[Here is a guest blog entry from Gabe Klinger at Rotterdam '06. More should follow. --Zach]
#1 Jan 29, 06
First day spent jet lagged. In the official festival van I took from the Amsterdam airport to downtown Rotterdam there were people who had flown in from Taipei, Hong Kong, Auckland (via Singapore), and Montreal. My flight, from Chicago, had been the shortest (roughly 7.5 hours) out of all of us early morning arrivals, though to my amazement no one wasted any time to start promoting their films and/or projects. The gentleman from Taipei, a film distribution executive, was the only one not interested in networking, and at some point, when I asked him if there were any Taiwanese films of note in the festival, he answered, "Taiwanese cinema is dead."
What a great way to start off the day!
At de Doelen, the festival's industry center, I took a new photo (to replace my old one from 2002) and got my badge. "Am I special press?" I asked, knowing that certain daily writers get privileges freelance and alternative press don't. "No, you're like everybody else," the lady behind the counter replied. Well, thankfully, in Rotterdam, unlike Cannes, you can still basically see everything you want to see, regardless of what kind of badge you get (regular press just have to wait outside of sold-out screenings for fifteen minutes before being allowed in). At 11:35 I checked on the venue for Alain Cavalier's Le Filmeur, which was scheduled to begin at 11:45. Ten minutes before the start, the room was still empty. When the screening started, the room was still pretty empty, and during the film there were many walkouts. Between falling in and out of sleep, I saw a movie I mainly liked, by a director whose last two films, Vies (2000) and René (2002), I also liked. Le Filmeur is a ten-year diary of Cavalier's own life, though I suspect parts of it were staged, as in Vies, which is at least three-fourths documentary (the last part, about a house in Île de France where Orson Welles was said to have once lived, is fake), and René, which is structured as a fictional narrative though the lead character undergoes a transformation that is entirely real. The freeness of Le Filmeur--which has all the qualities of the typical essayistic portrait but no music or narration to tie it together--was probably too much for me on the first day, whereas something playful like Takeshis', or the Dardenne-like Dutch film everyone is talkingabout, called Northern Lights, would probably have been better.
After lunch and checking into my temporary residence*, I ventured to the TENT gallery to see one of a number of exhibitions happening in conjunction with the festival. Part of a section they call "Exploding Television", the gallery curated a series of installations, mostly dealing with the television image (i.e. one is a living room which you sit in and stare at yourself sitting down--an experience easily had at any Best Buy or Sears store). There was at least one interesting piece: a lone TV on the floor of one room showing color security camera footage of a fox (real) wandering around in a large art museum, sniffing around from room to room, with no apparent direction. I found it compulsively watchable, as it's obviously meant to put us--art spectators--in the same situation as the fox: aimlessly wandering, not knowing what we'll find or what we'll make of what we do find.
And what better way to end my first entry as I start to navigate the mysterious terrain of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) inits final week.
Next up: Klimt (Ruiz, director's cut); Raymond Depardon exhibition at the Fotomuseum; Takeshis' (Kitano); hopefully a run in with Olaf Möller to get some suggestions….
* Since all hotels were booked for the night of the 29th, a friend was able to hook me up with a place to stay. It's such a weird place I thought it would be worth a mention: a hospital, formerly specializing in eye care/surgery, turned apartment complex that is still eerily like ahospital. I felt like I spent this last night in The Kingdom …