Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 11

Aka, the penultimate day (I like the word "penultimate").

The day started bright and early at 10 am for "The Silence Before Bach". This is a highly experimental film, playing selections of Bach music (and sections of silence) over a selection of vignettes ranging from a biography of Bach teaching his son piano to a trucker playing Bach on a harmonica. The nice thing about this film, especially this late in the festival when I'm completely sleep deprived, is I can doze off a bit without feeling like I've missed anything. I still heard the music, which was the important thing. And the overall effect was very relaxing. There are, however, three visuals that are more than worth keeping your eyes open for. First, it opens with a robotic player piano driving around a room--I freakin' want one of those to follow me everywhere! Second, the most phenomenal silent scene simply shows a piano dropped into the ocean--wow! And third, there's a naked chick. Nice way to start the day.

So next I saw (almost all of) the Shorts Program #7: Life Lessons. Here's the rundown:
"El Pasejero"--A strange New Year's night in Venezuela. A lonely rich man meets a desperate, murderous cab driver. Allegedly based on a true story (if that wasn't just put in for dramatic effect)
"The Phone Book"--A hilarious little black and white story, with all the text taken directly out of the LA white and yellow pages. Directed, surprisingly enough, by Kurt Kuenne, who also directed the heart-wrenching documentary "Dear Zachary"
"Sizzlean"--Orphans in search of family, find each other. Kinda trite ending, but well made up to that.
"The Stone Child"--A Native American (Lakota) boy leaves his bad father and finds himself.
"Crickets"--A journalist finds himself in a strange place, trying to figure out where he is.
"Tony Zear"--The trials of a guy with gigantic ears.

Unfortunately, I had to run out of the middle of "Tony Zear" to make it over to the California for "Speed Dating". Remember, I had struggled over whether to see this or "The End" Friday night. Well, the happy ending is that I got to see both, and it just cost me half a short film (although one that was looking pretty excellent). And I missed about a minute or two of the beginning of "Speed Dating". Talking to director Tony Herbert afterwards, what I missed was a scene where the hero James (Hugh O'Connor) goes to speed dating and pretends to be an astronaut. Cut to him talking to his psychiatrist. Then there's a montage of speed dating where he pretends to have several different careers, while all the girls "work in IT". This is where I came in. What follows is a fast paced and funny look at love, amnesia, and international crime. James, for the past three years, has been trying to get over the girl of his dreams. He does this with the help of the world's most laid-back psychiatrist (who wrote a book, but doesn't remember it because for him the 60's ended in the 80's). Other than going to therapy and speed-dating (which he obviously doesn't take seriously), he hangs out at the pub with his idiot friends and lives a life of luxury as an heir to an extremely rich but dysfunctional family. Finally, at the bar he meets the girl of his dreams. Or at least, he sees her and decides to stalk her (his plan is to "be mysterious"). And he ends up getting caught and run over by a car. He wakes up in the hospital with amnesia, and then things get weird, with international crime and the world's funniest stuttering psychotic cop. Makes me laugh. Here's a pic of Tony Herbert, who's not only a great filmmaker, but he's Irish so he's cool to hang out with and likes to drink a lot (seriously, I couldn't keep up with him):

So then it was back to the Camera 12 for "Butterflies", an incredibly sweet film from Sweden. But first, the not as sweet short, "Departure". As far as I can tell, these were put together because they were both Swedish and both feature children, but in tone they're completely different. "Departure" features a refugee child living on the fringe of society begging on the subway. It gets even worse when he's separated from his uncle, the only family he has. But a kindly old woman helps.

Now "Butteflies" is all sugar and not much meat (or dough, or whatever you want to sugar). Very simply, adorable five-year-old Sara discovers one day that she can fly. She doesn't know how she does it, she feels butterflies in her stomach and then flies. At first no one believes her, but she makes some pretty convincing demonstrations, first defeating the bully at school and then stunning her doctor. So she's sent to a research facility and separated from her mother. But that makes her too sad (or too bored) to fly. Nothing works, and soon the researchers are bemoaning their lost Nobel Prize. But she does make one friend, a sick boy in a containment bubble. He's not long for the world, but his parents insist on bringing him home to celebrate his birthday (festival theme!) . And she, of course, brightens his life. It's fun and adorable, but feels even shorter than it's 52 minutes. Seems like it could've easily been either fleshed out into a longer film or shortened and made an adorable short.

So from the sugar rush of "Butterflies", I enjoyed a more acerbic comedy, "Who is K. K. Downey?" Inspired by the JT Leroy hoax, Terrance and Theo play in a crappy, crappy band. Theo has written a scathing novel, "Truck Stop Hustler", but can't get it published because he's a privileged suburban white boy, not a smack-addicted child prostitute. By the way, the 8th birthday party scene in the book is hilarious, disturbing, and I'm counting it as part of the festival's birthday theme. Terrance gets the brilliant idea that if they need a real truck stop hustler to sell "Truck Stop Hustler", he'll pretend to be one. The novel becomes K. K. Downey's autobiography, Terrance becomes Downey, and the book and Downey become the coolest thing to hit the Montreal club scene in...forever! Which totally pisses off Terrance's ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend, Connor Rooney (not Connerooni, Connor...Rooney). Basically, a hilarious excuse to skewer the hipster paradigm while throwing out as many descriptions of crude, demeaning behavior as possible. I loved it. Here's a really dark pic of co-directors (and writers, and stars) Darren Curtis and Pat Kiely:

Next up was "The Night of the White Pants", featuring the incredible cast with Tom Wilkinson, Nick Stahl, and Selma Blair. Tom Wilkinson is Max, a Dallas millionaire who's facing his second divorce and losing half his fortune. Meanwhile his son is addicted to drugs, his daughter (Blair) is dating Raff, a poor musician and part-time pot dealer (Stahl), and his first wife is pestering him, too. On one fateful night Max's wife gets a court order and kicks him out oh his (check that, her) home, he goes drinking with Raff, ends with a bar skank on his arm, helps Raff get a judge at 3 am to marry two of his friends, does a lot of drugs, and has some sort of epiphany. Or maybe just a lot of crazy shit happens. With so much going on, it's almost hard to tell if he found light at the end of the tunnel, but the trip was pretty fun and crazy. And here's director Amy Talkington:

And finally (oh my god, is that film #7 for the day? Yes it is, no wonder this took me so long to write!) was the weird-as-hell Argentinian film, "The Aerial". In some alternate world, in an alternate future, everyone's voice has been stolen. Instead of making sounds, when they speak written words appear. That is, except for one celebrity woman, the Voice. Mr. TV rules the city with an iron fist, and is perfecting his machine that will take even their words away. Ah, but the voice has a son--a son who can also speak. But the son has no eyes. And perhaps by broadcasting the son's voice over the aerial, they can save the world. As I said, weird as hell, creepy, and crammed full of symbols political and religious. I have never seen a swastika followed so closely with the Christ child crucified on the Star of David. Wow! Okay, this might be my new favorite movie ever!

And that's the image that stuck with me at the end of Saturday night.
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