A light Monday night at the Castro. And I even got off work early enough to go home, empty my mailbox, and then catch the BART up to the city. But enough about me, on to the movies.
The first program started with the very cool and slick short TEN FOR GRANDPA. Doug Karr has ten questions for his grandfather David, died under mysterious circumstances just before David was born. Questions like why did he need 4 wives? How did he become so rich and powerful coming from such a poor Eastern European family? And was he really a Soviet agent, or was he murdered by them?
This led into the feature, VICTORIA DAY. Set in 1980's Toronto, and you would have to look pretty closely to notice that the characters are Jewish. That's part of the point director David Bezmozgis tried to make, that Jews (especially Eastern European Jews who immigrated to North America) are secular people with secular interests like hockey and Bob Dylan music. Those are certainly the passions for Ben Spektor, star of the high school hockey team and apple of his Russian father's eye (who's always comparing him to Wayne Gretzky). Well, hockey, Dylan, and Cayla, the girl he's had his eye on for quite a while. Trouble is, her brother Jordan is kind of a jerk (although a teammate in hockey). They used to be friends back in fifth grade, but now Jordan is his main antagonist. But everything changes when Jordan goes missing after a concert, and it might have something to do with the $5 Ben loaned him to buy drugs. This has happened before, he disappeared for 3 days a while back (turned out he went to a Grateful Dead concert in New York without telling anyone). So while people are concerned, there's no panic. It takes a few days for the cops to organize a search party, etc. Meanwhile, Ben feels like more should change, like it's wrong to play hockey while a teammate is missing. A part of his reckless childhood is disappearing, while his goofball friends are as reckless and childlike as ever. The title is a perfect reflection of that. It's a holiday complete with fireworks, but his friends have a tradition of reenacting PLATOON in the park with roman candles. This is the reckless behavior that Ben is torn between not wanting to let go and feeling like he must. Ultimately, something as simple as staying home and watching the Stanley Cup playoffs while your friends party can be a coming-of-age event.
The second film of the night, SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN, was a surprising, multi-genre film that totally snuck up on me. Galia is a survivor of a terrorist bus bombing, and a year later she's still covered with horrible burns and her boyfriend Orem is still on life support. She still suffers vomit inducing panic attacks, but a helpful stranger named Boaz comes to her aid. For a while, the story moves pretty slowly (I nearly dozed off), as it appears to be about her and Boaz falling in love and her letting go of Orem and taking him off life support. But there's still a mystery around a necklace (possibly hers, she can't remember) that someone mailed to her. And then a strange thing happens. Boaz reveals that A) he mailed her the necklace and B) he was the paramedic who rescued her. And slowly the past unfolds in many layers, either disjointed memories or something a bit supernatural. Maybe in fact Boaz and she had met even before that. Maybe Boaz and Orem were actually friends. Or maybe Boaz is a sort of guardian angel. After all, she was legally pronounced dead at the scene for seven minutes before she woke up. This ends up being a thriller and a puzzle movie, that I might have to watch again to fully appreciate (it plays three more times in the festival, so I have a good chance).