So James Bond converses with rodents while drunk. After such earth-shattering discovery, how can November get any better? Apparently it can, for the 23rd edition of Camerimage is finally upon us – and what better way to kick it off than to watch Tom Hanks defend a captured Commie spy and Eddie Redmayne learning how to apply lipstick? Which, as everyone knows, is JUST AS HARD.
“The whole world is changing, Europe is changing, but there are still places that don’t change at all. Just like Camerimage” – said Grażyna Torbicka, the host of the opening gala. Nice statement, but not an accurate one: the festival keeps expanding and expanding like the universe in that Monty Python song and just added a new competitive section dedicated specifically to television pilots. However, some things do remain the same. Where else would you see world’s best cinematographers running around frantically asking bewildered passersby about pierogi? And for the last time – no, we don’t know where to find them.
While the occasion was joyous, the recent events in Paris were on everybody’s lips and in everybody’s mind – festival director Marek Żydowicz being no exception. While battling an injury of his own, he expressed solidarity with residents of Paris: “I would like to start this evening by honoring the victims of these terrorist attacks with a moment of silence. Today, I am a Parisian too”. Rafał Bruski, the president of Bydgoszcz, added: “It is very difficult to stand here on stage in the wake of what happened in Paris, but such is life and, come to think of it, such are films – they show the best and the worst facets of our lives. But they always have to show the truth.”
And yesterday, they did. Well, kind of. Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, this edition’s opening film, recounted the real-life story of James B. Donovan, an American lawyer who negotiated the exchange of the Soviet spy Rudolph Abel for Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot shot down over the USSR in 1960. Scripted by the Coen brothers and shot, no surprises there, by our very own Janusz Kamiński, it proved that you don’t need a Russian-accented Armie Hammer to make a respectable Cold War thriller. With Hanks going full-on Jimmy Stewart, one should expect to have their belief in humanity restored by the end credits. At least a little.
The Danish Girl, while also based on true events, was a different beast altogether; featuring Eddie Redmayne transitioning into Lili Elbe, the first person to undergo a successful gender reassignment surgery in the 1920s, it marked the third collaboration between director Tom Hooper and this year’s recipient of Camerimage Award to Production Designer with Unique Visual Sensitivity, Eve Stewart. Stewart was the evening’s second honoree after Marcel Łoziński, who was given an Award for Outstanding Achievements in Documentary Filmmaking. “I am not used to being in a room with so many cinematographers” – she joked bashfully. “These ladies and gentlemen help to bring my sets to life.” We believe in anything she says – this woman has worked with Mike Leigh and Kermit the Frog for God’s sake!
With 300 screenings, workshops and parties hosted by ARRI, Panasonic, Panavision and many other famous companies, one thing is sure – it will be one busy week. Although apparently some people find that… relaxing? “Last night I overheard a conversation between two festival guests. One of them must have been coming to Camerimage for years and he said something that truly moved me” – confessed Marek Żydowicz on a lighter note. “He said: I come here because every once in a while I need to recharge my batteries. I leave all my worries behind and after a week I feel as if I came back from a spa. I said to myself: Żydowicz – you are a director of a spiritual spa called Camerimage!” One would assume that after a week in a spa people should look, how to put it, a little bit less worn-out, but hey – who are we to judge? You only live once, although how come the ELO students manage to come back to Helsinki every year and leave no soldier behind is surely one of the world’s greatest mysteries.
With the opening gala and hectic backstage shenanigans already behind us, let’s think about what we should do next: something good, something bad? Bit of both? And yes, it is a quote from Guardians of the Galaxy – we are just that refined. As the U.S. Navy Band used to sing: “Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh!”