Raya Martin’s twin cinema peaks of 2006

Pub date December 26, 2006
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

1. Costa in Cannes Cinema Scope editor Mark Peranson warned me about what was to come: Pedro Costa’s Colossal Youth was reportedly still being edited a few days before its screening in the Official Competition at Cannes, and its nonactors from the Lisbon slums were gracing the red carpet premiere.

Costa’s latest film, in all its pure cinematic glory, only had one early afternoon premiere screening, while the festival put on pregala shows prioritizing its star-laden crowd pleasers (e.g., the ridiculously horrible Babel by Alejandro González Iñárritu). Half an hour into Colossal Youth, half of the Lumiere audience had already run out of the theater. Only loyal and curious audience members, including Costa first-timers like me, were there to witness a momentous standing ovation lasting nearly 10 minutes.

It felt like a rebirth of new cinema, one that might have been coincidental — out of place — and that probably might not happen again for a long time.

2. (Re)Discovering Garrel In Philippe Garrel’s Regular Lovers, one finds not just adamant aesthetics (the film’s 16mm screenings around Paris proved to be a true limited release) but a sense of achievement in the cinema of personal-is-political, shown in both Garrel’s narrative and the casting of his son, actor Louis Garrel.

Following my first viewing of Garrel’s most recent, phenomenal, and overlooked film, the timely screening of two others at the Rotterdam Film Festival this January (thanks to White Light programmer Gertjan Zuilhof) gave me a chance to correct my image of him as a newcomer to that of a long-established cinema master.

I Don’t Hear the Guitar Anymore (1991), a painful dedication to his ex-partner, the late Velvet Underground crooner Nico, is like a haunting dream. My personal favorite, Wild Innocence (2001), is an excellent look into Garrel’s cinema and persona, both crossing favorably and fluidly.

While all of his films pretty much deal with the same subject matter — drugs, addiction, relationships, all pointing to a generally public past — Garrel’s cinema basks within a uniquely exquisite atmosphere. One that haunts me as a desperate filmmaker and lonely shadow.

Raya Martin is the director of A Short Film about the Indio Nacional (or the Prolonged Sorrow of Filipinos).