Friday, April 27, 2012

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 9

Friday (and the big second weekend) started off with a couple of shorts programs. First up, Acting the Part, a selection of shorts showcasing the nature of who we pretend to be and who we really are. Here's the rundown:
AARON BURR, PART 2: Historical revision gets a new take, with Aaron Burr as a hero, and the founding father using cell phones. A fascinating and funny take on how history makes losers out of winners.
BEAR: A birthday surprise goes badly wrong. The ending was exactly what I was hoping for. Wonderfully sick humor.
HELLION: These kids totally live up to the title, torturing the baby-sitter and their little brother. But then they have to deal with their stern father.
THE LOVE COMPETITION: In Stanford, a group of volunteers agree to undergo an fMRI while thinking about love and see who can make their MRI light up with the most love. It's an interesting way to examine the myriad of ways of thinking about love, and the participants all come out transformed (whether the MRI has anything to do about it or it's all from focusing on love is at this point a matter of opinion.) I'd feel much better about the results if I believed that fMRI was more than just a few steps above phrenology.
MOBIUS: A hotel clerk has a unique hobby revolving around learning what he can from all the guests. You can learn a lot from how someone says hello.
MUSIC FOR ONE X-MAS AND SIX DRUMMERS: From the makers of SOUND OF NOISE, we get their percussive take on Christmas caroling in a rest home.
NOTHING: A visual story with minimal dialogue about a maid, the repetitiveness of life, and an attempt to break free.
RANDOM STRANGERS: Insomnia leads to meeting strangers online leads to an international romance. Very sweet, while also a statement on how online life can become more real than your regular life.

Acting the Part plays again April 30 at 3:15 at the Film Society Cinema (formerly VIZ, in the New People Center)

Then I caught the animation program Shanimation, yay cartoons!:
BELLY: A little elephant-faced boy goes to the beach with his older horse-faced brother, has to save him, and has to leave behind his best friend.
DUST AND GLITTER: A bit of a love letter to San Francisco and the homeless, from Slovakian animator Michaela Copikova who lived here for a year on a Fullbright Scholarship.
LACK OF EVIDENCE: A letter requesting political asylum in France, from a twin who survived an attempt at a ritual killing at the hands of his father. Very moving.
LA LUNA: Pixar's latest, an apprentice moon janitor figures out his own way of doing things.
M. WARD: THE FIRST TIME I RAN AWAY: A music video about running away and finding something (or someone) to run to.
OEDIPUS: Paul Driessen is up to his insane best, with a story of a man who kills his girlfriend's husband, but is then shocked when she freaks out just because he takes his head off to go to sleep. Why would she do that? It features a support group of characters from Driessen's previous films.
PLUME: A beautiful image of a winged man and his adventure losing his wings but finding a new self.
663114: The life cycle of a Japanese 66-year cicada, and a glimpse of 66 years in the future.
20HZ: A fascinating and beautiful experiment in the visual display of information. A geomagnetic storm seen and heard at 20 Hz.

Shanimation plays again April 28 (today!) at 12:15 at the Film Society Cinema

Next up was the feature THE LONELIEST PLANET, a story about relationships and split-second shocking change. Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal and Hani Furstenberg are Alex and Nica, an engaged couple trekking through the Caucasus mountains in Georgia with their guide Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze, who really is a guide in real life.) We get to enjoy the scenery, their leisurely pace, their sweet, romantic back-and-forth, their discussions with Dato. And then (and I have to be careful about spoilers here) there is a brief, shocking run-in. A split second of comic relief, and then shock, anger, and shame that changes and tests their relationship. I loved how realistic their reactions were, and how so much can be said with very few words (in fact, often not saying anything is a powerful statement.) I talked to some people in the festival who found it dull or slow, but I was constantly fascinated by it.

And finally, I ended the day with OSLO, AUGUST 31. Early in the film, Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) weights his jacket down with stones and jumps into the water, hoping to drown himself. As it is, he just loses his jacket, but this half-comic suicide attempt will hang tensely over the entire movie. Anders is a recovering drug addict. He's been doing well in rehab, hasn't even had a beer in 10 months. And he's a smart guy, from an intellectual family and was doing well until he fucked up. He now has a one day leave from rehab, and he returns to Oslo to catch up with old friends. He's depressed about being a 30-something failure and jealous of his friends' seemingly more accomplished lives. He also feels guilt that his parents are selling their house (they claim they want a smaller place in retirement, he knows they went into debt putting him through rehab.) And, of course, he talks way too much about suicide (and how if he makes it look like and overdose no one will really be surprised or care that much.) It's an interesting and tense character study, and as a day with glimpses of hope (a job interview seemingly goes well, but he walks out after the interview gets too tense) becomes a night where everyone else is partying and it appears the temptation and despair might just be too much.

Total Running Time: 387 minutes
My Total Minutes: 280,851

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