Since launching the Variety Critics’ Choice: Europe Now! (VCC) sidebar at Karlovy Vary in 1998, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing most of the 90 films screened and hope to add screenings of as many of the 10 upcoming films in the section this year as time (and fun) at the Karlovy Vary fest allows. My anticipation is based completely upon my trust in the section director, Variety senior film critic Derek Elley, and his crack team of critics who help him program VCC.
The only downside I’ve discovered from seeing these terrific new films from Europe is the frustration that sets in once I’ve returned home from the Czech Republic. Keep in mind that KV happens during the summer, the period owned by Hollywood blockbusters. So when someone asks me, “What have you seen this summer that you’ve liked?,” I get tongue-tied as I try to explain the films and filmmakers I’ve encountered, nearly all of whom face little or no chance of U.S. distribution for their films.
How can you recommend a film when you know seeing it requires a passport and plane ticket to Europe?
Luckily, thanks to the wonders of multiregion DVD, virtually every one of the films listed below is available for viewing without a shoe-removing encounter with the cheery folks of TSA. Here are some of the films that have stayed with me as stimulating, rewarding works by directors both renowned and in some cases still unjustly under the critical and popular radar. The year noted is the year of inclusion in VCC.
- “Of Freaks and Men,” Alexsei Balabanov, Russia, 1998
- “The Life of Jesus,” Bruno Dumont, France, 1998
- “Little Tony,” Alex van Warmerdam, the Netherlands, 1999
- “Class Trip,” Claude Miller, France, 1999
- “The Carriers Are Waiting,” Benoit Mariage, Belgium/France/Switzerland, 1999
- “The New Eve,” Catherine Corsini, France, 1999
- “Urban Ghost Story,” Genevieve Jolliffe, U.K., 1999
- “I Prefer the Sound of the Sea,” Mimmo Calopresti, Italy, 2000
- “Northern Skirts,” Austria, Barbara Albert, 2000
- “The Macorelle Affair,” Serge le Peron, France, 2000
- “Detektor,” Pal Jackman, Norway, 2001
- “Late Night Shopping,” Saul Metzstein, U.K., 2001
- “Risotto,” Olga Malea, Greece, 2001
- “The Praying Mantis,” Paul Harather, Austria, 2001
- “Betty Fisher,” Claude Miller, France, 2001
- “Noi the Albino,” Dagur Kari, Iceland, 2003
- “Small Town,” Jan Kraus, Czech Republic, 2003
- “Aaltra,” Benoit Delepine & Gustave de Kervern, Belgium/France, 2004
- “Astronauts,” Santi Amodeo, Spain, 2004
- “Charlie” Malcolm Needs, U.K., 2004
- “Mister V,” Emilie Deleuze, France, 2004
- “Kissed by Winter,” Sara Johnsen, Norway, 2005
(Steven Gaydos is executive editor-features at Variety.)