Monday, March 7, 2011

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 6

End of the first weekend. Five more movies.

First up, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO ION B, a documentary that succeeds by sheer virtue of the strength of its fascinating subject. Ion Barduleanu is an artist. Check that, Ion Barduleanu is a drunk living in the garbage in an alley in Bucharest...but he's also an amazing artist. He collects magazines, clips out pictures, and makes some very funny and politically incisive collages. Of course, he started doing this under Ceaucescu's regime, so it's probably better that he was known (or unknown) as a drunk living in garbage rather than a subversive artist (not just for mocking the communists, but for embracing the decadent Western pop art). But the happy ending is that his art is discovered by a gallery owner who takes him under his wing and gets him showings all over Europe, where he is celebrated. Well, I guess that's better than living in garbage, but Ion is still very much his own man. He speaks about making his collages just to amuse himself, and while that would sound a little phony coming from any other artist, you have to believe it coming from him.

Due to a technical glitch, the accompanying short, A LOST AND FOUND BOX OF HUMAN EMOTION didn't play before ION B. It played after. And it was awesome--A sci-fi CGI adventure metaphor for going through grief after a father's death.

So then I caught a fascinating biopic, NANNERL MOZART'S SISTER. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's big sister, Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl), was also a musical prodigy. She traveled Europe as a child performing with him. She was hailed for her young virtuosity, but her star never rose like her brother's because she was a...she. In the time, and in the mind of her father, certain pursuits simply weren't appropriate for the delicate female sensibility--like composing or playing the violin (she was great at the violin, but her father forced her onto the harpsichord). This movie (which has U.S. distribution thanks to Music Box Films) follows her through a very important formative time. She's sixteen, just blossoming into womanhood. While staying at an Abbey while getting their coach fixed, she meets and befriends a princess of France. Later, while delivering a letter she meets the Dauphin of France, and they become quite close. In fact, if he had been allowed to marry whomever he wanted (or had the loose morals of his father and felt no qualms about keeping a mistress) they might've been very happy together. But alas her story is far more a tragedy. In the closing crawl, the rest of her life is summarized, including her efforts until her death at age 78 to collect all of her brother's work for posterity. It appears that much of what we know of Wolfgang Mozart is due to her efforts, and it's nice that we now have this movie to preserve her story. And for the record, I don't care how accurate or not the film is, it's still a moving story.

The next program started with the short film MENISCUS. Skin. Mitosis with cells made of human bodies. Bodies stacked on bodies until they explode through the ground and out of a tree. The circle of life, in all it's fleshy and spiritual glory. I don't really know what it was about, but it sure was purty.

And that led into SMALL TOWN MURDER SONGS, starring Peter Stormare as I've never seen him before. He's Walter, a sheriff in a small town of Port Beach, Ontario. Mostly Mennonites there, so it's a quiet town where not much happens. Or didn't, until a naked dead girl is found. Cops from the city are brought in, and he's quickly over his head. But it's not really a whodunnit. Not at all. It's really a story of Walter's violent past and his new religious devotion. And I don't want to give more away. It's beautifully shot and acted, and although the ending was maybe a little too tidy, it's still a very rewarding viewing.

Then I caught a really cool horror treat, MIDNIGHT SON. Without an origin back story (which I like), Jacob is going through some changes. He works night, because he is so sensitive to sunlight that it literally burns him. He eats constantly, but his body is failing him as if he's malnourished, or maybe anemic. Okay, there's no surprise that he's a vampire succumbing to the hunger for blood. But the journey there is smartly done and cool as hell. He meets and falls in love with Mary. He scores blood from a pusher working in a local hospital. He has a showing of his art--paintings of the sun. And he struggles with being good despite his hunger. In fact, I don't think the word "vampire" was ever spoken. There's no underground society or secret world. It's just a guy dealing with changes coming from within his body--same as any guy dealing with disease, or puberty, or addiction. Vampirism has been used as metaphors for all of that before. In fact, I've heard it said that the Vampire is the most used monster character in the history of film (BTW, see the very beginning of that history with NOSFERATU next Friday). MIDNIGHT SON shows once again that the vampire is a character that with a smart script and great acting can still hold a mirror up to humanity and show us something new.

And finally, I ended the night with Shorts 6: DOCU-NATION. Interestingly, very little in the program fits what I think of when I think, 'documentary short.' But an interesting, eclectic collection nonetheless.
AMERICAN HOMES: Cool line drawings and voice-over ruminations on the nature and importance of architecture take us through a history of dwelling in America (going back well before Europeans settled there).
BIKE RACE: Saw it at Indiefest. What I said at the time is still true: "Belgian Eddy and American Lance (not Eddy Merckx and Lance Armstrong) compete in a bike race, the Tour de Force, which becomes a race for the love of Eddy's girlfriend."
THE COMMUTE: The travels of an American wrestler on tour in Japan, and the family (wife and young daughter) he Skypes with at home.
THE NORTH CAPE: A beautiful look at the wonders of nature in Norway. Shot triple-wide for a tourist center's special theater. Cinequest needs to put in a triple-wide screen to accommodate it. Or better yet, I need to go to Norway and see it there.
THE STITCHES SPEAK: And they tell stories of refugees in India and Pakistan.
TINCITY: A Hungarian hillside town. Kind of slummy looking, but there's some surprising depth (and wine cellars) in the hills.
TUSSILAGO: I saw it at SF International last year. What I said at the time: "In 1977 Norbert Kröcher was arrested for plotting the assassination of a German politician. This movie explores the role of his ex-girlfriend, still traumatized by the aftermath." Correction: it was a Swedish politician, and they planned her kidnapping, not assassination. And I didn't even mention the fascinating visuals using a sort of graphic design/rotoscoping collage form. Wow, I really screwed that up the first time!

And so that's the first weekend in the books. Just a reminder, SAMUEL BLEAK is the worst movie I've ever seen at Cinequest.

Total Running Time: 474
My Total Minutes: 226,588

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