Just to get the quibbling out of the way, this year's Cine-World Film Festival claims to be screening some 50 feature films, but that figure doesn't seem entirely accurate. By my count there are only 38 features this year (plus a handful of shorts), although that figure's nothing to be ashamed of. Thirty-eight films is still a very healthy number of movies to choose from over a 10-day period, especially when the films are this good.
The 18th Annual Cine-World Film Festival, which takes place November 4-13 at Sarasota's Burns Court Cinema, makes good use of a time-proven formula. For the past 17 years, Cine-World has been handpicking the best movies from various international film festivals (particularly the Toronto International Film Festival), and screening those titles for local audiences over the course of 10 days, at a pace that is sometimes too dizzying for even the most dedicated movie nut.
The 2005 Cine-World will feature a number of movies making their Florida debuts, although a smaller-than-usual number of those screenings are likely to be unique, one-time-only events. For what it's worth, there appear to be more films screening this year that are likely to show up at some later date for a regular run at Burns Court, Tampa Theatre or Sunrise Hyde Park.
A quick glance at this year's line-up reveals a handful of must-sees, topped by Neil Jordan's amazing Breakfast on Pluto. Jordan's film, a sort of companion piece to his wonderful Butcher Boy, stars Cillian Murphy as a beautiful cross-dressing dreamer who serves as our tour guide on an irreverent, enlightening and enormously entertaining romp through the history, politics and pop culture of 1970s Ireland. Breakfast on Pluto is a smarter, edgier Forest Gump minus all the pandering, and a movie that screams out to be seen. Don't miss it.
Another highlight of Cine-World 2005 is Manderlay, the second part of the controversial "American" trilogy that Lars von Trier began with Dogville. In this installment, Von Trier rakes racism over the coals in 1930s Alabama, crafting an austere and almost indigestible vision of life as a cruel, Bunuelian joke populated by sadists and willing slaves.
In other words, Manderlay will obviously not be for everyone. I found von Trier's film to be eloquent, powerful and provocative — so much so that I'm beginning to suspect that, when finished, the trilogy will eventually come to be considered one of the cinema's most important works.
Among the baker's dozen of other films I was able to get an advance look at from this year's Cine-World, other stand-outs include a pair from a couple of familiar faces: Gus Van Sant's Last Days (a thinly veiled account of Kurt Cobain's endgame, in the meditative style of Elephant), and Lonesome Jim, a low-key but appealingly assured offering from actor-turned-director Steve Buscemi.
As far as the global fare from which Cine-World derives its name, one of this year's most moving films is the Spanish Take My Eyes, in which the dynamics of an abusive relationship are examined to shattering effect. For a wilder time at the movies, you might want to check out Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, a gloriously stylized South Korean revenge flick that combines lovely cinematic poetry with some on-screen brutality so intense it might make Tarantino pee in his pants.
Not everything at this year's festival is recommended, of course, although the only film I previewed that had me climbing the wall was Cote d'Azur, a sunny Euro-trifle that some misguided souls are bound to consider charming. Coy, self-satisfied and often just plain stupid in its depiction of polymorphous partner swapping in a quaint French village, Cote D'Azur is just another boring sex farce with delusions of grandeur. You can do a lot better at this festival.
Among the more interesting aspects of Cine-World are its revivals and tributes, and this year's fest is highlighted by two very special presentations: the exquisitely beautiful Heaven's Gate, and Abel Gance's magnificent 1927 opus Napoleon. Another welcome return is Volker Schlondorff's masterful The Tin Drum, which plays as part of a tribute to the acclaimed German filmmaker (a tribute that also includes a pair of the director's less successful recent films, The Ogre and Ninth Day).
There's a lot more, too, including several films that we didn't get a chance to see but have heard nothing but good things about — C.R.A.Z.Y., Tristram Shandy and The Squid and the Whale — so get out there and get 'em while they're hot.