Monday, April 26, 2010

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 3

First weekend, now the festival gets rolling in earnest, with me seeing 6 films on Saturday. Let's jump right in:

First up, a youth shorts program Talkin' 'bout My Generation. An interesting mix of serious drama and wacky comedy.
ESCARGOTS: A funny retelling of the story of two rival chefs and the invention of serving snail meat.
THE STAND: Some people are made to be businesswomen, some are just looking to have fun, and some are all about love and hydration.
BLINK ANOTHER DAY (PART 1): It's Bond...James Bond...with Legos.
WHAT IS GREEN?: A documentary/political advertisement on the green (and green jobs) movement in Oakland.
WHERE I COME FROM: Chicago is a really tough place for black kids to grow up. But in the film-poem, where the narrator comes from is not where she's going.
ALISHA: An overweight black girl finally rises up against her abusive father.
PORTRAIT: A San Francisco teen who is just a little different. Ashamed and uncomfortable at her posh private school, she crosses streets just as the light changes on the off chance a drunk hipster will run her over--ending both lives.
TINY PILLOWS: A snow poem. I like snow.
SPARKS IN THE NIGHT: A noir parody, detective Leon Sparks takes on the criminal gang of Jay Walker, the Speeder Brothers, and more.
BLINK ANOTHER DAY (PART 2): More Bond, more Legos, and a crazy genius who wants to blow up the world. See the rest by going to Youtube and looking for Blink Another Day.
MOON-SHOES: A loser finds some ridiculous yellow tennies in the trash that make all his dreams come true.
THE TAKER: He stops time...he takes stuff.
EVENING OF PASSION (UNE SOIREE DE PASSION): A French meal (and game of Jenga) is ruined by a roach, but saved by the handsome exterminator.

Then I had literally no time to run to MY DOG TULIP (so sorry to the filmmakers that I skipped out on the Q&A). Luckily, it was right in the screen next door (screen 3 to screen 4), so I didn't miss anything but I did have to sit in the front row way off center. Anyway, it's an adorable film based on the memoirs by J.R. Ackerly. It's the story of an old man (and BBC correspondent) and his late-in-life discovery of his soul-mate. The film opens with him leaving his job interviewing such luminaries as Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, and George Bernard Shaw and rushing home because he'd rather be with his dog. He never owned a dog until he was fifty, and then only adopted Tulip (who in real life was Queenie, but he changed the name for his novel) on a whim. It turned out to be a life-changing whim for both of them, as he rescued the 18 month old "Alsatian bitch" from an abusive home and made her princess of his flat. The film takes us through their life together with Ackerly's dry wit, describing embarrassments (usually involving bowel movements), a battle with his sister over dominance, the search for a good vet, and attempts to mate Tulip. So many attempts to mate...(apparently at least three mating attempts were cut from the film). Oh yeah, and I haven't said a word about the style of the film. It's entirely hand-animated by Paul Fierlinger, who drew every frame and a computer tablet. The style is always rough, yet expressive, ranging from bare scratches of sketches on notepaper (odd, since this was a paperless film) to detailed full color scenes. The animation style perfectly complements Ackerly's dry wit, and the end result appeals (I've been told) to more than just dog people (I wouldn't know, I love dogs although I don't currently own one).

Next up, after a bit of a break, was a Thai horror/love/nature film NYMPH. The cinematography is beautiful, especially when the camera is wafting through the jungle, evoking beauty and horror (there's something special going on when a tree is a monster just from how you photograph it). Oh yeah, and the opening shot (a chase, assault, and deadly aftermath in the forest, in one ethereal shot) is amazing! The plot is a bit slow, and I found myself nodding off a few times (I'm already in mid-festival form!) Nop and May have been married for a while, and their love life has gone cold. Nop buries himself in photography, May likewise buries herself in her work--or rather, her boss Korn--or rather, she let's her boss bury himself in her. Nop and May head out to the forest for a getaway, but Nop disappears. May blames a giant mysterious tree, which might not be far from the truth. But the local authorities, who are up to their necks in missing persons, aren't much help. So May goes home alone and terrified, until Nop surprisingly shows up none the worse for wear a few days later. However, he's changed--he drinks lots of water, is more interested in gardening than photography, and is all in all different. Oh, and Korn doesn't make the reunion any easier, leaving his wife for May. So it's back to the forest for everyone and for May to confront that tree. Beautiful, slow, and probably worth a second look when I'm better rested.

