Precious pearls of cinema

  • 2006-08-30
  • By TBT Staff

MAESTRO: Marcello Mastroianni stars as a tortured film director in Federico Fellini's masterpiece, '8 1/2.'

RIGA - It's painful, but true. Ever since Forum Cinemas opened three years ago, it's been hard to see a good art/classic film in Riga. But for a week-and-a-half, the Baltic Pearl festival will turn the little city into New York's Tribeca. No one in Riga will be able to complain that they don't know where to see a good movie.

Here are some highlights:
Marcello Mastroianni played Federico Fellini's alter ego in "8 1/2," a role that called for him to appear in a dream-like orgy where he meets six previous mistresses. In another scene, he watches a Catholic cardinal take a steam bath behind a screen.

There are four other films making up the festival's "Cinema about Cinema" program including Francois Truffaut's "Day for Night" and Billy Wilder's camp classic "Sunset Boulevard" which gave us the great line, "I am big. It was the pictures that got small."
There will be a retrospective of the dissident gay Marxist director Pier Paolo Pasolini's work, including his adaptations of "The Decameron" and "The Canterbury Tales." Unfortunately, his own version of "The passion of the Christ," with a soundtrack that included Billie Holiday, will not be shown. Pasolini's admirers have often verged on taking their love for him to religious extremes.
Jim Jarmusch will be similarly honored. You will get to see "Mystery Train" and "Dead Man."

And then there are the more contemporary works, including Michael Leigh's small contribution to the abortion debate, "Vera Drake." Like all Leigh's films, a group of natural British actors perform a mostly improvised script. This one follows a sunny illegal abortionist who helps "young girls in trouble" in 1950s London.
Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," written by tortured Catholic Guillermo Arriaga, who also penned the brilliant Mexican film, "Amores Perros." Jones plays a rancher who forces the man who killed his best friend to carry his corpse to Mexico for a proper burial. "[T]his is a tale of redemption'simplicitly if not explicitly Christian in construction and imagery'sin which Old Testament vengeance is choked off and a man of violence, after enduring a horrifically sustained punishment, is reborn," the noted film critic David Edelstein wrote.

South Korean Kim Ki-Duk's "Time" recounts a relationship in which two good-looking lovers, unable to believe fully in each others' true love, undergo severe bouts of plastic surgery. The graphic plastic surgery scenes are mildly horrifying compared to watching the slow-motion disintegration of a relationship.
Catherine Deneuve, the matron of French cinema, plays the queen of a fictional Eastern European country in "Palais Royal!" a comedy about a fictional royal kingdom. Question: Which Eastern Euro-pean countries still have monarchies?
The festival will also show a few Russian films, Luc Besson's con-thriller "Angel-A," Stephen Frears' comedy, "Mrs. Henderson Presents" and one of the year's most provocotive films "Shortbus," in which sex is actually performed on screen. And no, it's not a porn flick.

"Baltic Pearl" Sept. 2 - 12
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