First up last Thursday was the closing gala presentation of "Surveillance", directed by Jennifer Lynch and produced by her father, David Lynch. It's a tight, twisted (both in terms of plot twists and in terms of twisted characters) thriller. In the desert of the American southwest, there's been a series of grisly murders. The local cops are either slightly dim or heavily corrupt, and so they're none too happy when FBI agents Sam Hallaway (Bill Pullman) and Elizabeth Anderson (Julia Ormond) come to investigate. There are three key witnesses--a little girl who witnessed her family murdered, a young woman high on cocaine who witnessed her boyfriend get murdered, and a corrupt asshole cop who witnessed his equally corrupt asshole partner get murdered (all in the same incident). The FBI agents take them into separate rooms for interrogation, and they set up video cameras so agent Hallaway can witness all their testimony simultaneously. As they spin their stories, the audience sees what really happened. So when the high lady describes stopping off for a job interview, we know they really stopped to buy drugs. When the cop describes pulling over a speeding driver, we know he shot out that driver's tires, etc. This is the source of most of the humor, and it's really pretty clever. The acting is really top notch--Pullman and Ormond are a great pairing, and even the stunt casting (of French Stewart as a corrupt cop and SNL's Cheri Oteri as the little girl's mom) work pretty well. It builds to a big reveal that's sort of partially telegraphed (talking to others in the audience they seemed to pick up on it faster than I did), but getting there is all the fun. And the ending is totally freakin' awesome. Really, the opening and closing night films (this one and "Let the Right One In") were probably the best in the festival. That's often how festivals try to pitch them, but it's pretty rare to see that actually be the case.
And finally, the night--and the festival--ended with the retro screening of "The 10th Victim", starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress. In a groovy, swinging dystopian future, thrill seekers play "the game". The game, simply put, is legalized murder. You play 10 rounds--5 as hunter, 5 as hunted, all assigned at random. If you survive all 10 rounds, you get honor, fame, and $1 million. Andress plays Caroline Meredith, who just finished her 9th round and is awaiting her hunting assignment. Mastroianni is Marcello Polletti, and he gets to be her 10th victim (although the victims don't know who their hunter is). She decides to make some extra cash by making the kill into a commercial (sports sponsorship run amok!). He catches wind of her plot, and decides to trap her and make a commercial of his own. But they're both too crafty, so of course they have to fall in love...oops, I've said too much. Anyway, it's hilarious.
And that was Dead Channels 2008. What a crazy trip it was.