Friday, April 23, 2010

Jason goes to SFIFF--Opening Night

The granddaddy of all Bay Area (and really, all The United States North America Western Hemisphere) film festivals is back, and I'm not the least bit ready. I've barely set my schedule through this Saturday, but that doesn't matter. I'll just wing it.

What does matter is the opening night film, and the best opener since I've started going to SFIFF Opening night (okay, only 3 years now, but still...)--Jean-Pierre Jeunet's MICMACS (don't tell the SFIFF staff it was the 'secret screening' at Cinequest, they're kinda protective of their 'premiere' status). Jeunet is of course the visual and inventive genius behind DELICATESSEN, CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, AMELIE, etc (and I'm even enough of a fan to like ALIEN RESURRECTION for it's own weird charm). MICMACS (the S is silent) means roughly "Shenanigans," which makes me like it more. It opens on a somber note, as a soldier is killed by a land mine. His son is heartbroken. 30 years later, he's a video store clerk when a shootout outside his store leaves him with a bullet in the head, alive but a little twisted. And his long recovery leaves him jobless and homeless, which ultimately leaves him with a rag-tag gang of lovable weirdos (including Jeunet staple Dominique Pinon) who live in a junkyard and live (and create wonderful things) out of salvaged scraps). He joins the group and enlists them in a hilariously convoluted (and deliriously and deliciously surprising) revenge against the arms company that built the mine that killed his father and the bullet that's stuck in his brain. Oh yeah, and he falls in love with the contortionist in the group, and it's all hilarious.

Jeunet revels in his playful and mischievous mis-en-scene. A recurring joke has billboards advertising the movie with the very scene taking place. An enormous explosion mocks action cliches followed shortly by a newscast announcing zero fatalities. And the rest of the style will be familiar and welcome to fans of DELICATESSEN or CITY OF LOST CHILDREN. And since I'm an admitted fan, I'll just end with this observation/confession: When rating an opening night film at SFIFF, I'll never give it a 5 (out of 5). Even if I love it, what do I do if I see something better later? Well, I gave MICMACS a 5.

Jeunet was there for a Q&A, where he was as funny as expected. It reminded me somewhat of the Q&A I saw with Tarantino, where the audience just asked "why are you so awesome?" questions, but he answered them well (admitting influences ranging from Tex Avery to A FISTFULL OF DOLLARS).

Then it was a bit of a walk (because I didn't want to pay for a cab and I needed the exercise to the Regency Center (Van Ness and Sutter) for the after party. It was crowded, but fun, what with the free drink and food and drink (I'm drafting this buzzed on the BART home). I have to say, it's nice to start recognizing (and being recognized by) more people at the party than past years. For a few years I felt like at Indiefest and Cinequest I was a big fish in a small pond but still too small to be known at the International. I think in the past year that's changed (and it should have, since I'm accredited press now).

Anyway, a great kickoff to what looks to be a great festival. I've only tentatively set my schedule through Saturday, so feel free to e-mail me with suggestions about what to see and when (bearing in mind I have a real job weekdays during the day).

Running Time: 105 minutes
My Total Minutes: 181,296

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