2000 Seen by – (Part Two)
NR, 121 min. Directed by Various.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 6, 1999
Omnibus films, in which various directors contribute short pieces on related subject matter, are often a precarious thing, seeming better in theory than in actualization. 2000 Seen By … is the exception that proves the general rule, a group of seven short films by international (mostly white, male, European) filmmakers who were each given funding to make hourish-long movies about the millennium for European television. The films are being presented in Austin over the course of two weeks in four separate programs of double bills (except for Program 3, which presents one film that is closer to feature-length in running time). As a collection, the series presents a whirlwind introduction to seven distinctive filmmakers, who amazingly present a variety of angles on the upcoming century shift. Part 1 contains American Hal Hartley's The Book of Life and Frenchman Laurent Cantet's The Sanguinaires, Hartley's film is shot on digital video and blown up to 35mm. It begins on the morning of December 31, 1999, as a dapper Jesus (Hartley regular Martin Donovan) arrives at JFK airport with his comely assistant Magdalene (P.J. Harvey). While they check into a Manhattan hotel and prepare for the Apocalypse, Satan (Thomas Jay Ryan) heads off to a bar to lure new followers with the promise of winning lottery tickets. Also in Part 1 is The Sanguinaires, a story about cultured Parisians who slip away to a deserted island to escape all the millennial hoopla. One of the things they learn is that no matter where you go, you always take yourself with you. Making up Part 2 is Life on Earth by Abderrahmane Sissako of Mali and Tamás and Juli by Ildiko Enyedi (My Twentieth Century) of Hungary. Life on Earth is one of the real treasures of this series. It is a profoundly simple story in which the filmmaker is also the narrator. Sissako comes from where he has been living and working in France to visit his father in a small, remote village in Mali. The arrival of the 21st century is hardly noticed by these people, who are still struggling so hard to merely enter the 20th century. Poetically articulate, the film depicts the difficulty of making a telephone call, the parched land, and the primitive radio station. The barren legacy of colonialism will pursue these characters into the next century. Tamásand Juli is the only film in 2000 Seen By - made by a female director. It is a fateful love story about a boy and girl whose fitful stops and starts over the last several months culminate in a New Year's Eve get-together. The story's inherent romanticism is undercut with some strong, disturbing images. Parts 1 and 2 of this series will play for one week, August 6-12. Parts 3 and 4 (The Hole by Tsai Ming Liang of Taiwan, The First Night of My Life by Miguel Albaladejo of Spain, and The Wall by Alain Berliner of Belgium) will screen August 13-19 and will be reviewed next week. ¶The Book of Life (Hal Hartley): not reviewed at press time ¶The Sanguinaires (Laurent Cantet): 2.0 ¶Life on Earth (Abderrahmane Sissako): 4.0 ¶Tamás and Juli (Ildiko Enyedi): 2.5