritty masterpiece "Roman, Open City" defined an era in European cinema. For many people this will be their first chance to see these wonderful films, as they aren't available anywhere on video or DVD in Riga.
Other gems, from Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane," to Marcel Carne's sublime "Les Enfants du Paradis," to a tantalizing selection of classic 1960's Czech films, will finally give Riga film lovers a reason to leave the house.
And although this hardly makes up for the fact that cinemas in Riga have become utterly subjugated by Hollywood- you can count the number of non-Hollywood releases that have been screened in Riga recenlty on one hand - there will be a good choice of new movies to seen at Baltic Pearl as well.
Be sure to see Francois Ozon's brilliant "5x2." The highly talented director just seems to go from strength to strength with each new film. Todd Solondz's "Palindromes" is also well-worth seeing. Although this controversial director of "Happiness" and "Welcome to the Dollhouse" is not afraid to make "difficult" films, by his standards "Palindromes" is a relatively lightweight comedy and a definite crowd pleaser.
Gus Van Sant's "Last Days" is loosely based on the end of Kurt Cobain's life, and is even more obscure than "Elephant," his intriguingly oblique perspective of the Columbine School shootings. Cobain fans will probably love it, but everyone else is advised to steer clear.
"Inside Deep Throat" is a fascinating documentary about the first porno film to be commercially released in the U.S.A., and is another example of how the documentary genre is alive and well stateside.
It would also be good to see Michael Haneke's "Hidden." The director of the almost unbearably disturbing "Funny Games" has created an equally intelligent and unsettling film starring Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil. Haneke is rapidly becoming one of the most impressive European directors around.
Film fans, get ready. This is a film festival that promises to bring life to what has been an otherwise dull summer at the cinema. For those who care what they spend their movie money on, the Baltic Pearl is the place to be from Sept. 7-21.
International Film Festival
Tickets: 2 's 2.5 lats
(3 's 3.6 euros)
For more information: www.balticpearl.lv