A big six-movie day on Friday, so let's jump right in.
As always, I was there for one of the first two beers of the day (the other belonging to my friend Roy) in the lounge. But this time it wasn't so crazy to be there at 10 am. After all, my first film was at...noon.
And that first film was the Hungarian comedy, FOR SOME INEXPLICABLE REASON. Hapless Aron expects to just fall down dead at any random moment, be it in the park, in the middle of the street, or wherever. And that's the least of his problems. He's got no money, no job, and now no girlfriend. Not even the remnants of her hair in the sink--and she always left her hair in the sink, it was something they fought about. But she even took that when she left. But he does have some friends who will go out drinking with him all night, even if it means he wakes up with a plane ticket to Lisbon and no memory of the night. And he's got friends who will teach him how to pick up floozies in bars, even if he wusses out when she gets all naked on her bed waiting for him (what, like actually knowing her name is so important to you?) Star Áron Ferenczik does a great job of bringing that nerdy, neurotic innocence of an aimless 29 year old to the film, and his performance, whether at a loss for words or babbling non-stop keeps it grounded in an innocent charm that's perfect. And who knows, maybe he can find some meaning in his boring dishwashing job--maybe finding meaning in the strange patterns and pictures customers draw in their leftovers. Very funny.
FOR SOME INEXPLICABLE REASON plays again Mar 7 at 9:30 pm.
And then a very different film, in an example of the common film festival phenomenon I call "emotional whiplash." THREE WINDOWS AND A HANGING is a drama from Kosovo (their first Oscar submission as a country) and is a story of simple village life, recovering from the war, and opening old wounds with painful revelations. Lushe is a brave woman, a mother and schoolteacher who is waiting for her husband to return (he was dragged away by enemy soldiers long ago.) She also knows something that the rest of the village would prefer remain secret. So when she talks to a reporter, and claims that she and three other women were raped by enemy soldiers while the men of the village were powerless to stop it, that causes extreme tension in the village. It's shameful, too shameful for the village to bear, and so they compound her trauma by initiating a hate campaign against her, taking their children out of school and making it very clear they won't come back until there's a new teacher. Irena Cahani is excellent playing Lushe with strength and vulnerability, and her revelations have reverberations throughout the village that break their traditional ways of life. Lest you think this is only a sad, bleak drama (which it is in many parts) there is also a great deal of humor, starting in the opening scene of three old men arguing about a story one is telling under the biggest shade tree in the village (wait, is it traditional to knock three times and call the name of the head of a household before you come in, or do you call his name three times?) And it's that juxtaposition of the smallness of village traditions and the enormity of her revelations that drives the film. The men are simply much better at dealing with the small, unimportant things, it takes a woman to tackle the big issues.
THREE WINDOWS AND A HANGING plays again Mar 2 at 4:45 and Mar 7 at 4:15
Next up was a long-ish short and a short-ish feature, starting with THE BREATHARIANS. Auggie is a 12 year old boy living on a farm with his dad. And his mom lives in the old farmhouse just across the pasture. His parents are estranged, and they kind of take it out on him. His father by giving him jobs that he knows will piss of his mother (like killing all the cats in the barn, and nailing their tails to a board as trophies.) And his mom...well, maybe she's just going crazy but she's had a breakthrough and realized that she doesn't need to actually chew and swallow food, she "eats" by breathing the air. A very strange film, anchored by a solid performance by young Sawyer Nunes. Also, it fits into an unofficial festival theme I've noticed this year--killing of animals.
And then the feature documentary, SWEDEN'S COOLEST NATIONAL TEAM. That team competes in...memory sports. Memorizing the order of a deck of cards in 2 minutes...or thousands of binary digits in an hour, or spoken numbers, or whatever. As a relatively new sport, it has a niche but growing following, and three time Swedish champion Mattias Ribbing has some competition in the up-and-comers Jonas von Essen and Marwin Wallonius. The trio might also has what it takes to raise Sweden from interesting also-rans in the world championship to a competitor for the gold medal (against powerhouse Germany.) A very funny documentary, but one where the humor never comes at the expense of the eccentric competition or the brain-athletes. In fact, my favorite part is when they explain how memorization is all about making a story out of the things you need to memorize (like a 6 of hearts is a fish...because...okay, I don't get why.) And most of the stories--just because it's the easiest thing to remember--are about sex and violence. But they will never reveal any of those stories because this is such a charmingly chaste movie. And so the comedy really only exists in my mind, as I watch these eccentric mental athletes memorize stuff, but I know they're really thinking the most violent, X-rated thoughts. That's pretty awesome.
