Leeds Film Festival 2009 - Day 2

Day 2 came with another new venue, the newly refurbished Howard Assembly Rooms at the Leeds Opera House. Its much smaller than the Town Hall, holding about 200 seats, but it's sparkly clean, neat, and above all, acoustically far better for films. Ironically, that didn't matter so much today, since both films were subtitled.

The Third Part of the Night (Pol) (site/second run)

The first film by highly-respected Polish director Andrzej Żuławski, this film is based upon his fathers memoirs and depicts the life of insurance salesman turned fugitive Michal in German occupied Lwow during the second world war. After waking from a fever, nursed in a remote country house by Helena, a mysterious woman who appears to be his wife, he struggles with his memory of events of the months gone by. When she and their child are ambushed and killed as he takes a walk, Michal flees and returns to Lwow and, since the authorities have his face still fresh in their minds, immediately finds himself pursued by gunmen. Only by a quirk of good fortune and mistaken identity does he manage to evade capture when another man in similar dress is captured instead and taken away.

The unfortunate man's heavily pregnant wife bears an uncanny resemblance to Michal's own, and it seems she knows more about his past than you would expect. Slowly, Michal mentally retraces his steps amidst the battling between the Gestapo and Resistance movements and earning cash to get by as a lice feeder* , and finds his mind falling apart at the seams as he begins to hallucinate images of Helena and their child.

The Third Part of the Night was showing its age, nearly 40 years old now, and the screechy music, wobbly cams and camp acting took their toll, but it was generally coherent with a strangely hypnotic thread of surrealism woven into it. If the film were to appear on a satellite channel one night and nothing else were on, I'd probably give it another go to try and make more sense of it. 6/10

* lice feeding was a technique used around the time for emergency wartime medical research. The volunteer is paid with money and rations to inject a virus into their blood and allow lice to feed on their skin; if the lice don't die then the blood is effective against the virus and antibodies can be extracted to make a Typhus vaccine). The places were sought after highly as they gave good money and protection against the oppressive regime.

Heimat Series 2 Episode 1: The time of the first songs. (Ger) (wiki)

Heimat is one of Germany's most highly-respected television series. It had 2 seasons, one in 1984 and a second one in 1992, both of which were highly acclaimed. Yesterday, those who didn't go to the Town Hall could see the first episode of the first series, which concentrated on the lives of a family living in Schabbach, a fictional town in Hunsrück in the early 20th Century. Season 2 is set in the present day, centring round the life of Hermann Simon, split by force from his older love Klarchen by his mother (who is a main character in the first series), he vows never to love again, and to leave the conservative ways of Hunsrück as soon as he finishes his music degree.

Heading off to Munich to study music and composition at the Conservatory, episode 1 (of 13 2-hour episodes) he encounters amorous older women, crazy old men who just will not stop giving him their opinions, and an array of the best musicians from around the world all coming together to learn their art. Potential mates threaten to derail or enhance Hermanns inspiration, though he is always kept in check back by his vows, but how long can that last?

Season 2 required no knowledge of the first series to enjoy, and this first episode showed great promise for the rest of the episodes to be a pretty epic and intimate account of the life of one man searching for his purpose. It had the right mix of fun and poignancy and warmth and more than all that, beauty. Munich shows off a range of beautiful architecture in both colour and black and white segments, but mostly it was the talent of the actors and actresses, who were all highly accomplished piano, marimba xylophone and chello players, who all took their turns showing off their talents on screen, with no swap-ins to actual musicians like you might expect. Even though 2 hours for one episode sounds long, it quickly passed, and the story kept going along at an interesting pace throughout, and I wouldn't mind seeing the next few episodes if I can catch it cheap on DVD. 7/10

Film Count: 4/150

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