For its twentieth annual
edition, the Palm Springs International Film Festival presents a wide-ranging
array of one-to-one relationships that will amaze in their intimacy and dazzle
in their global hues and tones.
Last Chance Harvey, the
Opening Night Gala feature, sets the
pace as veterans Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson try to find some shared magic
in their disparate lives. Ten days
later, an ensemble cast (notably Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger) weave
Guillermo Arriaga’s multigenerational tale into
The Burning Plain as the 2009 closer.
From the World Cinema Now series comes couples
of a totally different sort. Deepa
Mehta’s darkly disturbing Heaven on Earth,
chronicles an extended family who willingly turn a blind eye
and ear to spousal abuse. Incest
rears its ugly head in Hungarian director/writer Kornél Mundruczó’s
Delta where favourite son turns his
lurid attention to a seemingly powerless half-sister. A looked-over priest and determined
political prisoner are the centrepiece of Steve McQueen’s magnificent tale of
Northern Ireland’s “Troubles.” Hunger’s brutal realism may be
difficult for some, but its impact is undeniable.
Nothing better than John Schlesinger’s
Midnight Cowboy (1969) highlights the
Archival Treasures selections. A
much younger Hoffman and first-timer Jon Voight courageously push the sexual bar
to a previously forbidden mainstream level. Filmmakers from Derek Jarman to Ang Lee are in their collective debt.
Pairings of the musical
persuasion are explored in Yojiro Takita’s Departures. Here, a cellist is suddenly abandoned
by the demise of his Tokyo orchestra and must reinvent himself in small-town
Japan. At the opposite end of
equally fickle orchestral love affairs is Thomas Grube’s
A Trip to Asia: The Quest for Harmony. Sir Simon Rattle leads the mighty
Berlin Philharmonic through a whirlwind tour yet behind the fine music is the
documented pressure of a trio of players on probation trying to win approval
from the whole family, one concert at a time.
A world-renowned photographer
(Eddie Adams) and his infamous subject (General Nguyen Nygoc Loan—famously
caught executing a defenceless Vietcong) are at the heart of Susan Morgan Cooper’s
An Unlikely Weapon. Also from
the True Stories group are
For my Wife (the death of a lesbian
partner fuels the fire in a battle for LGBT equality legislation in Washington
state) and Suddenly, Last Winter (two
long-time Italian men fight against the government’s pursuit of civil unions to
replace already sanctioned ‘til-death-do-you-part relationships).
New Voices/New Visions offers fresh approaches to
young love (Among the Clouds, Iran),
father/daughter simultaneously in search of romance (Grown Ups, France), a—literally—rundown prostitute coming between a suddenly
startled duo (Hooked, Romania), a young
woman’s quest to finally meet her mother (Rain, The Bahamas) and two culturally diverse women exploring then truly
realizing their inner commonality (The
Wedding Song, Tunisia).
With well over 200 films,
star-studded awards, special events and parties galore, there’s no two ways
about it: From now until January 19th,
Palm Springs will be the destination of choice for partners and their admirers
on both sides of the silver screen. JWR