Spanish fest focuses on international auteur work

Lars von Trier’s corporate world satire “The Boss of It All” will receive its international premiere at the San Sebastian Film Festival, playing out of competition in the Official Section, unveiled Thursday.

Other Official Section screeners from Agnieszka Holland, John Boorman, Tom DiCillo, Carlos Sorin and Hirokazu Kore-eda suggest that Spain’s biggest fest, which runs Sept. 21-30, is packing its strongest and most varied international auteur punch in several years.

Many Official Section pics also break out of San Sebastian’s often sober social realist groove, experimenting with slightly more commercial subjects or genres.

A clutch of competitors focus on obsession or mental abnormality. In Sorin’s “El Camino de San Diego,” a father of four worships soccer genius Diego Maradona; in Holland’s “Copying Beethoven,” a hoary Ludwig van Beethoven (Ed Harris) drools over his alluring copywriter (Diane Kruger).

In Kore-eda’s “Hana,” a young samurai mulls whether to avenge his father’s murder, while DiCillo’s dramedy “Delirious” turns on star-struck wannabes in contempo New York, led by Steve Buscemi as a paparazzo.

Two Official Section pics are comedies, a departure for the normally drama-heavy fest, though most bend the genre to auteur effect. Croatian Rajko Grlic’s 1987-set military service comedy “Border Post” packs a gut-wrenching payoff and anticipates the ethnic tensions that destroyed the former Yugoslavia. In Bobcat Goldthwait’s “Sleeping Dogs Lie,” a young woman unwisely confesses to her most outre sexual act.

Also plowing genre furrows, Boorman’s thriller “The Tiger’s Tail” features a man pursued by a seeming double.

This would not be San Sebastian, however, without social issue pics: “Half Moon,” from fest’s 2004 Golden Shell winner Bahman Ghobadi, delivers a road-movie vision of post-Saddam Iraq; Marion Hansel’s “Sounds of Sand” tracks African villagers displaced from their homes; “The Old Garden,” by South Korean auteur Im Sang-soo, is a politically tinged romantic drama. Chinese-language “Ghosts,” from Brit documaker Nick Broomfield (“Biggie & Tupac”), starts from the true story of illegal Chinese immigrants who drowned while harvesting shellfish on British mudflats.

Section is rounded out by Martial Fougeron’s Mons fils a moi,” about a son smothered by his mother’s love, and “Forever,” a portrait of Paris cemetery Pere Lachaise from Dutch documentarian Heddy Honigmann (“Give Me Your Hand”).

San Sebastian Official Section pics compete for the Golden Shell plaudit. Four Spanish titles were confirmed in early August. Fest opener and closer have yet to be announced.

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