When I knew I was coming to Morelia for the second time this year, I entertained a fantasy of perhaps skipping a movie or two and spending some time exploring the beautiful colonial city. It is to laugh. Today I barely see the sky – not only am I inside the Cinepolis multiplex for seven programs in a row, for the last five, from about 3 p.m. to well after midnight, I’m seated in the same theater, #4 – which happily has the largest screen. I’m even more grateful to Daniela Michel for taking me and Olivier Assayas on an impromptu walking tour day before yesterday.
The day starts with “Augustine,” by young French director Alice Winocour, part of the films selected for Morelia by Cannes’ Critic’s Week. (Two previous films co-written by Winocour, “Ordinary People,” directed by Vladimir Persed, and “Home,” by Ursula Meier, showed in Cannes at Critic’s Week.) It’s the kind of serious-but-sexy movie that the French do so well: in 1885, doctor Vincent Lindon seeks support from the French academy for his work with female patients suffering from hysteria, pinning his hopes on demonstrating seizures from his patient Augustine (Soko). It covers some of the same material that Tanya Wexler’s 2011 romantic comedy “Hysteria” did, to extremely different effect. Gregoire Colin is glimpsed, only, in a tiny role as a photographer. Sticking around for the credits reveals that the enigmatic one-named star, Soko, sang the haunting vocals that run under them.
Afterwards I sample part of the Mexican short films competition, which offers 6 different programs, containing six to eight films each. I watch the first few movies of program 3, and am favorably impressed by “New Year’s Eve,” by Luz Maria Rodriguez Perez, about a young couple who learn not to spend the holiday apart; Arcadi Palerm-Artis’ “Bao el sol,” about a bad seed child who does the unthinkable; “Reverse 3 and a half Somersaults in the Tick Position,” by Carlos Lenin, in which sex and competition merge; and the very disturbing “Dentro,” by Emiliano Richa Minter, in which art turns deadly.
I’m intrigued by signs that have popped up all over the multiplex, advertising a previously unannounced special event featuring honored guest Abbas Kiorastami and Seifollah Samadian. The special event turns out to be two rare videos. The first is a short, poetic half-hour documentary called “Roads of Kiorastami,” a montage of evocative black-and-white images of roads, tracks, highways, and trails that Kiorastami has shot over decades of taking photographs, with additional footage of Kiorastami as he continues to photograph in snowy fields and on the road.
The second is a record of a master class in film that Kiorastami taught to young American and international aspiring directors in Marrakech in 2005, with special guest Martin Scorsese, who was in Marrakech to give Kiorastami a lifetime achievement award. The film was introduced by Peter Scarlet, who at the time was director of the Tribeca Film Festival, and conceived of the directing workshop in concert with the director of the Marrakech International Film Festival. Kiorastami and co-director of the documentary, Samadian, are present for the films, but we’re told they won’t do a Q and A.