Friday, March 5, 2010

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 9

Wednesday...I should say something clever about Wednesday...but I won't. Just tell you about three more movies I saw.

First up, PARABLE. Nebraska, in George Bush's America. Part 1: Road trip, blind date, butt rape, gunshot. Part 2: Red man enslaves Blue woman. Lots of knot tying (reminds me of Boy Scouts). Cowboy rapist (in white) reappears, rapes blue woman. Everyone teams up to kill the cowboy. Leaves him face down in a barn stall, I hope choking on cow shit. It's a metaphor.

I'm not sure I loved this or hated it. Or if I was confused or if was really simple. I do know it hasn't left me the way most movies do. It was a lot of symbols, metaphors, a parable (although I'd point out that most parables are meant to enlighten and clarify, not confound and confuse. If you "read whatever you want" into it, it's not a very good parable). Oh yeah, and it's about George Bush. And I can't form another coherent thought about it.

Next up was what I believe might be a breakthrough film for Cinequest veteran and singular visionary Alejandro Adams (AROUND THE BAY, CANARY), BABNIK. In his previous film, CANARY, Adams started with 10 minutes of banal Russian dialogue with no subtitles. This time he's still directing in Russian (which he does not speak) but at least he's putting in subtitles (when they're important). Misha and Sasha run a modeling company, where they provide beautiful girls with fancy clothes and discounts on vitamin supplements (which they're obliged to take). And they shepherd them into a life of sexual slavery (not shown). Meanwhile immigrant Artem is fired from his job at a telemarketing company. He tried to impress his bosses by coming in on the weekends, instead that just creeped them out. So he goes to work as an enforcer for Misha and Sasha. Meanwhile a destitute girl is dragged into the whole "modeling" world. The FBI (or an elaborate hoax) gets involved at the end. And while I left some things out to avoid spoilers, this is a story with a beginning, middle, and end. And if you've seen Adams' work before, that should shock you. And this is why I predict BABNIK might be his breakthrough. Mainstream audiences might still be confused and lost in his world--in CANARY he made a horror film with no blood, now he's made a sexploitation film with no sex. Power is shown in little ways (the repeated "you need to take vitamin supplements...we'll get them for you at a discount" conversation is one of the least subtle power plays there). His camera still comes from strange angles, peeking over shoulders or around walls and focusing on unconventional places. And there's a peculiar style to his performers that loses and disorients me. One of my favorite scene was dominated by a laughing prostitute. I have no idea why she was laughing (maybe she was high?), but I believed it and can't forget it. Oh yeah, and at the Q&A, we learned the title BABNIK means "womanizer" in Russian slang (think beat:beatnik::babe:babnik). I was glad to learn that (and apparently if I read the guide I would've known it already), but after the fact it turns out the title is the least interesting part of the movie.

And then I ended the night with LOVE LIFE OF A GENTLE COWARD. A Croatian film about food, love, writing, courage, and politics. Saša is an aspiring writer, but in the meantime makes a living as a food critic for the local (Zagreb) newspaper. And he's a coward. Rather than saying food is good or bad he writes essays on the nature of eggplant. He sees his son rarely, and is intimidated by his ex-wife and her new lover. And to make everything worse, his back is freaking killing him. So he goes to the local sports center and gets a massage. The masseuse is the lovely and strong-willed Ines. They hit it off, and start to date (although that's forbidden by sports center rules). And some of her courage rubs off on him. He writes a scathing review of a local restaurant. Too bad it was politically connected and now he's got thugs out to teach him a lesson. But he survives, more wacky hijinx ensue, and as is explained in the opening and closing frames, if you survive the Zagreb fall and winter, by spring you will know who you are and will be ready for some cheer.

Now I really want to go back and watch TRESETA, director Pavo Marinković's Cinequest film from 2006.

And that was Wednesday at Cinequest.

Total Running Time: 243 minutes
My Total Minutes: 175,455
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