Aka, the penultimate night. It's all over now except for the writeups. 10 movies to finish reviewing, starting with these 4 Friday night, and a little popcorn related chaos.
I showed up a good 10 minutes early for WILL YOU MARRY US? And just before entering the theater, the fire alarm went off (apparently over burning popcorn oil). So it was delayed nearly an hour. Luckily everything I saw last Friday was at the Camera 12, so the delay affected everything and I didn't have to miss anything (if I had planned screenings at the California, the Rep, or the Camera 3 I might've been S.O.L). But it meant there was very little time between screenings as they tried to make up time on the turn-around, so I didn't have time to run out to the Soiree or Maverick meet-up to grab a drink. Make a note, dear readers, Friday was my sober night at Cinequest. But at the same time, kudos to the staff at Cinequest for turning everything around quickly and getting nearly back on schedule in just two movies.
Anyway, first up was a hilarious romantic comedy from Switzerland, WILL YOU MARRY US? Rahel is a civil registrar in a small town...think sort of a justice of the peace who only does marriages, not something we really have in America. Long ago she was in a band called Raben (Raven) with her good friend Ben (Rahel + Ben = Raben, get it?) They had one hit, then she got pregnant (from her current husband) and he went on to great fame. And now he's back in town, just for a relaxing time with his famous actress girlfriend. And he runs into Rahel, they have a good time reconnecting and she meets his girlfriend. They're all friends now, so they ask Rahel to marry them. Only problem, Rahel is realizing she has long-buried feelings for Ben. Worse yet, Ben has feelings for her. And everything gets either more complicated or less complicated when Rahel catches her husband cheating on her. It's a comedy of manners and social obligations trumping following your heart. And most importantly, it's just really funny.
And then we traveled back in time to 1981 to watch...1981 (that's the title of the movie). A very explicitly autobiographical film by French-Canadian (by way of Italy) director Ricardo Trogi aka Ricardo "Crunchy" (I think that pun must work better in French). They move to a small town in Quebec when he is 11, and immediately has trouble fitting in. So to get in with the right gang, he promises them he has as stash of Playboys and will share them...eventually. Plus he also develops a crush on Anne, the smartest and prettiest girl in class, who brushed his arm in class one day--an obvious sign. It's a great comedy about the lies we tell to be popular when growing up (and everyone tells lies). Oh, and it's steeped in 1981 style, but my favorite part was the Star Wars bedsheets he has. I had those exact same ones growing up. Not just similar sheets, not just Star Wars sheets, but that exact design. And that took me back.
Next up was the agoraphobia thriller, SOLITARY, which went on to win the New Visions jury award at the end of the festival in what everyone I talked to agreed was the worst award choice. I don't want to say it was a really bad movie, it was capably done and engaging in places, but I saw the ending coming from a long way away and there were others in the category that I thought were better (7 DAYS, FrICTION, and LIFE IN ONE DAY were easily more deserving, and cases could be made for a lot more of them)
Anyway, SOLITARY is the story of Sara Ballard, who is going insane from agoraphobia and has locked herself in her house. Anytime she ventures just a little bit outside, she has a seizure and has to be brought back in. Her husband doesn't seem to help much, and in fact kind of makes things worse. Her estranged sister is brought in, huge gaps of time are skipped in a blink, and psychiatrist Dr. Reznik appears to offer some advice but mostly hints about and finally reveals the big twist ending (which, as I said, was telegraphed from well in advance). Good acting and competent camera work, I just wasn't that impressed with the story.
And finally, the night ended with a midnight screening of the strangest vampire story I've ever seen, STRIGOI. It takes place in a small Romanian village, although it was an English production and as such contains one of my biggest pet peeves--badly accented English filling in for a foreign language. I have no problem with suspending disbelief and letting English stand in Romanian. It's just if you do that, why do you need the thick accents? I'm already suspending disbelief, so let them just speak normal English.
Okay, as for the story, I said it's the strangest vampire movie I've ever seen. It's not scary, it's kind of funny, but mostly it's just strange. In the opening scenes, the hated town master Constantin and his wife are murdered. But when young Vlad comes back to town, he swears he can see Constantin walking around at night. Meanwhile another man is dead, and the locals are keeping watch over the body. Tradition says to watch it for 3 (or was that 5?) days, too make sure it doesn't come back to life. Too bad the locals really use the wake as an excuse to drink over the body, and don't quite watch it enough. That and Vlad wakes up with his dad (or was it granddad, I forget) sucking his blood while patting him and saying "it's all right, it's all right..." Seems there are (un)dead strigoi and living strigoi, and none of them make sense. Just really, really, really weird.
Total Running Time: 419 minutes
My Total Minutes: 176,173