Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 7

The midpoint of the festival. Two more movies last Wednesday night, and an on-stage event.

That on-stage event would be the Founder's Directing Award, given this year to Walter Salles (CENTRAL STATION, THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES). After a brief highlight reel and an introduction, he appeared on stage to be interviewed by none other than Alejandro González Iñárritu (AMORES PERROS, 21 GRAMS, BABEL). With two Latinos onstage, Iñárritu made a joke about how they needed extra security and how they'd put their guns away now. To be honest, that joke didn't go over too well in overly sensitive San Francisco. And when he prefaced his first question about how Salles home country of Brazil is isolated as the only Portuguese speaking country in the Americas, someone from the audience called out in protest. But I didn't care, I think Iñárritu and Salles were great together, and the conversation was deep, playful, and insightful, and in many places explored how Salles made "road" movies. As Salles explained, "cinema is the art of movement" and obviously his childhood travels (his father was a diplomat) greatly influenced him, although he always preferred the lively streets of Brazil to say, Paris.

All this talk of road movies led perfectly into the feature presentation, Salles' ~60-minute work-in-progress (and maybe never to be completed) documentary IN SEARCH OF ON THE ROAD. Jack Kerouac's famous beat novel (which I am currently reading in fits and starts) has been attempted by filmmakers before, notably last years directing award winner Francis Ford Coppola. Walter Salles is attempting it now, set to start filming this summer. Well, this quickly edited collection of interviews, news clips, auditions, and Salles' voice-over musings is a pleasant little meditation on what "On the Road" means to so many people and why it's been so impossible to film until now (hopefully his production isn't doomed, too). It's a remarkable one-off event I was lucky to experience.

Only problem is, the program ran long so I had to dash out just as the closing credits rolled so I could catch my next film, COLD WEATHER. Aaron Katz, you can tell everyone I walked out on seeing two giants of world cinema finish talking to each other and I don't regret it one bit.

I'd seen Katz's DANCE PARTY U.S.A at Indiefest a few years back (my review here) and at the time wrote about his part in a "new wave of American filmmaking." This was before the term "mumblecore" was coined, or at least before I heard of it. So since he was one of the mumblecore filmmakers, it seems obligatory to mention that. So...mumblecore mumblecore mumblecore.

Okay, I admit that after the movie I spoke excitedly with a few people about how he used mumblecore techniques--no-budget aesthetic, naturalistic dialogue, etc.--to make a decidedly quirky and very entertaining amateur detective flick. But then after thinking about it for a day, I realize that looking at COLD WEATHER through a mumblecore lens makes as much sense as looking at Lars Von Trier's ANTI-CHRIST through its relation to Dogme 95. It's not applicable, and who cares anyway?

So, with that as way too much of a lead-in, here's what COLD WEATHER is about: Doug is a loser who works in an ice factory. He dropped out of college where he studied forensic science because he's such a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. His ex-girlfriend (they're on good terms) comes to town, kinda hits it off with his friend from the ice factory (who DJs on the side). And then...disappears. And then the movie turns into a mystery. There's a secret code, a briefcase, bad guys, porn, a really cheesy cowboy hat--all the great things in crime stories. There's also Doug thinking that getting a pipe will make him think more like Sherlock Holmes, but only being able to afford a cheap corncob pipe (side note: if he was really such a Sherlock Holmes fan, he would've done a 9% solution of coke). And there's a sly sense of humor where neither the good guys nor the bad guys are all that impressive, and it completely defies and subverts genre cliches. And it had me chuckling the whole time. Very well done.

Total Running Time: 156 minutes
My Total Minutes: 183,023
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