Monday, March 27, 2017

Jason goes to CAAMFest--March 14

I missed about half the festival for Cinequest, so two weeks ago Tuesday I finally made it to CAAMFest for a couple of shows, starting with the documentary MY NEXT STEP. Kunqu opera is a 600 year old art form in China. In 2001, UNESCO designated it an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. And yet, it's not that popular with the younger generations in China. The documentary follows Yang Yang, a young performer of wusheng--the martial hero. It's not a popular role in Kunqu, where the most popular stories are of young students falling in love. Yang Yang likes his art form, but is ambivalent about its future, and his ability to make a stable, comfortable living doing it. The movie is a frank look at those who sacrifice for art, and maybe those who decide it's not worth it. About what it takes to keep an ancient art form alive, but also maybe what it looks like when it ends.

Then the next film was SINGING IN GRAVEYARDS. I have to admit I didn't know who Joey "Pepe" Smith is. And looking him up afterward made the movie much more interesting. The real Joey Smith stars as himself, the old godfather of "Pinoy Rock." He also plays Pepe, the world's best Joey Smith impersonator, who scrapes by with his act in a somewhat seedy bar, where he's not even the best performer of Joey Smith classics. But Pepe has his last chance at his rock fantasy when Joey chooses him as the opening act for his big reunion tour, even agrees to let Pepe write a new song for him. This is all fun and interesting, especially the self-deprecating good humor, but then it just starts dragging on and on forever. Then I saw Lav Diaz's name in the credits, and it all made sense. Diaz is a master of the "slow cinema" movement, and can somehow make 8 hour movies that are completely fascinating. Director Bradley Liew has obviously been influenced by him. But where Diaz can make a riveting 8 hour movie, Liew has made an interesting movie that drags on at 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Total Running Time: 207 minutes
My Total Minutes: 423,648

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