Clermont-Ferrand: Day 8

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival from January 31st to February 8th

I was out the door by 9am today to get the market library for my 10am appointment and as I walked through the market you could tell things were wrapping up. Booths were empty or in the process of being packed up, and nobody was browsing anymore. I suspect quite a few people were leaving town sometime today. I had a solid 90 minutes in the library watching some stuff cherry-picked from competition slates I missed or didn’t want to see in their entirety.

The knockouts here were very different from each other. First, the amazing calling-card short Habana (image below) which featured incredible CGI, documentary-style black-and-white cinematography, and a not-so-subtle political dig at the US. Street kid Lazaro takes a film crew through a near-future Havana, occupied by a foreign army who are building a bridge to the mainland and using the island for its resources (oil?). At 23 minutes, it felt at least 5 minutes too long, but the craft is impeccable and I could easily see this working as an interesting genre feature in the vein of District 9.

Still from Habana

About as far as you can get from Habana in style and content was La Lampe au beurre de yak (Butter Lamp) (image below), in which an itinerant photographer and his assistant offer to take photos of local villagers in Tibet in front of different backgrounds. It’s a fixed camera shot for the entire 16 minutes, but it’s constantly surprising and funny. It also feels completely like a documentary, though I don’t think it actually is.

Still from Butter Lamp

I was on my way to Cocteau for noon for what I thought was F4, but just before the lights went down, someone from the festival came on stage with a group of filmmakers and proceeded to introduce them as the creators of I2. While I’d seen the first film already and liked it, I just jumped up and left, thinking I could make the 1pm screening in Vian instead, which I thought was L1. But it turned out that I was wrong about that one, too. I had to shake my head since it reminded me that I have, for some inexplicable reason, always confused Jeudi (Thursday) and Vendredi (Friday). No idea why, but it kind of messed up my schedule today.

But I’m still in Zen mode, and so I simply wandered up to the Place de la Jaude and bought my wife a gift, then had another great meal at Le Menhir. They had a set menu of a gallette (hot crepe with savoury/meat fillings) and a sweet crepe (I got the beurre sucre again) and coffee for under 12 Euros.

Contentedly stuffed, I came back for a nap and to catch up on some work. I double-checked the schedule and so was sure that at 7pm, I’d be catching FU3 in the Ways of Escape section. What I’d forgotten was that outside of Cocteau, there are no English subtitles on anything. Nevertheless, most of the films in this lineup were pretty easily understandable and with my rudimentary language skills, I managed to read the French subtitles.

My favourite was from Benoit de Clerck, whose De Honger I’ve already praised. The Importance of Sweet and Salt (image below) was his first film, in which a talking fish shakes a man out of his torpor, helping him to take control of his life and escape a weirdly dysfunctional relationship with his wife. Lead actor Jan Vergote has a wonderfully expressive and yet deadpan face.

Still from The Importance of Sweet and Salt

I also liked Sniffer quite a lot. It’s a wordless sci-fi fable whose art direction reminded me a lot of Roy Andersson‘s work. This 2006 film was actually projected on 35mm, too, which is more and more unusual, especially for shorts.

Because Vian is the smaller of the two cinemas at the Maison de la Culture, it’s not quite as easy to exit from one screening and go right back into the next. The lineup looked really long for the 9pm screening of US4 so I decided to call it a night. It would have been nice to see the original 2008 short film Short Term 12 which inspired the feature, but it will have to be another time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.