Saturday, April 28, 2012

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 10

Wow, has it been going on that long already? I guess so. Anyway, 4 more movies Saturday, including my first (and probably only) trip to the PFA this festival (for the first two movies.)

First up was the epic 3+ hour documentary IT'S THE EARTH, NOT THE MOON. Corvo is a small island in the Azores. In land area, it's a bit smaller than San Francisco, and is home to one village, one street, one airport with one runway, and between 440 and 450 people (population has fluctuated from 300 to 900 over its history.) It's the ideal location for director Goncalo Tocha to spend four years making a documentary about absolutely everything there. The butcher, the fishermen, the cheesemakers, the farmers, the volcanic cone, the beach, the pigs, the cows, the...everything. Divided into chapters that don't have a thematic organization so much as a sense of an evolving story and increasing familiarity with the island, it can be an exhausting project (I admit I checked my watch more than once) but a rewarding one. It really is an exercise in trying to capture everything about a place, and it's undeniably rewarding when Tocha gets his cap at the end and is declared a real man of Corvo. I get the sense that if he could, he would've included all 180 hours he shot there from 2007 to 2011. I wouldn't have stayed around quite that long, but 3 hours was long enough (and, according to Tocha, a half-hour longer than most visitors spend in Corvo)

IT'S THE EARTH, NOT THE MOON plays again April 29 at 1:00 at the Kabuki

Next up was another documentary, a very intimate bit of hero worship with ETHEL. The Ethel of the title is Ethel Kennedy, widow of Bobby Kennedy and matriarch to 11 children (9 surviving) and 33 grandchildren. The director is the last of her children, Rory Kennedy, who was only 3 months in Ethel's belly when Bobby was assassinated. So it's forgivable that it's a uniformly positive portrait. And given the importance of the family to history, it's understandable and forgivable that it veers from Ethel to the extraordinary accomplishments and untimely deaths of both her husband and her brother-in-law Jack. But Rory manages to steer the focus back to Ethel repeatedly, despite Ethel's often cantankerous reluctance to talk about herself. Luckily, she has several other kids who were happy to talk about her, and they put together a pretty engaging, loving portrait of a woman who was in her own way more outgoing and adventurous than Bobby, who pushed him to push himself to greatness, but who usually shrank back into the shadows behind him. That is, until he was gone, and she took her own role, a chapter the movie is unfortunately light on.

Next up, I made my way from the PFA in Berkeley to the Castro for TWIXT. Francis Ford Coppola has thrown his hat into the 3-D ring and returned to genre filmmaking (has it really been 20 years since his version of DRACULA?) As well as making an oddly personal film. Actually, he only uses 3D in two scenes, kind of a throwback to some of the classic 3D schlock pictures, and really I don't think the 3D was necessary at all, but it was fun. The movie itself is an immaculately crafted surreal tale of a moderately successful horror writer Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) and his strange dream-world adventures in Swan Valley, a fictional small town in Northern California (actually, I'm not sure if they establish where it was, but it was shot is NoCal and the fact they had In-N-Out there establishes it as somewhere in the west.) He's there for a book signing, but there's no bookstore so he signs at the hardware store. And he only signs one book--for the local sheriff/aspiring horror writer (Bruce Dern) who convinces him to stay and collaborate on a tru-ish story about a local serial killer with vampiric overtones. In fact, legend has it the whole town is haunted, and there's some pretty weird stuff. Motorcycle riding goth teens across the lake who might be evil. A seven-faced clock tower with no two faces telling the same time. Ghosts, a legend of a child-murderer, and Edgar Allan Poe as a guide. They might all be there, or they might all be a dream. Back in the real world he's got a wife nagging him to get and advance or she'll sell his rare copy of Leaves of Grass, and a publisher demanding a foolproof idea, complete with an outline and a dynamite ending. In tone, it veers from classic horror to melancholy to dark humor to very personal tragedy (there's a plot element that's eerily similar to Coppola's own son's death in a boating accident.) I'm not really convinced that it works as a pure genre piece. And I'm less convinced that it works as some dark satire or deconstruction of genre literature/filmmaking. But it does work simply as Coppola playing around, and if that seems indulgent, well Coppola has earned that.

Plays again (in 2D) May 3 at 8:15 at the Kabuki

And finally, I ended the night much as I ended last Saturday night,with a Who musical, this time their classic QUADROPHENIA. What can I say? Disaffected youth, mods vs. rockers, motorcycles, pills, sex, and music. And most importantly the rowdy crowd that TOMMY deserved but didn't really get last week. What a blast!

And that was Saturday at SFIFF. Tomorrow (Sunday) is my real marathon day with 6 movies, starting with a member's screening at 10:00 am.

Total Running Time: 489 minutes
My Total Minutes: 281,364

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