Three weekend movies

Once a year in October Beat Weekend takes place in 15 cities in Russia, from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok. The program of 2017 runs from the 4th till the 8th of October. Already by tradition the festival will be shown in the cinema theatre “Pobeda” of Novosibirsk. In its program will be presented six important and popular movies taken from the summer program of the Moscow Beat Film Festival.

The goal of the project is to introduce the spectators to outstanding documentaries about modern phenomenon in the world of music, contemporary art, media, street culture, sports and new technologies. Converter supports Beat Weekend with great pleasure. On request of the editorial team the program director of “Pobeda” Maksim Selesnev presents exclusively for Converter three movies out of the program.

«All These Sleepless Nights»,
directed by Mihal Marczak, 2016, Poland, Great Britain

All These Sleepless Nights The film by Mihal Marczak, a new favorite of the Sundance festival, claims to be as much as the chronicle of the new Polish generation, presenting an intimate collection of body movements, postures, and bizarre afternoon moods. His main characters are lovers Krzysztof, Mihal, and Eva; they seem to be real people, coming from the very heart of the hungover Warsaw life: names, locations, words – everything is presented by the filmmaker as it is. The camera is turned on for the main characters right in the middle of some new open-air festival, flirting with the crowd around and with passers-by in the streets. To make the film even more real, from time to time everything breaks down into fragments of what is meant to look like home video and amateur porn.

The film could be viewed as something between Godard’s Masculin Féminin and a video diary but all of a sudden, it begins to spit out metaphors. First we could believe them to be just drunken men’s philosophizing blabber sticking to the main characters: “Each new love is a new mutilation…", Krzysztof mutters dreamingly, “Afterparty after no party”, a party guest lazily drawls out an ideal motto for everything. However, exquisite camera lacework a-la Christopher Doyle is no mistake — Marczak strives at something lofty. So, here they are, his characters, strolling around avenues and highways, with their eyes shut, as if blinded by their own love and youth. Krzysztof runs against the malicious movement of people and cars and performs a happy dance right on the double white lines as the titles go.

Modern Love, not exactly — this is not Denis Lavant dashing through futuristic Paris, and not even Frances Ha, crossing a street making clumsy pirouettes, but rather a sentimental musical, Across The Universe, for a whole family to watch. This is acknowledged by the film characters, too, explaining that they are rather experiencing the Edward Scissorhands phase. Well, that means, the film will make more viewers’ hearts melt.

by Doug Pray, 1996, USA

Hype! Here is a short archeology class for you. Do you remember what ‘Seattle sound’ is? The easiest answer that comes from the surface is: Nirvana! Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains... — if we dig a little deeper. Nice, but how about Mono Men? Mudhoney? Dead Moon? Coffin Break? And we have not even approached the really unknown groups.

In 1996, the documentary film-maker Doug Pray started to portray the musical Seattle of the end 1980s without any prejudices — in this film Kurt Cobain takes as much time as some next-street Supersuckers. And his narration unexpectedly sounds like a story from antiquity. We hear bizarre names of ancient heroes and feel confused, hearing the guilty testimony of the people who survived the legendary times. One of the participants of our conversations compares Seattle with Twin Peaks — a far-away city, mountains, a borderline with Canada and the inexplicable splurges of anomalous/musical activity (historians count more than a thousand groups which existed in the city in the same period). Inspired by a good joke, Doug Pray even inserts a typical citation from David Lynch — a traffic light sways under blasts of wind, forecasting something unearthly and weird.

The weird is really round the corner. We travel from the crude sound of self-made concerts, where the unnamed grunge singers dash around on the stage, sweeping away their own instruments, to the hectic commercial success, magazine covers, world fame and... confusion. What the f….? Having consistently covered all the stages of the Seattle music story, Doug Pray carefully catches this subtle ‘WTF?!’, imprinted on the faces of all the musicians. To be true, television, large labels, and the abnormal bustle have turned the musical stage of Seattle into a farce and have revealed the insanity of what is happening. Well, it has been fools’ jokes and insanity from the very beginning! And Pray prefers irony to Cobain’s tragic attitude — his characters endlessly and good-naturedly joke, recalling the past, and even the title of the film sounds sarcastic, with a note of sadness. As we are approaching the end, we feel that Hype! Is an ideal continuation of the cult comedy This Is Spinal Tap. Only it is real.

«Liberation Day»,
by Morten Traavik, 2016,
Norway, Slovenia. Latvia

Liberation Day The film directed by Morten Traavik also begins with regular joking. The British comedian John Oliver nearly jumps out of his chair, wriggling live: North Korea, Asian Florida (offscreen laughter) celebrates the Liberation Day, and do you know whom they have decided to invite on this occasion? The obnoxious Slovenian industrial group Laibach, notorious for its totalitarian and militarist aesthetics (laughter increasing). Well, there is no escaping here. North Korea, with its marching columns of young communists and a well-guarded utopia, is really comical. Laibach, with its quasi-authoritarianism, is comical, too. Therefore, when we hear about the concert of the Slovenian group in Pyongyang, everything seems to be a practical joke. “Are you in North Korea for the first time?” — asks the Korean guide the film director and the organizer of the concert Morten Traavik. “No, this is my fifteenth time”, answers the Norwegian after some pause, with such a dead-pan expression of his face that one can suspect some spoof, trolling, which is so customary and close to the heart of any European.

However, the only joke here is that everything is real. And Laibach sings the Korean folk song Arirang seriously. And North Korea, with its collectivist views of everyday routine, is also serious. “There is some special sincerity in their voices”, whisper Morten Traavik and Boris Benko at the rehearsal of the choir of Korean pupils. ¬— “In Europe, this is impossible: we are too cynical, too ironical”. Yes, perhaps, these are the notes of an anthropologist, light-heartedly enchanted by the beauty of the local culture. Even if this is true, such anthropology seeks live communication and understanding among people. It seems to be a trifle but, in the midst of hysterical revelations and seedy jokes about North Korea, such an approach is a valuable rarity.

And while Milan Fras keeps silent, scaring the Korean guide by his hat (“This is not a Nazi hat, is it?”), Traavik himself becomes the most interesting character of his documentary. This is the man who stays calm in the most tense and ambiguous situations (by the way, his negotiations about the concert begin with a North Korean functionary naming Laibach Nazis), the man who is always capable of maintaining dialogue and totally convinced that mutual understanding is possible. Finally, at some extreme velocities and levels, some consensus really occurs. It happens.
© Maxim Seleznev

Maxim Seleznev

The program director of the Pobeda cinema in Novosibirsk, the chief editor of the magazine about independent films "Cineticle"


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