Next up was my first documentary feature of the festival, TRANSCENDING LYNCH. David Lynch is, of course, a brilliant filmmaker, but he's also a longtime proponent of transcendental meditation. This film follows him on a tour through Brazil talking to fans about his films (with which he's pretty taciturn) and TM (with which he's pretty verbose). It's lucky that Lynch is pretty transcendent on his own, because you won't learn much about TM from this film. Instead, you'll get a look at perhaps the happiest director of "dark" films ever. He eschews the religious aspect of TM in favor of a more practical "mental relaxation technique" take on it that leaves you with the idea that you don't have to give up the rest of your life and beliefs to practice TM, it just makes the rest of your life so much better. He also liberally sprinkles in some armchair theoretical physics, equating TM with the Unified Field Theory, which totally appeals to me as a physicist. Although the end result is much more about the man than about TM (nary a meditation scene in the whole film), he's still a man I enjoyed spending an hour and a half with. Oh yeah, and director Marcos Andrade is clearly a Lynch fan and sprinkled the movie with amusing cinematic references to Lynch's work and techniques--most obviously the backwards scene through the airport.

So then, after another break and a couple of beers, I was back for the experimental/weird-ass shorts program PIRATE UTOPIAS.

ONE AND ONE IS LIFE: Mirrors, Wonder Woman, and stop motion animation, Oh My!
RELEASE: The release of Al Capone, over and over again in an expanding, reflected stock footage shot.
FIDDLESTIX: Crazy magic monkey made me grow my eyelashes long and eat my grandma's ashes. Damn you, Fiddlestixx!
EMBRACE OF THE IRRATIONAL: A documentary expounds on the virtues of embracing nature over the attempts by humans to impose order. If only they can get their technical issues worked out. Hilarious.
SPIN: Spin, toy soldiers, spin...and dance, and create amusing kaleidoscopic patterns.
M: Bits of modern detritus--cell phones, etc.--fly about.
ZEF SIDE: A weird little band, and their weird, sexy video.
BLINK: A girl disguised as a boy, the object of her/his affection, drugs, video games, and a cardboard cutout of her dad, who's off fighting a war.
THE LITTLE WHITE CLOUD THAT CRIED!: Guy Maddin takes a weird, kinky, sexually explicit romp through transsexuals, stigmata, head-based radio towers, etc. Ahhh, stigmata and tits! Gotta love it.

And finally, the night ended with the local sickos The Butcher Brothers (THE HAMILTONS, 2006 Cinequest and Holehead) newest flick, THE VIOLENT KIND. Ex-con Cody and his biker crew were just about the toughest motherfuckers in Oakland, and they can still kick some serious ass--as evidenced by the opening scene. They head up to Cody's mom's cabin for a big biker party of drinking (PBR and Lagunitas IPA) and debauchery. Despite it being his mom's place, Cody's not quite welcome. Seems the deal gone bad that sent him to jail brought the heat down on a lot of them, and now they question both his loyalty and his toughness. And to make matters worse, long after the party has wound down, his ex-girlfriend Michelle returns covered in blood screaming for help. Oh yeah, and this is after all the cars and phones stopped working. And then the demonic greasers show up and it gets weird, hilarious, brutal, and might just end the whole fucking world. A bit of stylish hard-core ultra-violence that kept me cheering while I was scratching my head. Awesome.

Total Running Time: 518 minutes
My Total Minutes: 182,008
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