Saturday, April 23, 2011

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 2

A work holiday during a film fest so I can see as many movies as possible? That's what I call a Great Friday. Anyway, here we go:

First up, the shorts program Irresistible Impulses. The films:
DELMER BUILDS A MACHINE: One of my favorites from Cinequest, so much fun to see it again. And it's still a hell of a machine, and I won't give away what it does. But if you've seen it and know me, you know I want one.
INTO THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE: A verite look at children playing in an outdoor nursery. Interesting celebration of imagination. The centerpiece is an imaginary airplane made of logs.
THE STRANGE ONES: A pair of brothers on a road trip without a car. They stop at a motel for a dip in the pool and have an interesting encounter with the young women managing the place.
BITCH RABBIT: A wonderfully surreal French film about a down and out prostitute who meets a bear. Not a rabbit, a bear. The title promised a rabbit! What a bunny-tease!
NOREEN: Brendan Gleeson stars in a hilarious comedy (directed by his son Domhnall) about two Irish policemen. They're so clueless when they see a dead body clutching a suicide note they have no idea what happened. And it circles out of control from there.
THE HOME FRONT: A Danish documentary about conflicts and mediation between neighbors. Good fences make good neighbors indeed, and most of the conflicts are about fences.

Next up was MISS REPRESENTATION, a documentary about media representations of women and their damaging affects. Director Jennifer Siebel Newsom starts off very personal, explaining her concerns as she's pregnant with her daughter and worries about the world she'll be born into. Tye movie then launches into a bombardment of facts and figures, selected news clips showing sexist treatment, and interviews with plenty of famous people--powerful women like Condi Rice, newsmakers like Katie Couric, activists like Gloria Steinem, and personalities like Margaret Cho. The one sort of jarring interview is Lt. Gov (and former SF Mayor) Gavin Newsom--jarring not for what he says but because they never point out he's the director's husband. Not that it would've made such a big difference in the movie, so I can understand why she left it out. But it's just curious that she was so upfront about her personal life in the beginning, and then shied away from that.

Anyway, the greatest strength of the movie is the collection of interviews with local Bay Area teens, who come of very smart and self-aware. As much as you can point to negative portrayals, and even argue that we've slid backwards in the past decade or two (after decades of progress), seeing these kids renews my faith in the future.

Where the movie leaves off--and it never really answers this--is what to do about it. This is where the social action campaign takes off, and a great place to start is their website.

Next up was a Czech thriller WALKING TOO FAST. Antonin is a secret state policeman in Cold War Czechoslovakia. And he's having a nervous breakdown. He was the best cop on the team, but he's having panic attacks, abusing his wife, and obsessing over the girlfriend of a writer he's investigating as a possible subversive. He sees that rather than the simple love and soul that they share, his success has all been based on allegiance to a corrupt, cynical, and worst of all monotonous system. So he decides to torture the happy couple until he accepts exile and she...falls for him? Wonderful performances, and a pretty brutal story that, if I'm not mistaken, can be read allegorically. Oh yeah, and the girlfriend's roommate is pregnant. Remember that, it'll be important later.

And finally, a mostly kick-ass, balls-out horror flick STAKE LAND. It opens with young Martin and experienced hunter Mister on the road. In a flashback we see the zombie vampires (yeah, zombie vamps) attack Martin's family, getting his parents and devouring an infant before Mister shows up to take them out. That's how they met, and that's how uncompromisingly dark this movie will be. Although storywise there are obvious similarities to ZOMBIELAND, this is not camp. Humanity has degenerated into clans and doomsday cults, and as Martin and Mister make their way north to New Eden (aka Canada), they run into a clan of brutal doomsdayers known as the Brotherhood, who believe the vamps are the tools of God to purify the humanity in preparation for the end times. And they use them as tools--setting up traps for hunters (they have a particular vengeance for Mister, after he killed a couple members of the Brotherhood who were trying to rape a nun) and dropping vamps from helicopters on unbelieving compounds.

If the religious satire is the strongest part (and it is), the weakest would be the handful of cliches that trip it up. Most egregiously the old 'leave your opponent in the trap and don't watch to make sure they die' canard. Not meaning to give spoilers, but that's done twice and bugged me both times. But even with that, it's still a kick-ass, awesome movie.

Oh yeah, and one of the member of Martin and Mister's travelling crew is a young pregnant girl, which leads into my daily themespotting: All three features included a pregnant lady. Clearly the subtle message is SFIFF wants to have a baby with me?

Total Running Time: 432 minutes
My Total Minutes: 232,639

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