Match Point

06.30.09

Aki Kaurismäki, The Match Factory Girl, 1990, still from a color film in 35 mm, 70 minutes.


THE YEARS-LONG DENOUEMENT of May ’68 was at least as storied as the climax itself. As such, it’s hardly a surprise that, following the fortieth anniversary of “les évènements,” we now find commemorations of the events that trailed in their wake. As “69,” a series running through December at Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum, amply demonstrates, it was the year after the manifestos and scuffles in the streets that saw some of the most radical films.

It was off-screen, at the level of festival organization, that May ’68 had its most immediate impact on cinema. Following Godard’s cry of “A la Grande Salle!” filmmakers took over the Palais in Cannes and brought the festival to a halt. An indirect result was the foundation of the Film Directors’ Society and, the very next year, the inaugural edition of a new sidebar, the Directors’ Fortnight. In Berlin, the 1968 edition of the International Film Festival, which took place in June, was no less rowdy, but the Germans couldn’t get themselves organized to effect any definitive change. The Berlinale limped unsteadily from one edition to the next, and it wasn’t until 1970 that the International Forum of New Cinema, a “parallel event on equal footing” with the main competition, became a going concern.

But there was just enough to it in 1969 to warrant a celebration this year. From July 1–5, “Dialogues with Films: Four Decades of the Forum” will present a slew of screenings, panels, and exhibitions to Berliners, though the life of the party can be experienced, at least to a limited extent, vicariously. The Forum has invited a few filmmakers with whom it has had close ties over the years to each select a film from the archives that has influenced his or her own work; they’ll present their selections along with a few (or in some cases, many) words of introduction, some of which can be read online.

This invitation inspired some intriguing match-ups: Angela Schanelec on Godard’s Sauve qui peut (la vie) (Every Man for Himself, 1980), for example. Also Jasmila Žbanić on Aki Kaurismäki’s The Match Factory Girl (1990); Aditya Assarat on David Gordon Green’s George Washington (2000); Bradley Rust Gray and So Yong Kim on the first two films in Bill Douglas’s childhood trilogy; and Sabu on Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Dust in the Wind (1986).

For years, cinephiles have counted on the Forum to present a challenging and wide-ranging selection of films at the Berlinale. Revisiting some of the highlights of nearly forty years of programming through the eyes of filmmakers reveals not only the Forum’s breadth but also its depth.

“Dialogues with Films: Four Decades of the Forum” takes place at the Arsenal–Institute for Film and Video in Berlin July 1–5. For more details, click here.

David Hudson