Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 7

Way behind in my reviews. Here's looking way back to Monday:

First up, THE FERRARI DINO GIRL, by Czech New Wave master Jan Nĕmec. In 1968 Soviet tanks invaded Prague. Nĕmec was there, grabbed his camera, and made ORATORIO FOR PRAGUE, which became a huge hit and arguably his most important footage every. 40 years later, he revisits the adventure behind that footage, and frames it around his attempt to get into the pants of a beautiful female travelling companion. The Ferrari Dino is a model of car that Enzo Ferrari made to mourn the death of his son. It's a very rare, very valuable model. And Nĕmec's travelling companion is that kind of girl. Too bad she's travelling with her boyfriend/fiance (or at least they pretend to be engaged because he's Italian and Italians can get out of the country easily). Ultimately they get to New York, where his his movie is the toast of the town, but he still never quite gets the girl. A beautifully composed movie, somehow charming in it's self-centeredness. There's something we can all recognize, that even in the midst of world-changing events, chasing girls and reveling in your fame are more immediately compelling.

The next show started with the short AMOKLOVE. A recounting of a brief affair that didn't really work out.

And that was the lead-in to COOKING HISTORY, a rather astonishingly playful documentary. In war many people die. Other people cook. And animals die so that cooks can feed the people who will die (or kill). Beautifully shot and choreographed with a sly sense of macabre humor, this is an amazing movie that is often painful to watch (because of the animal slaughter scenes, and I won't say much more about that). Covering 6 wars (WW II, Algeria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Balkans, and Chechnya), the film features cooks telling their stories, sharing their recipes (punctuating each segment and always ending with a "pinch of salt"). My personal favorites: the Jewish baker who served arsenic bread to Nazis, and the Serbian and Croatian cooks who insist on the purity of their cuisine (it's the same damn food, idiots!) Brilliant film, difficult to watch.

And continuing the theme of brilliant but difficult to watch, we traveled into the foothills of the West Virginia (Appalachia) for BLUE RIDGE. J.T. (well portrayed by Eric Sweeney) has some issues. He barely holds it together as the jack-of-all-trades handyman for the rural trailer park where he lives. His neighbor is an unpleasant, fat woman always harping on him to fix her satellite TV. His landlord is a creepy weirdo who tries to pick up girls by impersonating a police officer (and that's just the tip of his creepiness). Just about the only thing he's got going for him is Sara. A beautiful young lady who takes care of her old father (or grandfather, there seemed to be some inconsistency there and I'm not sure it wasn't intentional). Their brilliant plan to escape is to save up enough money to move away and buy a beach-side amusement park. But even his relationship with Sara--which should be a good thing--just adds to the pressure and you can see the cracks in his stoic facade. There is some weird foreshadowing, like J.T. shooting at roadkill or aiming his rifle at his neighbor (and her constantly yapping dog).

I thought it was a compelling story, very character-driven around J.T. A lot of the characters were very "out there" and I cringed sometimes thinking this is bad hillbilly stereotyping. But it's not like the characters were played for laughs, and I know director Vince Sweeney grew up in the area. So I'm really curious to hear opinions from southerners and especially people from that exact area (the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, which I forgot to mention are absolutely beautiful in some of the opening establishing shots) as to how fair those character depictions really are.

And that was Monday at Cinequest

Total Runing Time: 264 minutes
My Total Minutes: 174,890
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