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47th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Day 5: 'Army of Shadows,' 'Holy Motors' & 'Trains of Thought'

Photo of Meredith Brody By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood July 11, 2012 at 1:48PM

It’s taken several days for the mystery of ticketing for press members to be revealed to me. It took two requests at an information counter to turn up a schedule of press screenings, and two visits to the special ticketing booths inside the accreditation room to learn I can request up to four tickets a day, and that tickets are available for both that day and the next.

At 11 a.m. I give myself a little gift:  watching Jean-Pierre Melville’s implacable “Army of Shadows,” about the French resistance during WW II, on the main Festival screen.  Any guilt I might feel at seeing a movie again is instantly erased when it begins: I remembered it as being black-and-white! So now I can (hopefully) remember it in color.

It’s a masterpiece – I would say it is Melville’s masterpiece, except in truth I think it’s only one among many. Critic Rui Noguiera, long-time Melville associate and author of the essential “Melville on Melville,” who introduces the film, says that it’s become a part of history – not just film history, but history in general.

I’m going to a new venue, the Cas cinema right across the river from the main theaters in the Thermal, so I get there early and find that it has its own little café attached, with a pleasant terrace, from which you can see the L’Oreal makeup truck offering free makeovers, a variety of buskers, and marketers handing out freebies ranging from whiskey shots to balloons. (This is the most festive festival I’ve ever attended.) I myself lust after the small stuffed animal which looks like a bright-orange Pink Panther, mascot of the main Festival sponsor, the electricity company.  The Pink Panther clone shows up, life-sized, in a series of mercifully brief and actually witty short films that play before every Festival screening, spoofing film genres including horror, romance, and crime. I look for the toy in the Festival shop, without success: it seems you just have to stumble across somebody giving them out. I also wish that the gorgeous Art Deco Crystal Globe award given for Lifetime Achievement in the Festival would be duplicated and sold – as keyrings, or bedside lamps!  I’m there.

I sit on the terrace, but I can’t quite figure out exactly where the cinema entrance is, so I ask a guy sitting next to be wearing a Festival lanyard and badge.  It turns out that he is a Belgian filmmaker, just arrived, who not only has no idea that the café he’s sitting in is part of a cinema, but that, entirely coincidentally, it’s the location where his film, “Hors les murs,” is going to be shown the next day, as I point out.  I tell him, truthfully, that it’s on my short list (“I like romantic triangles,” I tell him), but in the event I don’t manage to see it.

I spend about 3/4s of an hour in line, chatting with an obsessed French cinephile whose hobby is attending film festivals – though he doesn’t see as many movies in Paris, where he lives in the suburbs – to much trouble to drive in! When I mention the Lumiere Festival in Lyon, which somehow he hasn’t heard of, he brightens; his daughter lives there, so he can sleep for free.

At 3:30, I see “For dig naken,” aka “For You Naked,” a Swedish documentary made with a hand-held digital camera by a young girl, whose family friend is a famous Swedish artist who’s looking for love after the break-up of a tempestuous 12-year relationship. He meets a younger Brazilian guy online, and she chronicles three years of their up-and-down relationship. I’m utterly charmed by it, and amazed at how honest and introspective the subjects are.  It’s the kind of small gem you stumble across at film festivals: highly unlikely to get a massive release, or to be picked up by a specialty house, or even eventually turn up on U.S. television.

This article is related to: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Holy Motors , Leos Carax, Jean-Pierre Melville, Classics

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.