WAKING UP IN TEHRAN Circumstance.
Boasting a high-profile selection of archival prints and to-be-buzzed-about small films, the 14th Maine International Film Festival — which begins on Friday and runs through July 24 at locations in Waterville, primarily HQ Railroad Square Cinema — offers enough auteurist must-sees to keep a true cinephile happy while their mother delights in MIFF's array of crowd-pleasing documentaries and foreign flicks. Herein, a guide to the festivities.
One could happily spend the week revisiting MIFF's slate of classics, and one could spend the better part of a day with Rainer Werner Fassbinder's recently rediscovered sci-fi epic, World on a Wire, from 1973. Originally made for television, the 200+-minute work offers fodder for fans of many cinematic niches: '70s paranoia, virtual reality, film noir, and visionary German oddness.
If you prefer your classics a little more notorious, try these 35-mm prints on for size: Scorsese's Taxi Driver, Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (one of a number of films featuring Malcolm McDowell, this year's Mid-Life Achievement Award honoree), Ford's The Quiet Man, Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, and Bertolucci's The Conformist.
Two more recent oldies that ought not be missed are: Heading South, a 2005, Haiti-set drama starring Charlotte Rampling, directed by the great French director Laurent Cantet (Time Out, The Class); and Rachel Talalay's 1995 dystopian camp classic Tank Girl, with McDowell and Lori Petty, screening at the Skowhegan Drive-In July 21.
Since winning an Oscar for 2007's Taxi to the Dark Side, director Alex Gibney has been cranking out docs at a blistering pace (seven in the past two years). With Catching Hell, Gibney ribs an audience that could use some: hyperventilating sports fans. The film tells the story of Steve Bartman, a baseball fan whose life has been wrecked by his interference with a fly ball in the 2003 World Series.
Among the more artful docs at MIFF are Bull's Eye, A Painter on the Watch, about the Canadian painter Marc Seguin's experiments in nature and the studio; and Darwin, Nick Brandestini's film about the (35) residents of a modest modern Deadwood in Death Valley, California.
Those looking to get riled up by politics will do well to check out Windfall, about wind power debates in New York, or The Greater Good, a hot-button doc about vaccinations. Meanwhile, Andy Abrahams Wilson (Under Our Skin), returns to MIFF with The Grove, about the National AIDS Memorial in San Francisco.
• FOREIGN FILMS
The longest film in Waterville this week might also be one of its best. Really! Running over 270 minutes, Raoul Ruiz's Mysteries of Lisbon (also made for TV) is a sprawling, high-energy adaptation of a sprawling 19th-century Portuguese novel. (Ruiz seems to revel in this challenge; he last tackled Proust's Time Regained to great acclaim.)
Opening MIFF is The Athlete, a globe-spanning, multi-format epic about the Olympic champion marathoner Abebe Bikila's life, both on the road and at home. Those of us who would watch Kristin Scott Thomas in anything have a couple of opportunities: in Alain Corneau's Love Crime, she engages in corporate warfare with the knockout Ludivine Sagnier; Gilles Paquet-Brenner's Sarah's Key finds her uncovering French misdeeds against Jews in the 1940s.