The International Film Guide - Ed. Ian Haydn Smith
The International Film Guide is an institution. An important annual detailing the events of world cinema, nation by nation, it is the place to go to find info about the state of the film industry everywhere, including Egypt, Cuba, Malaysia or any other number of countries whose films are given too little attention internationally. One might be surprised to find that twenty six features were released in Malaysia in 2009, and that it was a breakthrough year for Kazakhstan, where critic Gulnara Abikeyeva had no problem coming up with a top five.
Usually, though not always, the Guide also offers a section on directors of the year, filmmakers who whether younger or older, have arrived on the international scene. This year’s five are Park Chan-Wook, Kathryn Bigelow, Jacques Audiard, John Hillcoat and Claire Denis, all explored in half a dozen pages by an enthusiastic critic. A couple of years’ back the famous five were: Jia Zhangke, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Greengrass, Suzanne Bier and Fatih Akin. Some may find it surprising that relative newcomers like Atkin, Bier and Zhangke precede Denis and Bigelow, but it is nice to see that though the IFG may be an institution, that doesn’t mean it has to have a rhyme and a reason - though we may note that The Hurt Locker is surely Bigelow’s best film, while Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum shows that nobody has mastered the complicit look in film better than she has.
The guide is also important for its detailing of various film festivals around the world, whether leading festival or minor ones. (Edinburgh will be pleased to note that it remains of importance, and the guide lists the various awards offered in 2009.)
Sometimes we might wish for greater acumen from the critics, usually well-established professionals of the country they are writing about, or perhaps, and unfairly, no more than that they chime more with this writer’s taste… The Greek film Dogtooth is dismissed for its “naïve dialogue and deliberately slow tempo, not to mention the clumsy handling of different styles, [which] diminish the film’s impact.” Jacques Rivette is believed to be “a decidedly uneven director”, while Bright Star demonstrates “the essence of Campion’s genius for images charged with feeling and meaning”. Yet this is a quibble, as the I.F.G. is a great book to leaf through when trying to find out which films in any number of small festivals – from the Italian to the Central European, from the Middle Eastern to the Greek – look like worth catching.