Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jason goes to SFIFF--day 5

2 movies last Monday, both at the PFA, and both great.

First the Russian movie, "Travelling with Pets". As the movie opens, a young woman is being treated gruffly by and older man (we later learn that's her husband, although at first she refers to him as her "master", but that might have been a subtitle translation thing). They live at a remote train station, tend his prize cow, and sell the milk to the people on the train. Suddenly, he drops dead from a heart attack. While this is something she's secretly wanted, she's now faced with what to do with A) his body, and B) the rest of her life. Turns out, she's an orphan, who was taken from the orphanage when she was 16 to be married to this man, who has mistreated her for 19 years. Well, she solves problem A by putting his body on a hand rail cart and taking him into town. She guesses she'll take his body to the hospital, although she's not sure if that's right. And she finds help with problem A and a possible solution for problem B when she meets Sergei. He helpfully tells her the morgue is the place to take the body, and even loads the body in his truck and takes her there. And then they start a little romance, although she's a bit to socially maladjusted for it to work right the first time. The real story is how she, through increasing flashes of artistic creativity, works out from the hole 19 years of abuse has dug for her. To me, that's what this movie is all about. A life--a beautiful, creative, funny, loving life--that's been stomped down for over half of her 35 years, and finally having a chance to come out of the darkness, live, and express herself. And that's a beautiful thing to watch.

And then there was the near-future Mexica sci-fi "Sleep Dealer". In the near future, America has solved it's immigration crisis. Of course, we want immigrant labor without the messy human problems (you know--food, shelter, health, etc) that comes with having actual immigrants. So there's a huge Cybracero facility in Tijuana where thousands of Mexicans are hooked up, Matrix-style, to a virtual reality world where they control robots in America (and elsewhere, I seem to recall there's at least a passing reference to driving a cab in London). These robots pick our fruit, build our skyscrapers, etc., while the controllers in Tijuana slowly lose their sense of reality and drop into comas. It's win-win! (that was sarcastic, don't write me angry letters). A lot of the American infrastructure is built around protecting their water assets, as Mexican rivers are now "owned" by American corporations, who charge local villagers an arm and a leg for water. Memo Cruz (Luis Fernando Peña) is one of those villagers, and with his dad he goes to get water on a regular basis. In his free time, he's an amateur hacker who likes to eavesdrop on conversations. However, when he eavesdrops on the security firm talking about "aqua terrorism", his signal is detected, he's mistaken for a terrorist, and his satellite dish is taken out by a drone (piloted virtually by a Hispanic American, and broadcast live on TV). This destroys his setup, and kills his father, and sets him off alone to Tijuana to make whatever living he can as one of these cybraceros. There's also a subplot with a love interest there in Tijuana and people selling their own memories online (both for entertainment and for surveillance). It's an amazing, inventive sci-fi thriller that's chock-full of topical satire and bizarre visuals. I loved it.

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