The big first weekend commences. 4 movies on Friday, so let's just dive right in:
First up, I went to a Norwegian nut-house in THE HOUSE OF FOOLS. The movie is not as funny as the title might suggest. In fact, it's not a comedy at all, it's a drama about mental illness and suicide. It opens with a grimly beautiful scene of Aina (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) throwing herself through a storefront window. The raining shards of glass become a repeating motif in the film, reappearing to reflect her fractured psyche many times. She wakes up badly scarred, but alive, in a madhouse. Big strong Odin is throwing the TV around, another patient is swearing uncontrollably (Tourette's, of course). The head psychiatrist is little help (we learn later that he's almost as messed up as his patients), and he and Aina butt heads frequently. Although she's in an unsecured ward and technically free to go whenever, another suicide attempt (this time with a plastic bag over her head) shows how she's not ready to go. She stays, she falls in love with Stetson (not sure if that's actually his name, or he's just nicknamed for his hat). Problem is, he works there and that's not really allowed. There are glimpses of hope, and there's obviously a part of her who wants to want to live. And there's hope, as one patient, Maria, goes off her meds and actually gets better. Turns out, she was suffering more from side effects than anything. The group goes out to a fancy dinner to celebrate, and things go well until one final (and rather arbitrary) twist. All in all, a difficult subject handled with the utmost of taste, care, judiciously doled-out humor, and an excellent ensemble cast.
HOUSE OF FOOLS has one last showing on 3/1 at 4:30 pm.
Then I just time to grab a quick beer at the tail end of the VIP Soiree at The South First Billiards Club before I headed back to the theater for the World Premiere of GABI ON THE ROOF IN JULY. Sam (director-writer Lawrence Michael Levine) lives in New York, and is the responsible one among his roommates. At least, he's the one who pays the rent, when he can. He's not that responsible at returning phone calls, since his cell phone won't hold a charge. His sister Gabi (Sophia Takal, who is not actually Levine's sister, she's his fiance) is visiting for the summer. She's a wild, hilarious free spirit. While they're both artists, he wants to get his paintings into galleries while she eschews that scene for more wild experience pieces. Oh yeah, and her art often involves getting naked, which is a nice little treat for the audience (twister and whipped cream, very nice!). In fact, it was appropriate that GABI featured "Naked Day," since it actually was the start of "Naked Night" at Cinequest. This and the next two movies I saw featured full frontal nudity. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Sam's life gets extra complicated when his ex comes back to town (from San Francisco) with an offer to buy some of his paintings for a gallery show. Problem is, his current girlfriend is more than a little jealous and kind of freaks out (I have to admit, I was waiting the whole movie for them to break up. I didn't like her character). Bigger problem, it looks like Sam might just want to go back to his ex, and dude, that's just not cool. Nobody in this movie is perfect, though. As much as I kinda fell in love with Gabi, she is naive and she does make a poor decision that ends with her getting hurt. And sometimes her "free spirit" is really more childish (like the job interview scene. Funny the way she pulls it off, but I don't know any 5 year old who hasn't played that game).
Besides being very funny, GABI ON THE ROOF IN JULY also has a very real, very free-flowing energy to it. In the Q&A, they talked about endless rehearsals where all the character's back stories were completely explicated, even if it wouldn't show up in the movie. Well, that effort payed off. And by the way, as much as it might look improvised, they claimed all but a few lines were actually scripted (they just shots after months of improvised rehearsals).
GABI ON THE ROOF IN JULY plays again 2/27 at 9:00 pm and 3/3 at 5:00 pm
Naked Night at Cinequest continued with another awesome World Premiere, PEEPERS. Montreal's underground cinema/comedy troupe Automatic Vaudeville (THE RECOMMENDATIONS from Indiefest 2005) has gone above ground with like, a budget and stuff. It suits them well, and they've held on to their slyly twisted sensibilities. PEEPERS is a hilarious story of peeping toms and the Peeper's code. Set up by Billingsly shortly after WWI: Don't peep a "shower" (exhibitionist), don't peep another peeper, don't peep a peeper's family, don't peep children, don't pleasure yourself while peeping. And in a newer technological twist, don't videotape your peeps. The leader of a crew of Montreal rooftop peepers--and the keeper of the code--is Steve "Eagle Eyes" Sherman (Joe Cobden). They have a whole system set up, walkie-talkies, code words, letters for each roof, etc. But trouble comes in the form of a female peeper. Actually, it's Annette Fulvish (Janine Theriault), a professor at a local university who is doing a study of voyeurism. She's really peeping the peepers, and Steve, for one, doesn't like it. In fact, as she gets into it and finds she's really good at it (and really likes searching for "Tits, Ass, Cock, and Balls") Steve goes on the biggest cold streak of his career. Just goes to show, women destroy everything (or maybe it's academia that destroys everything). So badly, in fact, that over the course of the film I do believe all of the code is broken. Anyway, it's a hilarious film, and I'm glad to have the Automatic Vaudeville guys back in town. Oh yeah, and the best line: "Fine! Have fun having sex with women!"
PEEPERS plays again 2/28 at 9:15 pm and 3/2 at 1:30 pm
And then I just had time for one quick beer at the official meet-up spot of the night--The Loft--and back for the late, late show, 7 DAYS. This was not an easy movie to end the night on. Good luck sleeping after this one. A French Canadian story of a successful surgeon and loving father Bruno Hamel and his family. Their 8-year old daughter didn't show up for school one afternoon, and before the body is even found recriminations fly between him and his wife. He missed the phone call because he was taking a nap. The wife let their daughter walk to school because she wanted to make love to him. But quickly, their daughter's body is found, dead, and with evidence of rape. And the police have a suspect, and it's time for the legal system to do its job. They have him dead to rights and he'll be locked up for about 25 years. That's not good enough for Bruno. So he kidnaps the guy, takes him to a secret location, and tortures the hell out of him. Starting with tying him naked to a table (oh yeah, this is part of Naked Night at Cinequest, but not in a good way) and smashing his kneecap with a sledgehammer. And it gets worse from there. The 7 days of the title are a countdown to the daughter's birthday, which is now the day that Bruno plans to kill the rapist. And he lets his wife, and the cops, know that. While they desperately try to find him and stop him, he bides his time--he has a plan. This movie is amazing, the special effects are astounding and every scene is 100% effective. And I never want to see it again.
7 DAYS plays again 3/1 at 9:15 pm.
Total Running Time: 390 minutes
My Total Minutes: 173,308