Monday, February 18, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 11

Four more movies to fill out the big second weekend at Indiefest, starting with documentaries.

First up was BOUND BY FLESH, the story of the Hilton Sisters--the famous conjoined twins who at one time were the biggest act on vaudeville. I would want to say "highest paid" which they technically were...but they really didn't get to keep any of that. Their managers (and there were a series of them) were highly paid, and to the extent necessary took care of them, but the sisters Daisy and Violet weren't really paid. The movie is a pretty comprehensive look at their life, starting the mother who gave them up (Mary Hilton, whom their mother worked for, legally adopted them and started exploiting them in the back room of her bar while they were still infants.) They were joined by just a small strip of flesh and shared no organs, so today it would be a pretty minor procedure to separate them. But at the time nothing like that had ever been done so they grew up into pretty girls and young ladies, still conjoined. In fact, their drawing power wasn't just that they were "siamese" twins but that they were pretty and could sing and play music (at least were minimally talented, they trained to be performers their whole lives.) They starred in Tod Browning's classic FREAKS, although they didn't much like the movie or promoting it (they were vaudeville stars by that time, a step up from the circus or carnival midway freaks.) Eventually (and I'm getting the timeline confused here) they won a court case to be emancipated from their manager/legal guardian Meyer Meyers (Mrs. Hilton's son-in-law.) And when they were finally free to pursue their own life/career--well, be careful what you wish for. They had been so sheltered they didn't know how to deal with a series of shady managers. One of the most poignant parts is the last few years of their lives. After being abandoned by yet another shady manager at a drive-in near Charlotte, NC, they were taken in by the community and worked their first regular job in the produce section of the local grocery store. For maybe the first time in their life they had real friends, and that's where they passed away and are buried today. A really good movie about an unusual and sad life.

Then the second documentary of the day was FACELESS, a story of illegal immigration and 9/11. It takes the 9/11 attacks as it's starting point, and then traces the life of one victim--an undocumented worker in Windows on the World. It explores the drug violence in Mexico that makes it unlivable for the residents there. Even people who previously scoffed at the idea of moving to the U.S. now find that the only option. It explores the "coyotes" who take them across, the people who patrol the border (both professionals and volunteers), and the human rights activist who leaves jugs of water for them in the desert (without taking a stand on the legality issue, he just says nobody should ever have to die of thirst in the desert.) It explores the myth of the American Dream through the lens of an immigrant, and how there aren't as many opportunities as you'd expect in the land of opportunity. And finally, we get back to the beginning at the WTC on 9/11 and explores the issues of the undocumented immigrants who died there. Fascinating...and sad.

Then I saw the closing night film--although the festival doesn't actually end until Thursday--ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY directed by Joe Swanberg and co-written and starring Jane Adams (both of whom are scheduled to be at the Thursday night screening to end the festival. And beyond that, the Roxie is doing a weekend Joe Swanberg movies.) Jane plays Marie, an actress who is worried that she's too old to be getting more and more roles. Although I can attest that the opening scene--in which she changes into a wetsuit--shows she is still quite attractive. Even better, Sophia Takal plays her 20-something niece Faye who comes to visit and is an actor herself. They talk about life, work etc. They compare figures (that scene is very poignant and cinematic as well as just two beautiful naked ladies talking.) Faye Skypes with her boyfriend back in New York (Lawrence Levine, Sophia's real-life husband.) She goes out with some friends in a night that becomes more of a home-movie footage sequence, and there seems to be a bit of a one-night love triangle, even though she's attached to Larry back in New York (confession, since I met Sophia and Lawrence at Cinequest a few years back, I can't imagine them being with anyone else, even if they do so in many movies.) Meanwhile Marie has a few gentleman suitors but is very self-conscious about her age. She also has one of the worst walks-of-shame ever (Never forget your car keys. You'll just have to go back.) All the while there's a metaphor on impermanence going on about how her Malibu home will someday be washed into the sea and a guy teaching her about solar energy (if I recall correctly, as research for a role) and a metaphor about sustainable energy/sustainable relationships/sustainable lifestyles. But really, metaphor isn't nearly as interesting as the excellent, natural, beautifully unguarded acting.

And then I ended the night (and the weekend) with FUNERAL KINGS a dark comedy about kids. I would want to say a "coming of age" comedy, but it's really more of a satire on coming of age. A gang of 14 year old altar boys routinely get out of school in order to serve at funerals. In the opening scene, none of them can stand up and deliver the book to the priest because they've been staring at the same hottie bending over in a low-cut top. Yup, the movie opens with an adolescent boner in church joke, and that sets the tone for the rest of the proceedings. When they elder statesman of the group entrusts one of them with a trunk before he's sent of to juvy, well the mystery is just too great. And when they eventually open the trunk, they find a treasure trove of porn, booze, cigarettes, and a gun that will bring their shenanigans to a whole new level. Irreverent and ridiculous fun that celebrates the lawlessness and pain of being a teenage boy and getting away with way more shit than you should.

And that's it for the second weekend (and thank god I get President's Day off.) Everything has now had it's debut in the festival. Now it's 4 days of repeat screenings, which will give me a chance to see everything (almost.)

Total Running Time: 345 minutes
My Total Minutes: 316,157
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