When POV editor Marc Glassman asked me to write something about my travels to European film festivals, I hesitated. I had visited five festivals last autumn – it would be impossible.
Too many films. But let me note some impressions that may go at least some of the way. Sitting outside at a dinner table on the terrace of an old building in Lisbon, the old woman beside me has a tattooed number on her arm. She is now in her eighties; as teenager she survived Auschwitz. She also survived running around the frontline with her husband during the Vietnam War filming The 17th Parallel. She was shot, and had to stay some weeks under ground, together with other Vietnamese, recovering from wounds. Her eyes tell me that she has seen it all. The grand old lady radiates: she is living film history.
DocLisboa invited her in October for a masterclass, and screened a retrospective of both her and her husband’s films.
Marceline Lorain-Ivens worked for 30 years together with her husband Joris Ivens. I “met” Joris in the film Témoins: Joris Ivens. At an airport, the “Flying Dutchman” talked about when he made The Spanish Earth during the Civil War, the precursor to the Second World War. He recalled driving with Ernest Hemingway to the war zone, his senses so alert that he could still recall a wet leaf stuck to the ground as they passed at high velocity in a car. They didn’t know if they would be back at the end of the day. He risked his life instead of going back to the Netherlands and signing protests against the Fascists.
Ivens’ commentary follows the images in several of his films. But in his ...A Valparaíso the narration was really written by Chris Marker, and the cinematography done by Patricio Guzman. It was about life at the lower and higher ends of a city. In A Tale of the Wind, the old man with long white hair sits on a chair alone on the desert sand. Waiting for the wind, he suddenly faints and falls head first to the ground.