In “Extrano,” director Santiago Loza dares us to care about a character we know nothing about. He seems to exist in this strange world where he meets women, many of whom are good-looking, who are lonely, unattached and have no friends. Thanks to the cinematography, and a performance by lead actor Julio Chavez filled with great humanity, it succeeds. But is it great?
“Jealousy Is My Middle Name,” written and directed by Park Chan-Ok, is the second time in as many years a South Korean film by a female director has picked up some hardware at Rotterdam. Last year’s winner, Jeong Jae-eun’s Take Care of My Cat, was the first South Korean film by a woman in more than three years. Since then, Lee Jeong-hyang’s The Way Home became the first South Korean film to be acquired by a major American studio. Seems that some of the best work from one of the world’s rising film centers is coming from women.
“Jealousy” is about a young man who finds out his girlfriend is having an affair with the editor of a magazine, but when he goes to the magazine to confront the editor, he winds up getting a job there instead, thus infuriating his ex.
“Whale Rider”‘s American release, currently set for a round at the art houses in June, was inevitable. The New Zealand film about a Maori girl (Keisha-Castle Hughes) and her unusual upbringing picked up the Audience Award here, as it did at Toronto in September. It also played to great success just weeks ago at Sundance, winning the Audience Award there as well. At Rotterdam, the film scored a 4.63 average on a 5-point audience rating system, slightly edging City of God.
A weird time for an American: Sitting in on a revival screening of “Monte Walsh,” William Fraker’s 1970 Western about the erosion of ranch life around the turn of the century, starring Lee Marvin and Jack Palance. Americans sometimes forget how Westerns, obviously a uniquely American genre, is prized among film fans outside the U.S.; I suspect they glean many insights into American culture and attitudes through these films, so hopefully they’re watching the best ones.
Add America: Other North American films, most of which have already been released in the U.S., which scored big at Rotterdam besides Punch Drunk Love include Miguel Arteta’s “The Good Girl,” Canadian David Cronenberg’s Spider (set in London), Gus Van Sant’s Gerry and two movies by Michael Almereyda: “Happy Here and Now” and “This So-Called Disaster.”
Add South Korea: Two great films, coming from way different places were “Road Movie” and “Chi-hwa-seon.” The former is a rare Korean film examining a gay theme, as a gay man, a straight but suicidal and bankrupt man, and a prostitute roam the roads. With energetic camerawork (shot on Super-16), a terrific script and tight editing, Kim In-Sik’s film debut was inexplicably not in the Tiger Competition. It should have been there, and won.
“Chi-hwa-seon” (“Painted Fire”) is one of the great examinations of an artist and the creative process, by 67-year-old master Im-kwon Taek. Set in the 1800s, with beautiful costumes and cinematography to go along with a great story, it’s easy to see why this film, which closed Rotterdam, won the Best Directing Award at Cannes last year. The U.S. release, by Kino International, begins Feb. 14th in New York.
For more post festival information, visit the International Film Festival Rotterdam website.

Posted on February 4, 2003 in Festivals by

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