Saturday, June 13, 2009

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum and sees AROUND THE BAY with PASSION FLOWER

Wait, those aren't silent films! Yeah, in a lead up to the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival (which this year showcases early independent film studios), the Niles Film Museum is showcasing local indie films. I missed last weekend due to Holehead, and unfortunately I don't think I can make it Sunday night for John Korty (but you should all go!). I should be back next weekend for Les Blank (who's awesome). And I was there last night for Alejandro Adams AROUND THE BAY (which I've seen before but never with an audience) and Jarrod Whaley's short PASSION FLOWER (which I've never seen, but I'm at least a fan of him on Twitter). Full disclosure, although this is supposed to be local indies, Jarrod is not yet local (he's still in the process of moving to the Bay Area from Chattanooga, TN).

So first PASSION FLOWER. Jarrod Whaley documents the story of Ann Law, a breast cancer survivor. She's had a double mastectomy and instead of getting implants she's decided to keep her chest flat and get a beautiful flower tattoo where her breasts were. The documentary takes place entirely within the tattoo parlor, and while documenting the entire procedure Ann talks about her experience with breast cancer, mastectomy, and her decision to get a tattoo rather than implants. A fascinating and touching story, told with a grace and frankness that highlights the beauty instead of the pathos.

And then the feature AROUND THE BAY. As I said, I've seen it before and at the time I wrote this:
The story is relatively simple. Wyatt, a Los Gatos businessman has a big house (with a pool), a 5 year old son named Noah, and a girlfriend Noreen. Obsessed with his commercial real estate deals, he all but ignores the last two. When he loses his girlfriend and job at the same time, he's far to stoic to admit that his life is in shambles. Instead he calls his 21 year old daughter from a previous marriage (Daisy, whom he hasn't seen since she was 10), and convinces her to move out and take care of Noah while he tries to get his business deals up and working again. Two things really impressed me about this movie. First, for a movie that's made up so much of people talking at each other, the story really takes place in what isn't said. Example, right in the beginning. Wyatt goes out leaving Noah alone at home. He tells Noah, "You're in charge of the house", but what's really said is "I don't have time for you, you take care of yourself even though you're only five" (and there's a point early on where I was afraid Noah would drown in the pool, but this movie is much subtler than that). The other thing I really liked is that Noah is a real kid, not a precocious voice of innocent wisdom. He hardly ever says anything smart, he says stuff that's annoying, rambunctious, or just funny--you know, just like a five year old kid. Nothing throws a cinematic cliche into focus like breaking it, and now I'm not sure if I can watch another precocious-child-teaches-everyone-a-lesson movie without focusing on how unrealistic it is. I don't know if Connor Maselli is a child actor or just a child being a child. If the former, he's very talented at acting natural. If the latter, Alejandro Adams was smart to not cast an actor.
At the time I didn't have the benefit of a Q&A with Alejandro Adams, so last night I learned that Connor was acting, and is not really the rambunctious hell-raiser he is in the movie (normally he's really quiet). The movie also plays very differently on a big screen and with an audience (not a large one last night, but an appreciative, let's say "elite" audience). There are things I've forgotten or didn't notice the first time on DVD at home. The first time, I was mostly interested in Noah, and everything seemed to orbit around him. This time I was much more interested in Wyatt, his girlfriend, and his daughter, and the relationship tensions among them all (in particular the daughter and girlfriend fighting over the proper way to look after Noah).

By the way, a big thank you to Lincoln Spector of for introducing the films and moderating the Q&A afterwards. Good job, and nice haircut. Does that leave me as the only scruffy looking film blogger left in the Bay Area?

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