Three modern classics, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985), by Paul Schrader; Dao ma zei / The Horse Thief (1986), by Tian Zhuangzhuang, and Sátántangó (1994), by Béla Tarr, are the films featuring in this year’s Klasikoak section of the 2019 San Sebastian International Film Festival. Following last year’s screening of Ladri di biciclette / Bicycle Thieves (1948), the section increases from one to three films programmed for screening in their restored versions in the Tabakalera cinema.
The first screening of Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, winner of the best artistic contribution award at Cannes, will be on September 24 at 19:00. The film draws a portrait of the Japanese writer and playwright, Yukio Mishima (1925-1970), embodied by the actor Ken Ogata. Paul Schrader (Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, 1946) investigated the inner turmoil and contradictions of a man who attempted an impossible harmony between self, art and society. It was Schrader’s fifth film behind the camera, having previously developed an important career as the screenwriter of Yakuza (Sidney Pollack, 1974), Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) and Raging Bull(1980), among other films. As a director he has put his name to titles including American Gigolo (1980), Affliction (1997) and First Reformed (2017).
The 27 September, at 16:00, will see the first screening of The Horse Thief, narrating the eventful life of a Tibetan man as he struggles to maintain his family and who is banished from his tribe for having been caught stealing a horse. Tian Zhuangzhuang (Beijing, China, 1952), one of the most important Chinese filmmakers of his generation, is the author, among other features, of Hong xiang (The Red Elephant, 1982), Lan feng zheng (The Blue Kite, 1993) and Xiao cheng zhi chun (Springtime in a Small Town, 2002).
In Sátántangó, Béla Tarr (Pécs, Hungary, 1955) based himself on the book of the same name by László Krasznahorkai to follow the members of a small, defunct agricultural collective who receive an unexpected windfall and prepare to leave their village. Shot in black and white with a runtime of more than seven hours, the winner in 1994 of the Caligari Award in Berlin will be screened in full on September 28 at 16:00 with two 15-minute breaks. Other of Tarr’s works worthy of note are Kárhozat (Damnation, 1988), Werckmeister harmóniák (Werckmeister Harmonies, 2000) and A torinói ló (The Turin Horse, 2011), winner in Berlin of the Jury Grand Prix and the FIPRESCI Prize.
DAO MA ZEI / THE HORSE THIEF
TIAN ZHUANGZHUANG (CHINA) – 1986
In 1923, tribesman Norbu steals horses to support his family. After committing a robbery, he and his family are banished by their tribe and live in exile. Norbu prays devotedly but to no avail. Sudden deaths of his loved ones begin shaking his Buddhist faith, and he steals horses again. When caught as a thief and almost beaten to death, Norbu crawls up with the last ounce of his strength.
MISHIMA: A LIFE IN FOUR CHAPTERS
PAUL SCHRADER (USA) – 1985
Cast: Ken Ogata, Masayuki Shionoya, Hiroshi Mikami, Junya Fukuda Fukuda, Shigeto Tachihara
Portrait of the acclaimed Japanese author and playwright Yukio Mishima, which investigates the inner turmoil and contradictions of a man who attempted an impossible harmony between self, art, and society. Taking place on Mishima’s last day, when he famously committed public suicide by means of the hara-kiri rite, the film is punctuated by flashbacks to the writer’s life as well as by gloriously stylised evocations of his fictional works.
BÉLA TARR (HUNGARY – SWITZERLAND – GERMANY) – 1994
Cast: Mihály Víg , Putyi Horváth , László Lugossy , János Derzsi , Éva Almássy Albert
After the fall of Communism, in a post-apocalyptic landscape, the members of a small, defunct agricultural collective receive an unexpected windfall and prepare to leave their village. While a few of the villagers secretly conspire to take off with all of the earnings for themselves, a mysterious character, believed to be long dead, returns to the village, altering the course of everyone’s lives forever.