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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Opening Night, 7th Reykjavik Int’l Film Festival

A quirky festival in a fascinating land: I attended last year’s sixth Reykjavik International Film Festival, and just got the press release from Friday night’s opening of the seventh: “The seventh edition of the Reykjavik International Film Festival was officially declared open by Jón Gnarr, the Mayor of Reykjavik, at the Festival’s opening party on Thursday evening. The party, attended by a host of Iceland’s film, stage and television personalities including Oscar Nominee Fridrik Thor Fridriksson (Best Foreign Language Film, Children Of Nature, 1991), took place at the National Theatre building which is more accustomed to hosting stage plays than film screenings, obviously. However, the architect Gudjon Samuelsson designed the grand theatre early in the 20th Century also to be suitable as a film screening room, albeit a very grand one.

“And that was only too fitting, as the National Theatre did very well in hosting the screening of the opening film of RIFF 2010, Cyrus, which is presented in the Special Presentations category and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass, was met with several fits of belly laughter as well as repeated nods of approval, and a rapturous applause when the lights came back on. The comic relief was met with welcoming spirits after a rather acidic “Festival Splash” opening speech where veteran film producer Thor Sigurjonsson took the opportunity to lash out at the Icelandic government’s plans to cut down grants to film and tv production.

“But spirits were high, happy and optimistic in the party after the screening, where copious amounts of champagne were washed down with greetings and congratulations regarding the happy days ahead. After all, RIFF has only just begun and it promises to be a feast of fine, fresh cinema as always. We’ll see you when the lights are switched on again.” [Photos: HAG]

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“The Motion Picture Academy, at considerable expense and with great efficiency, runs all the nominated pictures at its own theater, showing each picture twice, once in the afternoon, once in the evening. A nominated picture is one in connection with which any kind of work is nominated for an award, not necessarily acting, directing, or writing; it may be a purely technical matter such as set-dressing or sound work. This running of pictures has the object of permitting the voters to look at films which they may happen to have missed or to have partly forgotten. It is an attempt to make them realize that pictures released early in the year, and since overlaid with several thicknesses of battered celluloid, are still in the running and that consideration of only those released a short time before the end of the year is not quite just.

“The effort is largely a waste. The people with votes don’t go to these showings. They send their relatives, friends, or servants. They have had enough of looking at pictures, and the voices of destiny are by no means inaudible in the Hollywood air. They have a brassy tone, but they are more than distinct.”All this is good democracy of a sort. We elect Congressmen and Presidents in much the same way, so why not actors, cameramen, writers, and all rest of the people who have to do with the making of pictures? If we permit noise, ballyhoo, and theater to influence us in the selection of the people who are to run the country, why should we object to the same methods in the selection of meritorious achievements in the film business? If we can huckster a President into the White House, why cannot we huckster the agonized Miss Joan Crawford or the hard and beautiful Miss Olivia de Havilland into possession of one of those golden statuettes which express the motion picture industry’s frantic desire to kiss itself on the back of its neck? The only answer I can think of is that the motion picture is an art. I say this with a very small voice. It is an inconsiderable statement and has a hard time not sounding a little ludicrous. Nevertheless it is a fact, not in the least diminished by the further facts that its ethos is so far pretty low and that its techniques are dominated by some pretty awful people.

“If you think most motion pictures are bad, which they are (including the foreign), find out from some initiate how they are made, and you will be astonished that any of them could be good. Making a fine motion picture is like painting “The Laughing Cavalier” in Macy’s basement, with a floorwalker to mix your colors for you. Of course most motion pictures are bad. Why wouldn’t they be?”
~ Raymond Chandler, “Oscar Night In Hollywood,” 1948

“Film festivals, for those who don’t know, are not exactly the glitzy red carpet affairs you see on TV. Those do happen, but they’re a tiny part of the festival. The main part of any film festival are the thousands of people with festival passes hanging on lanyards beneath their anoraks, carrying brochures for movies you have never and will never hear of, desperately scrabbling to sell whatever movie it is to buyers from all over the world. Every hotel bar, every cafe, every restaurant is filled to the brim with these people, talking loudly about non-existent deals. The Brits are the worst because most of the British film industry, with a few honourable exceptions, are scam artists and chancers who move around from company to company failing to get anything good made and trying to cast Danny Dyer in anything that moves. I’m seeing guys here who I first met twenty years ago and who are still wearing the same clothes, doing the same job (albeit for a different company) and spinning the same line of bullshit about how THIS movie has Al Pacino or Meryl Streep or George Clooney attached and, whilst that last one didn’t work out, THIS ONE is going to be HUGE. As the day goes on, they start drinking and it all gets ugly and, well, that’s why I’m the guy walking through the Tiergarten with a camera taking pictures of frozen lakes and pretending this isn’t happening.

“Berlin is cool, though and I’ve been lucky to be doing meetings with some people who want to actually get things done. We’ll see what comes of it.”
~ Julian Simpson