Sunday, February 11, 2007

Jason goes to Indiefest--day 3

I got a good 4-5 hours of sleep, then up to the Victoria by noon for "Manhattan, Kansas" followed by the short "A Drop in Oicata" (an unexplained glitch kept it from playing first). "Manhattan, Kansas" was an extraordinary documentary of raw emotional power by Tara Wray. Tara was raised by her mother alone after her dad left them. Problem is, her mother could be charitably called a free spirit (or uncharitably called fuckin' nuts). When Tara was young they were inseperable, even sleeping in the same bed until she was 13. When she was 19, and planning to move out to her own apartment, her mom threatened to kill both of them. Years later Tara works at NYU (in the Manhattan where she should've grown up, instead of Manhattan, Kansas) and has barely spoken to her mom in years. She decides to return home and document her confrontation with her mom, aided by two filmmakers and a psychiatrist. The juxtaposition of Tara's sweet, uncomfortable vulnerability with her mother's riotous, inscrutable hijinx is striking. I have enormous respect and admiration for anyone who can give so much of themselves. It was frankly awesome.

Then the short was pretty good, and sort of ties together in a "returning home" kind of way. Diana Logreira takes a trip to her native Colombian village to take part in a festival that includes such oddities as blind pig-catching and a donkey beauty pageant. Specifically, she's a judge in the donkey pageant.

Then I was over to the Roxie for the short compilation "All the Lonely People", which consisted of:
"Happiness"--A woman who works in quality control in a condom factory tries to buy happiness at the store, but then returns it for a nice pair of shoes.
"Night Becomes Day"--A guy turns his car into a taxi in an effort to meet people and make friends, with mixed results.
"Die Besucher (The Visitors)"--A german movie about a woman in trouble and then I don't really remember what.
"My Name is Wallace"--A hilarious story of a lonely man looking for love, so he calls an ad in the paper promising love over the phone. Neither party in the ensuing 1-900 call have any idea what they're in store for. Look for the feature length version coming soon!

Then it was back to the Victoria for "LOL", by Joe Swanberg ("Kissing on the Mouth" from last year's Indiefest). Joe's out in front of a new wave of filmmakers based on real, contemporary, naturalistic acting (often improvised by non-actors). It's more slice-of-life than slice-of-cake, to use the old Hitchcock line, and it has taken me a bit of effort to warm up to it, but now I totally dig it and "LOL" is a great use of the technique for humor. It follows three couples, specifically from the male perspective. One is in a traditional relationship (Swanberg himself) but he cares (or pretends to care) more about his computer than his girlfriend. One is in a long-distance relationship, but treats his girlfriend like crap-even complaining when she sends him sexy photos of herself that they're not dirty enough to turn him on. And the third is in an imaginary relationship with an internet porn star, and takes his imaginary band (he actually makes some pretty cool music from footage of people making random noises with their faces) on an imaginary tour just to try and visit her in St. Louis. Basically, it's about communication technology and how stupid, selfish guys are using it to destroy rather than further their own communication skills. One of the most brilliant scenes is with Joe and his friend (the one in the long-distance relationship) sitting on the couch next to each other IM'ing each other about Joe's girlfriend, who's sitting right in front of them. Brilliant and hilarious, it had me LOLing (that's Laughing Out Loud for those of you not up on the lingo)

Then next up was "Mojave Phone Booth", one of the most cleverly written movies I've seen in quite a while which uses the true legend of the Mojave phone booth to tell four interweaving stories. The phone booth of the title used to exist about 70 miles outside of Las Vegas, and when it's number was posted online, people started calling it and other people would camp by it hoping to receive a call and have a conversation with a complete stranger. And four strangers go there and have conversations with a mysterious woman named Greta, and in so doing basically provide voice-over for their stories. First Beth, whose boyfriend wants her to move in with him, but she thinks it's too fast, even though she lives in a crappy neighborhood and her car radio keeps getting stolen. Then there's Mary, who's down on her luck and needing cash, and stays with her friend who tuns out to be a prostitute (with an odd turn by Steve Guttenberg as her client). Then there's Alex, a lesbian who's lover is going crazy from a belief that her body is infested with aliens. And finally Richard, who is going through a painful divorce and stumbles on the phone booth after a failed suicide attempt. Their lives all interweave in a tapestry of phone calls and magnetic tape.

Then it was back to the Roxie for good old-fashioned WTF 70's Shaw Bros. fun with "Infra-Man", from the good people at Cosmic Hex. When the evil Princess Dragon Mom tries to enslave the human race with her army of monsters, the Professor enlists a brave soldier to become Inframan, powered by nuclear energy and with the incrdible thundrball fists he saves the world. The perfect movie to watch drunk (sadly, I wasn't) and yell stupid things at the screen (which gladly, I did).

And finally there was the midnight movie "S&Man". Not quite documentary, nor really mockumentary, I will try to coin the term what-the-fockumentary to describe it. JT Petty made "Soft For Digging" which played at Indiefest a few years back. Then he got interested in a story from his hometown about a peeping tom who videotaped his neighbors and escaped charges when it became apparent that the tapes would have to be shown at trial. He completely failed to interview the peeping tom (who chased him away with a chainsaw!), but he used it as a jumping-off point to explore the sick world of underground horror films--specifically focusing on a series called S&Man (that's Sandman, not S&M Man), about a guy who films himself killing women (faked, but choosing random "victims" off the street and approaching them after making sure they look good on camera). He also interviews Bill Zebub (that's Beelzebub, get it?) who makes exploitation nudie snuff flicks with his team of actresses. And he interviews psychologists and scholars on the subject of voyeurism and horror films. Fascinating, and without giving anything away I'll just say that JT is not the outsider documentarian he presents himself as. However, in the Q&A he insisted it is a documentary, from the point of view that all documentaries are a biased, filtered version of fact. It made me think of the famous first documentary--"Nanook of the North", a day in the life of an eskimo...shot entirely on a stage in LA.

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