Friday, May 4, 2007

Jason goes to SFIFF--day 8

Two movies last night, and I was joined by friend Misun. Good luck on you law school exams, Misun.

First up was the excellent documentary "Ghosts of Cité Soleil", a documentary about Haiti made by a Danish director Asger Leth. Asger's father Jørgen Leth, star of "The Five Obstructions" (with Lars Von Trier, it played at SFIFF a few years back). Anyway, Jørgen moved to Haiti and lives there still, so it's not really that weird that a Danish director made a Haitian movie. The movie follows the final days of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, before he fled the country and disappeared. Cité Soleil is a slum neighborhood in Port-au-Prince run by the Chimeres (roughly translated, "ghosts"), gangs who are loyal to Aristide and allegedly were used as his unofficial thug squads. Specifically, it follows brothers and rival gang leaders Bily and 2pac (yeah, a lot of them are named after American gangsta rappers). 2pac actually plans to get out of the gang life by making it in rapping, and has the help of Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean (who also co-produced and scored the film). It's a great movie, that really humanizes the people in Cité Soleil, even the gang members and gang leaders. But what struck me the most was actually the strong narrative feel of it. I actually had to look up afterwards whether it was a real documentary or if it was a narrative that was just expertly constructed to look like a documentary. Turns out it was a documentary, but either way it's an incredible accomplishment.

Next up was one of the movies I was most looking forward to in the festival, "Fay Grim" by Hal Hartley. It's a sequel of sorts to Hartley's earlier film, "Henry Fool". If you haven't seen it yet, go rent or buy it, watch it, and come back here. Go ahead, I'll wait.


There, wasn't that an awesome movie! Okay, "Fay Grim" follows some of the same main characters. Specifically, Simon Grim, his sister Fay (Parker Posey, awesome!) and Henry Fool himself. However, it pretty much obliterates the world of Henry Fool. Get ready for this--Henry wasn't just an awful, self-absorbed writer, he was a spy and/or terrorist. And his "Confessions" weren't just self-absorbed masturbatory crap, they were a coded message. Fay is stopped one day by CIA agent Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum, in a hilarious role), who explains that Henry is dead, and they need her help recovering the volumes of his confessions. She's immediately whisked into a thoroughly ridiculous world of intrigue and nonsense. Apparently Hal Hartley has said he was watching the news and thinking about how ridiculous the world was, particularly the world of international espionage, and decided to write this story. I could try to go into what happens, but it'd be difficult and kind of beside the point. I just loved sitting back, watching the absurd plot twists fly by, and laughing the whole time. And I think that's pretty much the point. I loved it. "Henry Fool" and this are the only Hal Hartley movies I've seen, so now I want to go watch the rest of his stuff. I'll go add it to my Netflix queue.

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