Film Festival Reviews


Film Festival Reviews

Stockholm Film Festival: 1998 Report

Note: Stockholm Film Festival(SFF)is primarily an American Independent film festival which has been in existence for nine years with a profile of showcasing new and ' innovative work. As far as film festivals go, SFF features a majority of new films made by men and very few by women. Git Sheynius, the director of the festival is a eloquent spokeswoman who realizes this major flaw but after nine years, but does not seem to know how to do anything about it. This year, High Art by Lisa Cholodenko, one of the few films made by women featured each year of the festival -- technically proficient. Interesting story, provocative theme which falls within the film themes overall shown at SFF.

It does in fact depend on which markets you go to for the films shown at a film festival, and maybe the buyers should check out more diverse festivals. According to one Swedish distributer, that probably wouldn't be a women's fim festival because no big name female director would choose to debut her film at such a 'ghettoized' venue.

Patricia Rozema's When Night Was Falling debuted at SFF during the 1995 festival, fulfilling the same criteria. Nevertheless, and seemingly to satisfy popular (male) demands, the festival cranks out innovative work with one overwhelmingly major theme-- 'all you need is a gun and a girl'. These are the f ilms that are attended but the theme seems far from the streets of quiet Stockholm. Perhaps an exotic pull for the buyers is films of this kind. Quentin Tarantino loves the festival and was guest in 1995 with Pulp Fiction .When asked by this reviewer at a press conference that maybe he knew too little about women, he disagreed claiming there were many strong roles in Pulp Fiction. In Reservoir Dogs, his only female character exists in on-screen space as a disembodied female where a analysis of Madonna's song Like a virgin is made by Tarantino himself.

High Art

USA 1998, 101 min by Lisa Cholodenko, USA.

Most sold out women's event film at this festival.

With Ally Sheedy, Radha Mitchell, Patricia Clarkson

Ally Sheedy from 'War Games' and 'Breakfast Club' plays a drug-wrecked lesbian in this portrait of a heroin addict-artist-has-been.

Sheedy (who in real life was addicted to pills) is the talented photographer Lucy Berliner who lives together with Greta, a former Fassbinder actress,(Patricia Clarkson) a heroin addict. This is a film about drugs which glamourizes them into a ' heroin chic' ritual.In true doublespeak, Lucy has 'a problem' whereas Greta is an 'addict'. Both die of an overdose anyhow. The f ilm reinforces the myth that drug users think they are immune from their effects just because of safety in numbers. After all,everyone uses drugs in this film.

Syd,(Radha Mitchell) the woman in the apartment below discovers a leak from the couple's apartment and begins to call on Sheedy whom she later falls in love with and does drugs with by way of initiation into both worlds. Perhaps this is the biggest flaw in the film as the connection between coming out and turning on are intermingled.Such negative themes are common in lesbian iconography.Equally the themes of coming into and going out of fame makes the themes fairly predicatable.

Junior editor for 'Fame', a high art New York magazine Syd attempts to recruit the famous has been back to the pages of the chic art world she has abandoned.Their love never gets a chance as Lucy realizes too late she has to kick her habit and girlfriend to start up with Syd.

Interestingly enough, Cholodenko debuts her first feature by claiming the crew was inspired by watching John Cassavetes Woman Under the Influence although it is difficult to see the connection. The character played by Gena Rowlands who was committed for going crazy was truly 'under the influence of a pretty sick family especially abusive/concerned husband/ Peter Falk. Sheedy has a crazy mother who refuses to listen to her daughter's declaration that she needs to get off drugs. It's 'an issue' she claims. But there is also 'the issue' of being a lesbian that the mother also tunes out,referring to her lover as 'the German'. Scandinavian premiar at Stockholm Film Festival,November 1998..

Copyright Moira Sullivan, 1998