Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 7

Two more films Monday night, up in Redwood City this time.

I started with EYES AND PRIZE, a pretty weird, high concept movie about reality shows and the desperate fascination with fame. Four strangers meet in a flat (oh yeah, this is from the UK.) They've been invited to be contestants on a reality show. But they haven't been told the rules. They just know that they're in this flat together. There's plenty of food and wine, and they...will get instructions some time? Maybe? Well, when one of them locks them in and disappears into a locked, adjoining room, it seems like there's a new wrinkle in the game. Still no rules, but they begin to suspect he might be in on it. There are long stretches where they muddle through daily living, with no idea what the point of this all is. To get a little film-theoretical on you, this brings to mind Paul Schrader's theories on the Transcendental Style in film (and yes, I'm obliquely comparing this film to TAXI DRIVER...in a way.) The thing is, the style does require a payoff at the end. And while there is a payoff (actually, I'd say there are two payoff scenes, and intermediate one and a final one,) I'm hesitant to say how satisfying it is. I'm trying not to give away anything, but the intermediate payoff was both more predictable and more satisfying. Then it plunges back into a darker version of the transcendental style, setting up the final payoff that...is not bad, it's just too brief and punctuated for what I wanted. But still, getting there was an audacious and accomplished bit of cinema.

EYES AND PRIZE plays again Wednesday night at 3 Below in San Jose, and Friday afternoon in Redwood City.

Then I caught a short film, EMPIRE ON MAIN STREET. The Main Street would be Main Street in Guerneville, California. And the Empire would be the creation of Crista Luedtke, tireless chef, hotel manager, bar owner, cafe owner, and travel/cooking show star. She grew up watching the exhausting restaurant business split her parents apart. Then she came out of the closet, moved to San Francisco, and then decided to buy a hotel in the sleepy town of Guerneville, a few hours north. And after surviving a flood and eventually making the place profitable, she opened her restaurant. And things just kind of snowballed, until this old run-down town was a thriving destination spot. Which brought its own challenges, as prices went up and the character of the town changed. The film packs a lot into 24 minutes, easily enough that it could be a feature. But I have to say I appreciate a film that understands brevity and the power of the short format.

EMPIRE ON MAIN STREET plays again with HERMANOS on Saturday at 3 Below. I didn't stick around for the feature, because I had another movie to get to...after a quick glass of zinfandel and chatting with HUNTING LANDS team at Cru Wine Bar.

And then I ended the night with SAVIORS, a powerful drama about infiltrating a white supremacist group. Blaze is embedded there, pretending to be one of them. The thing is, her adoptive mother--her adoptive African American mother--is missing, and she thinks this group has something to do with it. So she's dating the leader, going to rallies, etc. And this night, after a rally, she has a surprise for him--a genetic test that proves her 100% pure European heritage. And they've got a surprise for her, too--a test of loyalty in the form of a couple of black hostages. Just kill them, record it, and the whole group will advance to a more secretive, more powerful organization. Needless to say, it's a pretty wild night, and shot in one continuous 81 minute take, which is pretty exceptional. The frank and disturbing racism covers over the fact that these guys are kind of pathetic losers. Some of them are grossly overweight, and all weirdly into homoerotic teasing. I mean, these guys would not be fun to hang out with even if they weren't horribly racist douchebags. But I enjoyed watching a movie where they are taken down for the gross losers they are. And without giving too much away, I also loved the ending, and the promise of what's to come.

SAVIORS plays again Thursday night at the Hammer Theater

Total Running Time: 200 minutes
My Total Minutes: 473,039
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