Thursday, 8 September 2011

Sokurov reminds Venice about the deal with the devil

Alexander Sokurov’s much anticipated “Faust”—inspired by Goethe’s classic interpretation of the legend and filmed in German—premieres today in the competition section at the Venice Film Festival. Critics say the film, which is widely considered a main contender for a Golden Lion, may well reaffirm his place at the table of great Russian film directors. But in an interview in his hometown of St. Petersburg over the weekend, Sokurov said he wasn’t looking forward to the whole festival experience. The filmmaker is a festival legend himself. His trilogy of films about dictators—Lenin, Stalin and Emperor Hirohito in “Moloch,” “Taurus” and “The Sun,” respectively—together form a prequel to “Faust,” the archetypal deal-with-the-devil story. His “Russian Ark,” filmed in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, wowed the international art-house crowd in 2002. Sokurov is scheduled to be in Venice Sept. 8, but that doesn’t mean he has to like all the fuss. “I have been to many festivals, to Cannes, to Venice. I don’t like being there. I don't like the system of competition,” said Sokurov, 60, speaking in a park near his home in St. Petersburg. “How can you say that I am better than someone else? Directors with a name should not compete with young cinema people,” he said, “We should give up our place for the young.” That is not his only criticism of the festival system. “How many times do you get a jury where you do not know two-thirds of the people? How can that be?” he said. Darren Aronofsky is the president of this year’s 7-member jury. He is best known for his recent psychological thriller, “Black Swan,” starring Natalie Portman, and “The Wrestler,” a sweet comeback for Mickey Rourke. Sokurov’s candor regarding the festival is typical: The director is known for saying what he thinks. His early films were banned by Soviet authorities, which in a way brought him more international attention. His film “Mournful Unconcern” was released in 1987. Sokurov says his serial obsessions with dictators and “Faust” itself, which is the culmination of the quartet of films, goes back 30 years. “It’s amazing that there is so little attention paid to Faust,” he said, “If any politician reads Faust everything is there. It's as if it is written in the 21st century, not the 19th century.” ...

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