Friday, March 10, 2017

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 10

Four more films on Thursday, my final day in Redwood City. I'll be in downtown SJ all weekend.

I started off by getting there early enough for a little libation and food courtesy of Margaritas. So I was nice and relaxed for my first film.

THE NURSE, from Turkey is the story of the unlikely relationship between a revolutionary on a hunger strike and his timid, overweight nurse. If they ever reveal the revolutionary's cause, I missed it, but he has been transferred from prison to a hospital because his determination in his hunger strike is strong enough that it will kill him. While the doctor pleads with him and threatens force feeding, she's just there to take his vitals. Timid and non-threatening, she's just doing her job, and he's...okay with that. They learn a bit more about each other's personal lives. She tries to get him to let his mother see him. He tries to get her to leave her abusive husband. It's a quiet story of two people connecting, and finding something simple and true inside the complicated world around them.

Then I had a good bit of time between films, and since I had already eaten, I wandered over to CRU Wine Bar for a few glasses of red wine and to check out the pleasant location where the official Cinequest meetup would be later that night.

Then I was back for the Norwegian film, PYROMANIAC. In the small village of Finsland, Norway, there's an arsonist on the loose, or so it seems. The small fire brigade is overworked, and people are fearful. But it's not a mystery to the audience. Pretty quickly our suspicions are confirmed--it's Dag, the enthusiastic member of the fire brigade and son of the chief. So rather than a mystery, it's a drama about what motivates him, and how those closest to him will respond to the clues that eventually point to him. For all the beautifully filmed infernos, it's really a small, quiet, human drama, and very well done. Plus, of course, beautifully filmed infernos.

Then one of those blood-boiling documentaries, WHAT HAPPENED IN VEGAS. Director Ramsey Denison normally works as an editor for cop dramas. His whole worldview is that cops are the good guys who catch the bad guys. He's friends with cops. He's the furthest thing from a cop-hater. So on a mini-vacation after finishing a job, he's shocked to see some brutal police behavior outside a casino in Vegas. Thinking this is an isolated incident, he calls 911 to report it. Next thing he knows he's roughed up by the same cops and thrown in jail for three days (charge: resisting arrest.) So...he starts digging into other incidents from Las Vegas Metro Police Department. The movie mostly focuses on three murders committed by cops. But there are smaller incidents as well. And the real story is the "blue wall," the cover-ups, the character assassinations, and the corrupt, arrogant attitude from the top that anyone shot by a cop must have deserved it. The movie gives the audience some hope, too, introducing some good cops who are sick of their sheriff Doug Gillespie. Tops among them is Larry Burns, who advocates community policing to form partnerships and trust with the community. His approach led to a dramatic decrease in violent crime in what had been one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. And so he runs for sheriff. And he has community support. He has support of 96% of the police union. But he doesn't have support of the big money casinos, who prefer someone who will keep any scandals under wraps. (Okay, let me pause and note, I'm really just parroting what the movie told me. I don't know all the intricacies of Las Vegas politics, but they make a compelling case.) Well, this election was in 2014, so it's not exactly a spoiler that Burns lost narrowly to Gillespie's hand-picked successor. It is still kind of a punch in the dick, though. It offers a vision of a corrupt police department, and a vision of how to clean it up. But not a lot of hope that will happen anytime soon. (It also doesn't get into the question of how common this is across the country, but that's a much, much bigger story.)

And finally, I ended the night with PAINLESS. You'd think living without pain would be pretty cool, almost like a superhero. Well, this is a real condition and is far from a super power. In fact, as rare as the disease is, it's even rarer to see an adult with it, for the simple reason that so many don't survive past childhood. They just injure themselves because you don't learn not to touch the hot stove if it doesn't hurt. Or you don't stop running when your legs hurt and they break. Or you don't stop poking your eye and you lose it. Or you lose your tongue because biting it doesn't hurt, it just tastes deliciously salty. But that's a different story. Our hero Henry has the disease, and has survived to adulthood. He's survived by being cautious, to the point of being a shut-in. He must check his vitals regularly. He makes sure to put ice in his hot food to avoid burning his mouth. He walks carefully, avoiding putting too much stress on any part. He's also a scientist, studying his own condition trying to find a cure. And he's well studied in pain. He can watch someone and diagnose them simply from their motions, how gingerly they move in certain ways, indicating what hurts, indicating what disease they might have. A mysterious scientist offers a partnership that could greatly aid his research (the doctor, we find out, has the opposite condition, suffering from constant pain.) Turns out his regular doctor has a history with this scientist, and urges Henry to stay away. Henry is torn, but determined to finish his quest without distractions. Then a major distraction comes into the picture. Shani is a cute barista, and they meet when she spills scalding coffee on him in the subway. And for the first time in a long time, he awkwardly tries to connect with another person. A potential distraction from his life's work, but possibly an opportunity to put his life's work aside and start living his life's...life? For science nerds like me or anyone fascinated with rare conditions, there's plenty of food for thought here. But the romance--and the quest for self-acceptance--is the real heart of the movie. And it has a fascinating and sincere heart. Plus it's just beautifully shot with some great acting, especially Joey Klein as Henry, who really captures the subtle physicality of not feeling pain (paradoxically, but looking pained everywhere, all the time.)

PAINLESS has one last screening, Fri, Mar 10 1:45 PM in Redwood City. Hey, that's only in a few hours! Hop to it!

Total Running Time: 352 minutes
My Total Minutes: 422,455
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