An examination of how the Holocaust is remembered, a fable of ghosts recalling their former lives and two Internet lovers haunted by past events form the moving and wide-ranging vid-shot triptych, “Memories (Jeonju Digital Project 2007),” helmed by the rarefied Euro trio of Harun Farocki, Pedro Costa and Eugene Green. While each piece is quite distinct, latest annual work commissioned by Jeonju fest has a fine flow and artistic precision that make for an exceptionally good omnibus pic. Fests, especially those in the Western Hemisphere, will continue to book this specialist fare, followed by fine vid future based on directors’ names.
Farocki’s “Respite” is the most important of the group, as it offers a refreshingly thought-provoking and original look at the Holocaust. Culling black-and-white footage shot by Rudolf Breslauer, who was an inmate in a Dutch concentration camp designed as a transit point for the death camps further east, Farocki applies his usual technique of breaking down found footage to fascinating effect.
Selected sequences from hours of raw footage provide views of a camp whose residents at first appear to be happy and content. But this surface view is effectively shattered by the film’s engrossing intertitles (with English text by Farocki), which examine the reasons why Breslauer was ordered to shoot the footage (as a means to reassure both inmates and the outside world), and expose camp commandant Alfred Gemmeker’s lies about not knowing where the transit camp trains were headed.
Farocki also manages to carry on a conversation of sorts with auds, as his onscreen commentary ponders the meaning and purpose of footage — sometimes returning back to previously stated ideas, and arriving at some surprising, remarkably insightful conclusions.
Costa’s beautiful “The Rabbit Hunters” is a companion piece to his short, “Tarrafal” (made as part of another omnibus project, “The State of the World”). Also featuring his usual lead, Ventura, as well as players from the other pic like Alfredo Mendes and Jose Alberto Silva, this film focuses on the men in and around the Fontainhas community in Lisbon that has been the object of Costa’s fascination in his past three features.
Final minutes share many identical shots with “Tarrafal,” yet each film tells a different narrative. Here, Ventura and his friends recall their past, their families and work and then, in essence, life itself — since they are revealed to be dead. Pic also works as a stirring follow-up to Costa’s most recent feature, “Colossal Youth.”
Green’s “Correspondences” is very much a part of the writer-director’s elegant body of work, in which classical aesthetics of an older, pre-18th-century Europe (Monteverdi dominates the soundtrack) are married to a thoroughly contemporary setting.
A young man (Francois Riviere), entranced by a young woman (Delphine Hecquet) based on a single encounter, emails her with the desire to see her again. A rich, touching exchange develops between the somewhat aggressive but sensitive guy and the reluctant, sheltered woman, whose memory of a figure from her past (Clement Cogitore) is the major impediment for the two potential lovers to overcome.
From early shots focusing on a lit candle, carried across a room and unexpectedly placed next to a laptop, Green displays his mastery of pairing elements in surprising ways, while pic imaginatively re-conceives the trite idea that people who “meet” on the Web never truly know each other. Green and ace lenser Raphael O’Byrne shot in widescreen, but the image was forced (against Green’s wishes) to conform with the other two pics’ smaller aspect ratios.