Friday, May 11, 2007

Jason goes to the last night of SFIFF

But not actually to the closing night gala. My pass doesn't get me in there, but it did get me into the movie I actually wanted to see, the most expensive Egyptian movie ever made, "The Yacoubian Building". Based on a popular (and controversial, as is the movie) novel, it's nearly 3 hours (2 hours, 50 minutes) but retains more of a personal, intimate feel (at first I wanted to call it a "sprawling epic" just based on the length, but that's not right). It does start with an epic feel, as it recaps the grand history of the titular building commissioned by Mr. Yacoubian in the 1930's. It's a place where a wide cross-section of Egyptian culture has lived (even Jews, at one point), and the opening scenes take us through it's history, updating the filming style to the times each step of the way, until were at modern times. But what starts out grand becomes very close very quickly, as the intertwining stories of various tenants unfolds. It truly covers every strata of Egyptian society, from the rich Pasha living in a grand apartment with his sister to the poor workers living in shacks on the roof. It also tackles some pretty taboo subjects--homosexuality, drugs, political corruption militant fundamentalist Islam, etc. But what really makes it work is that every character gets his or her own narrative, it's not just the meandering slice-of-life that so many of these movies become. It'd be hard to sum up the narrative quickly (as I said, the movie's nearly 3 hours, and it's a pretty dense 3 hours), so I won't even try. I'll just say it's a wonderfully made film, full of colorful and ultimately surprising characters. Director Marwan Hamed was in town, but chose to see the closing night gala Edith Piaf biopic, "La Vie en Rose", a song which happened to be featured in his movie, so it's understandable (in fact, the audience started chuckling when it first played).

And that's SFIFF 2007. For those keeping score at home, I saw 39 films in this festival and two on-stage interviews. My total for the year is up to 227. Now I have to get back into general released movies. First on my list is "Black Book", then I guess probably "Spiderman 3"

No comments: