Next to the excursion with the Antwerp students to the Film Fest Gent (see the previous post), I also went to the film festival with the students from the Ghent University MA in Film & Television Studies. We visited the annual Film Music Seminar, which focused this year on British film music. In the morning, there was a conversation with composer George Fenton, mainly focusing on his collaboration with directors Richard Attenborough and Ken Loach. Fenton gave interesting look into the practice of film music composing, but the conversation could have been livelier. The afternoon session was more attractive in this respect, with British composers Daniel Pemberton and Craig Armstrong analyzing and contemplating on selected film fragments.
Craig Armstrong in conversation with Martine Huvenne
I also managed to see some more great films at the festival (although I have, of course, also seen some very shitty films), such as László Nemes’ horrifying and staggering holocaust film Son of Saul, or the tragic but at the same time funny and very creative Chilean film El Club by Pablo Larraín, which seemed to me some kind of self-conscious and modern allegory on the life of Jesus. Apart from seeing the films, one of the nicest things of visiting a film festival, however, is to be confronted with large crowds at the entrance of arthouse cinema’s…
Film festival atmosphere at the Sphinx cinema
Since two weeks, I’m working part-time at the Department of Literature at the University of Antwerp. During the autumn semester, I’m teaching a film seminar attached to professor Tom Paulus’ MA course Aesthetics of Contemporary Cinema. The seminar focuses on classic modernist filmmakers such as Robert Bresson, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky. Each session, I shortly introduce the film that we watch together, after which we have a group discussion about the film’s narrative, stylistic and emotional dimensions. It’s hard to imagine a teaching assignment that I would love better!
Yesterday, we organized an excursion to the Ghent Film Festival with the students of the Master of Theatre and Film Studies. We started with the first part of Miguel Gomes’ extraordinary Arabian Nights, of which I only can conclude that I’m looking very much forward to the next two volumes. The afternoon program started somewhat disappointing with the screening of David Wilkinson’s documentary The First Film. I certainly like the idea to make a documentary about Louis Le Prince, who was one among the many pioneers who during the second part of the 19th century simultaneously experimented with the recording and projecting of moving images. Wilkinson’s quest to prove that Le Prince made ‘the first film’ can be a nice approach to make the documentary more appealing, as long as there is enough nuancing involved. The central premise of the film, however, that ‘Louis Le Prince was robbed from his rightful place in the history books’, is simply not correct (see e.g. David Cook’s standard reference work A History of Narrative Film). Moreover, the documentary was in my opinion an hour too long and was only slightly interesting in creative terms. Luckily, the screening was followed by a very interesting debate on the past and future of film criticism with professor Tom Paulus, Nick Pinkerton (critic for a.o. Sight and Sound) and Patrick Duynslaegher (former critic for Focus Knack and now the artistic director of the Film Fest Gent).
Nick Pinkerton, Patrick Duynslaegher and Tom Paulus during the debate on film criticism
Finally, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin proved a more than worthy film to end with. Although many people in the sold-out film theatre seemed to have expected something different from Hou’s first wuxia film, the aesthetic qualities of the images was simply astonishing. I’m looking forward to delve deeper into the film festival’s varied program the next days!
Composition and color in Hou’s The Assassin