Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 8

Four more shows on Tuesday, starting with my first two screenings at Santana Row. A beautiful theater in a trendy complex with lots of great drinking and dining. But I didn't really have time for that, I had back-to-back films and then a Lyft back to downtown for a soiree and two more back-to-back films. 

The first show was a quietly moving pair of films about relationship struggles. In the short MUSCLE, a wife whose husband is terminally ill struggles with the decision of whether to live for his final days and moments, or to live for herself, especially when sitting on the washing machine just isn't enough. Even when a good single malt scotch isn't enough. Excellent at using the quiet, unspoken moments to convey the emotions. 

Similarly, for all the talking in it, the feature WILDERNESS was at it's most powerful in the silent scenes (that might be my affinity for silent films peeking through.) John is a jazz musician, and jazz music infuses the film, and in a way so does the improvisational nature of jazz. I don't actually know if much of the film was improvised, but it's about the improvisational nature of a new-ish relationship, this time with Alice. Feeling each other out. Hoping they're "the one" but terrified that it won't work. I've written before about how a hallmark of a great Cinequest film (or great films in general) is "emotional honesty," and this film has it. In a Hollywood film, there would be a big, dramatic reason for their fight, instead of little things and the honeymoon bloom of new love just wearing off and fading against more realistic concerns. In this film, I can't put my finger on any particular reason they won't work (and not because I had too much to drink in the VIP lounge earlier.) It's just little things. Nothing that is...or should...be a deal-breaker, but little indications that they might even love each other but not be right for each other. Small things, and inadequate or unthoughtful responses that just add to the strain. And now I'm rethinking my statement about how beautiful the silent moments are. Because isn't communication the key to a relationship? Is enjoying the silent moments...part of the problem? I have to end this before I start overthinking my own relationship.

MUSCLE and WILDERNESS plays again Thu, Mar 9 7:00 PM in Redwood City

And then I stuck around Santana Row for PROM KING, 2010, which is another relationship movie with a very different style but also emotional honesty...even if the emotions are a little overblown (and that's part of the point.) Charlie is a new college student, a hopeless romantic, a movie lover (undoubtedly part of his hopeless romantic problem) and a young gay man in New York. Over his four years in college, he falls in love, gets his heart broken, commiserates with his friends, and starts all over again. Actually, it starts before college, with his high school boyfriend who was tragically...Mormon. Nothing against Mormons, they're just horrible people who ruin lives (that's a line from the movie, please no hate mail.) His friends keep assuring him that his turn at romance will come. And it does. And then it goes. And then it comes again, in kind of a parody of Hollywood romantic cliches. But it's sweet, and heartbreaking. I cheer for him every time he meets a new love, and I'm heartbroken for him every time it doesn't work. He such a like-able, relate-able character that I really felt for him. And, just for the record, for whatever it's worth, I am straight. This movie is just so good that anyone who has the capacity for empathy will empathize with Charlie. Or, anyone who has been lied to by Hollywood and finds reality isn't at all like Hollywood romance. 

Also, for the record, Grace Kelly and Clark Gable only ever appeared in one movie together. I've never seen it, but considering that she plays a cheating wife, I suspect it's not a great example of a romance you should hope for in real life.

PROM KING, 2010 plays again:
Wed, Mar 8 9:30 PM at the Hammer Theatre
Sun, Mar 12 6:20 PM in Redwood City

Then back to downtown for time for just one drink at the soiree in SP2, then dashing off to the Hammer Theatre for YOU ARE MY SUNDAY. Hey, let's keep the love train moving! Arjun is a really nice guy. He's also the de facto leader of a group of friends who play football (i.e., soccer, for us Americans) every Sunday. But Arjun is such a nice guy that when they bump into a senile old man, he brings him along, at least to keep him safe. But he joins in, and causes an incident that forces the beach to ban sports, so now they have no place to play. He also takes the man home, where he meets her lovely and overworked daughter Kavya. This will become the main romance of the film, but having their Sundays free allows everyone in the group to...well, either make some positive changes in their lives or have a total nervous breakdown. It's a very funny film, with a lot of like-able characters, and a view of Mumbai, India as a complicated, urban environment where tradition and modernity makes everything...just so complicated. Also, there's like, no room for anything, especially a football match. But there's just enough room for a little romance.

YOU ARE MY SUNDAY plays again;
Sun, Mar 12 6:20 PM at the Hammer Theatre
Fri, Mar 10 7:10 PM in Redwood City

So...what happens after one love movie, then another love movie, then a third love movie...? A family movie! (Or 2, a short and a feature.) 

ORANGE LIPSTICK is the story of a working mother. Two kids, high-stress job, and a husband who only calls her to ask her to pick up milk on the way home. She needs a night off. And she gets it, in the form of new lipstick and a wild night out with some young people who see that she needs a wild night out. Just enough of a recharge to love her family again.

I do have to mention that a technical glitch resulted in ORANGE LIPSTICK being played twice. Once with a really bad flicker, and once looking gorgeous, but with a kind of exasperated audience. These things happen, and I want to thank the excellent projection team at all the Cinequest venues. This isn't easy, playing a different film ever couple of hours with different technical specs, especially when there's a short and then a feature with different specs. Cinequest has been largely glitch-free this year. And re-playing a 15 minute short is nothing. Listen, I could tell you of the time (at a different film festival) when a 35 mm film was plattered and fed through two projectors in back-to-back theaters and near the end they discovered the last reel was attached backwards. That's a projectionist's nightmare, maybe even more so than the dreaded burn-through. (Or, in the days of digital projection, "bricking" the projector.)

Anyway, then it was on to the feature, FOR GRACE. Ben is a successful businessman with a lovely wife. And the birth of his first daughter (the Grace of the title) has stirred some old questions in him. See, he always knew he was adopted, but never knew his birth parents. So he talks to his wife, he talks to his adoptive parents, and he goes on a search for his real mother. And he invites a documentary crew along with him. And...there's a surprise I'm not going to spoil. Unless you look below to the end of this post. Anyway, he discovers the convent where he was born. He learns his mother was 13 years old at the time. He learns she left right away, but came back 2 years later, pregnant again. And she died in childbirth, but his brother (or at least half-brother) survives! So he goes on a journey to meet Peter, his brother, who happens to be deaf. And there's...a striking resemblance. So they have to know, are they full brothers or half-brothers? (Especially if deafness could run in the family, what could it mean for little Grace?) More surprises are in store, as this tender story unfolds about how the family you make is just as important, if not more so, than the one you inherit by blood.

Wed, Mar 8 4:45 PM in Redwood City
Wed, Mar 8 4:45 PM at Santana Row
Sun, Mar 12 10:50 AM in Redwood City

Total Running Time: 404 minutes (wow, with that and dashing around between venues, no wonder I had no time to eat. Thank you to the greatest CQ volunteer ever for keeping me fed--you know who you are!)
My Total Minutes: 421,761

p.s.: Okay, that surprise. Highlight to read: FOR GRACE is not really a documentary. It's a fake, and if you're at all smart about reading the festival guide you would see it's listed as "Drama" not as "Documentary." But I was fooled for about half the film. Then I started thinking 'this is awfully staged for a documentary.' And then I was relieved at the end to learn it was a fake all along. Well done guys! and I want others to have the chance to see it like I did.
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