"Glamour, excitement, and ennui" promises the press release about the Ninth Miami Film Festival ready to roll this Friday at Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. In keeping with such promises over nine years, at least you can count on one being fulfilled this year - ennui. I shouldn't yet characterize this year's offerings, or the festival as a whole, as I was shown only six movies before last Friday, a scarce four of which are part of the thirteen-film sequence that'll be seen Friday through Tuesday. The inept planning is a Miami Film Festival tradition no less cliched than the huge lines outside Joe's Stone Crab.
Dear God, if only life were a sixteenth as good as a press release....
Of those four movies, by far the best was the Spanish film Lovers, which plays this Saturday. Featuring the wonderful Victoria Abril, very familiar these days as Pedro Almodovar's sexpot leading lady, the film deals with a romantic triangle set in Madrid during the Franco mid-Fifties. Adapted from a true story, Abril plays a Spanish heroine right out of film noir, except that the sexual passion is graphic - it's no wonder she received the Best Actress Award at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance in this tantalizingly erotic film, directed uncomplicatedly by Vincente Aranda. I'd gladly see it again.
The second-worst of the films (the very worst, if you can wait for it, will come next week) is Akira Kurosawa's Rhapsody in August, which screens on Monday. As you'd expect from a great master of cinema, there are many fine details here. But alas, age comes even to a genius like Kurosawa-san, and this is not a happy experience. Essentially a condemnation of the materialism of the generation born after the bomb was dropped in Nagasaki (where the film is set, in the present), Kurosawa attempts to draw a parallel of hope between an older generation that endured the horror of the war, and the new, innocent generation that investigates the past for a way to deal with the future. It's an old man's film - stiffly moralistic and unfresh. The acting is quite good, though Richard Gere, who plays a small role mostly in Japanese, is more embarrassing than any hamster story. But Kurosawa extracts mournful greatness from Sachiko Murase, who plays the central grandmother of the plot.
What about The Mambo Kings, which opens the festival this Friday? Well, folks, I tried to see it. The fact that I couldn't is yet another sad example of this festival's provincialism, which kowtows equally to big organizations and daily newspapers. Warner Bros., the distributor of Mambo Kings, through their publicists here in Miami, Michael Parver and Associates, in conjunction with the festival's organizers (who did not complain one tiny bit), had it screened last week not once but twice - once for Candice Russell, film critic of the Sun-Sentinel, and once for Bill Cosford of the Miami Herald. Two screenings for two people, sitting alone in a theater! The remainder of the journalistic community was told to wait.
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And meanwhile, the director of the Miami Film Festival, perpetually paranoid Nat Chediak, wonders why his baby has so few amigos.