Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jason goes to Berlin and Beyond--Saturday, October 23rd

First, as a fan let me express some frustration with the festival's move from January (where it was unchallenged on the calendar) to October (where it's up against practically everything). I've preciously gone every day, this year I'll only make this one day and only two movies.

Since I'm not really in the know, I won't discuss the rumors I've heard about the move being connected to the circumstances of Ingrid Eggers departure. I will just say that for years Ms. Eggers ran a great festival, as a fan I will miss her and hope for nothing but the best for her.

Also, I like the fact that they have added a San Jose day (Saturday Oct 30, at the Camera 12) in the festival, although I won't be able to attend.

Okay, with that out of the way on to the movies:

First up, THE WOMAN WITH 5 ELEPHANTS, a charming documentary about Swetlana Geier. Considered one of the greatest Russian-to-German translators, her "5 elephants" are the translations of Dostoyevsky's 5 great novels. But this is not just a movie about translations, it's a movie about a deeply fascinating old woman. She's well in her 80's now, and walks painfully hunched over, but is meticulous and careful in everything she does. There is a sort of care she takes with everything in her life, like she's in the moment observing, appreciating, and reacting to it. That's true whether she's discussing translations with a colleague, baking a pie, or ironing. And she manages to drop subtle and humorous bits of wisdom. Particularly good was her "translate with your nose in the air" story (which doesn't mean be stuck up, it means read a passage, internalize, and look up and speak/write it in the translated language without going through word by word).

I had a bit of an epiphany while watching it--this is why I love movies. My mind tends to wander all over the place and I think of many things at once. When I'm in a meeting, I'm likely to be thinking about what I did just before or (more likely) what I'll do after the meeting. But while watching movies (and not during all movies) I can focus on just the movie. Being in a darkened room with a lighted screen, in a social atmosphere where having a conversation or checking my cell phone is taboo...calms me. That's also why I don't watch many movies on DVD at home--there's not the same forced attention. I readily admit that I couldn't keep my mind from wandering at times. I would catch myself thinking about something else (usually how much time there would be between films and if I had time to get a bite to eat), and then I'd be brought back to the film by a particularly beautiful or intelligent scene. As I felt that increased focus, I thought this must be how Swetlana Geier feels all the time, and it's pretty cool.

For the record, I had time enough that I could've gotten some food, but chose to stay in the theater and chat with friends before the crowd-pleasing MEN IN THE CITY. It's a story of five men and their romantic tribulations/adventures. There's a shy weakling who falls for the checkout girl at the pet store. There's her extremely violent ex, who wants her back but has also caught the eye of his father's nurse. There's a music producer/party animal with tons of women, none of whom he loves (and the flamingly flamboyant pop star whose music he produces). And there's the (seeming) loser with the pregnant girlfriend and no job, but a grand plan for a chain of healthy, organic fast-food restaurants. And finally, there's the normal guy with a plan for his whole life and a beautiful fiancé. But he's got a complication when a hot young model throws herself at him, forcing him to make a choice. Oh, and although they are strangers (at least at the start), they all go to the same gym, making it a sort of comic intersection for all their problems. As I said, it's a crowd-pleaser, and it's pretty darn good at that (they're filming the sequel right now).

Total Running Time: 200 minutes
My Total Minutes: 121,371

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