Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Jason goes to SFIFF--day 6

Tuesday, two more movies:

First up was "Private Fears in Public Places" a French movie of intersecting lives. Beautifully shot, flawlessly acted, and effortlessly flowing, it's a story of the connections people make, and all too often break. In this charming ensemble, some of the most interesting relationships are actually between people who never meet. Soon-to-be-wed Nicole is looking for an apartment to share with her fiance, Dan, a somewhat worthless bum of an ex-soldier. Thierry is showing her apartments (all of which are too small), then goes back to the office and semi-flirts with his associate Charlotte, a devout christian who spends her nights volunteering to look after the bedridden (and violently bitter and obnoxious) father of Lionel. Lionel works nights as a bartender at a hotel where Dan (the ex-soldier bum) hangs out and confesses his problems communicating with Nicole. Meanwhile Thierry goes home every night to his sister Gaelle, who goes out every night looking for Mr. Right (and eventually meets Dan--wacky hijinx ensue). Meanwhile Charlotte has loaned Thierry a videotape of her favorite program, an interview show of people talking about music that changed their life. But at the end, it turns into footage of Charlotte (possibly, her head is out of frame) in lingerie doing a seductive dance. Thierry doesn't know if she left it there on purpose for him to see or not, but either way wacky hijinx are bound to ensue. Whew! I'm actually surprised I could sum up the relationships that easily. Written out, it seems kind of forced, but over the course of 2 hours it unfolds as naturally as anything. A wonderfully charming, funny, and pretty film from director Alain Resnais based on a play by Alan Ayckbourn.

And then I saw a German film, "Emma's Bliss" by Sven Taddiken, who directed "My Brother the Vampire" which was one of my favorite films at the festival a few years back. I didn't know that going in, so needless to say when it was introduced as by the guy who did "My Brother the Vampire" I was immediately excited, and I'm pleased to say my immediately heightened expectations were totally fulfilled. Based on 2 feature films, here in a nutshell is what I love about Sven Taddiken: Extreme characters, who are nevertheless very likeable, to the point where when they shatter taboos at the end, you find yourself cheering them on. In the "My Brother the Vampire" that taboo was sexuality of the developmentally disabled and incest (the alternate English title is "Getting My Brother Laid"). In "Emma's Bliss", without giving anything away, that taboo is about death. Emma owns a farm (barely, she's deeply in debt) where she lives alone. Although the local policeman Henner offers to marry her and support her, she'd rather stay on her farm alone. Meanwhile Max (Jürgen Vogel) is dying of pancreatic cancer, so he steals some ill-gotten funds from the car dealership where he works, steals a Jaguar, speeds away, and--in a bit of suicidal evasion from his boss Hans--crashes into Emma's farm. Emma finds him there in his car, and his money (which is sort of a gift from god) and rescues him, steals the money, and torches the Jag. Since this is a comedy, of course they end up falling in love (and it plays out less forced than you might think, ultimately they're both just very likable but deeply broken people who fit well together). Of course, since Max is terminal, their romance is doomed to be short-lived. From the opening scene of Emma lovingly slaughtering a pig (which caused the woman behind me to walk out in disgust), it's clearly a movie about dying, and about dying well. Needless to say, I loved it. One other note, I spent most of the movie looking at Max (Jürgen Vogel) and thinking 'Where have I seen him before?' Turns out, the answer is the Berlin and Beyond festival earlier this year. In "A Friend of Mine" he played carefree Hans, and in "The Free Will" he played released mental patient and multiple rapist Theo. He's an incredibly talented actor, and I think it's safe to count me as a Jürgen Vogel fan now (as well as a Sven Taddiken fan).

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