THE BREATHARIANS and SWEDEN'S COOLEST NATIONAL TEAM plays again Mar 1 at 1:45 pm
Then a sci-fi post-apocalyptic coming of age story, ASTRAEA. The title character is a teenage girl, walking the empty, frozen wasteland with her brother Matthew. Heading to Nova Scotia to visit her other brother and her grandmother, who survived the "drops" (the cause of the apocalypse is kept a secret for a while, but eventually it's revealed that there was a plague that incubated and spread for months without symptoms, and then the infected just dropped dead--heart stopped--with no warning (come to think of it, like the comic opening montage of FOR SOME INEXPLICABLE REASON.) On the way, they meet another pair of survivors, James and Callie. Things start of tense, with mistrust and guns pointing at each other. But eventually they settle down, start talking, share a meal, and decide that Matthew and Astraea can stay for a day or two. See, James and Callie have set up a house with propane, septic tank, etc. They can live here alone indefinitely. However, they're not a couple--their cousins (this becomes important later, as is the fact that James is wrong in his paranoid speculation that Matthew is an escaped convict and Astraea is his sex slave...just saying.) Well, a day or two becomes weeks...months...maybe they'll head up to Novia Scotia in the spring. Adding a sci-fi element, Astraea might be a bit of clairvoyant, and she knows her grandmother is still alive. So there's a tension between moving on and finding the last survivors of their family and staying and forming a new family with people they know are alive. A great little movie, that does a lot with a white wintery landscape and just four people.
ASTRAEA plays again Mar 1 at 11:30 and Mar 3 at 2:00
Then another short and feature, starting with ADEN, a short that hopefully will become a feature sometime soon. A bounty hunter tries to keep the city safe from a mechanical monster only he can see. A monster created by the imagination of a little boy. Very cool, with some impressive special effects.
And then the feature, THE CENTER. (#ItsNotACult) Ryan has a boring job for a coupon company (but it's much more than coupons!) and troubles with his mom and sister. He's an aspiring writer, working on his novel, but his day job and family obligations keep him from accepting an exciting opportunity at a university. Aimless and seeing a late-night interview with the charismatic self-help guru Vincent, Ryan goes on a retreat with The Center and finds a community that might just be what he's looking for. But then it becomes a lot more. After a period as a rising start, he finds the Center is taking over more and more of his life, he can't even talk to his sister without his superiors observing, and he witnesses how they treat a guy who left the group years ago. Best line of the movie--"It's funny what happens when you believe too much. You end up doing a lot of things you don't believe in." That pretty much says it all. A great, well-acted, and scarily believable story. And fits into another unofficial festival theme I've noticed this year--smoking, and particularly difficulty in getting cigarette lighters to work.
I have to briefly relate my own experience with a group-that-shall-not-be-named (let's just say they're not scientist, and they're not...ologists) trying to recruit me. After an evaluation, they told me that I clearly am too easily influenced by wanting to please others, and they would be very, very sad if I didn't let them help me. I did not join.
ADEN and THE CENTER plays again Mar 1 at 1:30 and Mar 3 at 4:30
And finally, we ended the night with a recently unearthed Canucksploitation diamond-in-the-rough, BAD CITY. A hilarious 70's flick, the evil Dominic Kincaid has murdered the mayor, made it look like a guilt-and-corruption inspired suicide, and seized control of the city. He's also the man behind a new drug that is killing kids, under the cover of his books program, Kincaid's Kid Aids--we give kids...Aids. So it's up to by-the-book cop and ladies man Franky New Guinea to stop this jive turkey with his new partner--plays-by-no-rules super-badass Detective Reverend Grizzly Nightbear. Super groovy. This film was never quite finished, and never released anywhere but Copenhagen, Denmark before it was rediscovered and finally given it's rightful place in the pantheon on Canucksploitation.
Detective Reverend Grizzly Nightbear was there for the Q&A, and I have to say his health plan is phenomenal, he looks like he hasn't aged a day in 40 years!
BAD CITY plays again Mar 1 at 9:30 and Mar 3 at 3:30
Then I took a few friend back to my luxury suite at the Fairmont for some after hours drinking with filmmakers (mostly the gang from THE CENTER) until about 3 am, when everyone was just too exhausted to go on. Besides, I gotta be back to the lounge and drinking by 10.
Total Running Time: 540 minutes
My Total Minutes; 386,178