Friday, March 21, 2008

Jason goes to Asianfest--Day 5

First up on Monday was the quiet, poetic, lazy (in a good way) Japanese ode to simply country life and young love, "A Gentle Breeze in the Village". The story takes place in a country village that's so small the combined elementary/middle school has only six students. Soyo is the oldest, and she's the only one in eighth grade. That is, until Osawa transfers in from Tokyo. His charm and big city attitude stirs things up, especially in the hearts of the girls (and, of course, especially Soyo). This is a beautifully shot movie (nearly everything scene is like a painting), and by not being overly dramatic and loud it focuses instead on the little details--like which path to take to the beach, or why a kiss is different from a handshake--that makes everything so important. It takes its own sweet time (it clocks in at just over 2 hours) and tells its slow, tranquil story, and leaves you with more of a feeling than an idea of what you just saw. Very nice. I suspect if it were the only movie I watched for a few days, it would sink into my heart and mind and never leave. But alas, I'm at a festival, so I'm watching a ton of movies. I wish I had more time to just contemplate it.

Then it was time for one of the highlights of the festival, a sing-along to "Colma: The Musical" This movie premiered at the festival two years ago, and went on to great acclaim (including an Independent Spirit Award nomination). Here's what I wrote about "Colma: The Musical" when I saw it at the premiere two years ago:
Next up was a funny, cheesy, corny, but surprisingly thoughtful bit of local culture--"Colma: the Musical". For those who don't know, Colma is a town of about 1.5 million people, nestled snugly in less than 2 square miles between San Francisco and South San Francisco (and sharing a rather blurry boundary with Daly City). How do you fit 1.5 million people in less than 2 square miles? Well, it's remarkably easy when over 99.9% of them are dead. San Francisco has no room for cemeteries, so they put them all in Colma. Other than that, it's a pretty dull suburb, where people sing about how exciting it is that they finally have an In-N-Out and a Krispy Kreme. Anyway, the story circles around three recent high school graduates, Billy, an aspiring actor who never got over his old girlfriend; Rodel, his best friend and crazy gay guy; and Maribel, their cool friend who's more than a little worried that turning 19 might mean they've grown up. Anyway, the story progresses as a meandering line for them to hang musical numbers on, and for such a low budget the songs by H.P. Mendoza (who also plays Rodel) are surprisingly catchy (and the soundtrack is out now on their website, www.colmafilm.com . Anyway, things do happen, Billy gets a local acting job and a new girlfriend, but still can't stop thinking about his ex. Rodel's ex-boyfriend Kevin spills the beans to Rodel's dad, who beats him and kicks him out. And Maribel...stays (like Colma, as described in the opening number "Colma Stays"). Maribel is sort of the stable rock around which all the action swirls. Anyway, as I said in the beginning, it was funny, cheesy, and corny. And also thoughtful, but most of all funny. Especially for people who know a little about Colma. The filmmakers, of course, were there, and answered a few questions before heading off to a bar to party. But I had to catch the BART home (to Fremont, opposite direction of Colma), so I had to be content to just see a fun movie and then go home.
Yeah, I'll stand by what I wrote back then. But add that since then the movie also had a limited theatrical run and is now out on DVD. The sing-along cut was apparently slightly different, but I didn't really notice. It's still funny (perhaps even funnier in my mind than it was when I first saw it), and singing along was a blast (it helped I had a martini or two to loosen up). The only complaint is that the acoustics were pretty poor and the movie was loud enough that I couldn't really tell if many people were singing behind me. But I had a great time, and that's all that matters. Director Richard Wong and writer/star H.P. Mendoza were there, but I didn't get a good picture of them. I got a better picture at their other movie in the festival, "Option 3", so look for that a couple of posts from now.

And, again, I took the BART away from Colma, to Fremont, and to home.
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