A light day on Tuesday, only three films.
I started with the audacious Russian sci-fi mindbender TARGET. It clocks in at 154 minutes, and goes some pretty wild places in that time. In 2020, Russia is a land of prosperity...for some. After all, it borders China which is a huge and eminently exploitable economic engine. People are stratified in different classes, and all the "heroes" of our story are in the upper classes. But they all feel they are missing something, like eternal youth perhaps. So they travel to a remote abandoned astrophysics facility (the Target of the title because of its massive bulls-eye shape) where they believe spending a night inside will focus their Chi and make them live forever. And for a bit, it works. They feel more youthful, definitely more horny, and it seems perfect. And then it's as if the evil parts of their nature metastasize. There are a ton of wild ideas, from a mega-highway filled with semi trucks and the customs officials who patrol/prey on them. A bizarre, high-energy cooking/political talk show. Glasses that allow you to see the percentage of good and evil in all things (including an orgy that is ~99% evil.) There were moments of extreme brilliance in this movie, I'm just not sure I was able to get my head entirely around it. It's either so sprawling and unconstrained that it falls apart, or it's a cohesive work of brilliance that requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate.
TARGET plays again April 27 at 10:00 at the Kabuki.
Next up, the mindbending day continued with ALPS. I shall now visibly struggle with spoilers, as I don't know how to describe it without giving away the main conceit, but the surprise of that conceit was what made it fun. But, since the festival program gives it away, I guess I'm free to as well. So here goes: The Alps refers to a group of people who offer to impersonate the recently deceased as a form of unconventional grief counseling. The bereaved get to act out what they wanted to do or what they remember best about the deceased. But it's also about the controlling nature of the group leader (codename Mont Blanc) and mostly about the artificiality of performance. It's a movie where you can easily twist your brain in knots wondering 'is that who she really is or was that a performance where she is substituting for someone else?' It's funny and unsettling, especially when two of the Alps (a nurse and a rhythmic gymnast) try to break from the rules of the group and challenge authority. It's also no surprise or coincidence that it's the two women trying to break from the rules imposed and enforced by men.
And finally, I ended the night with the North American premiere of locally made film, CHERRY (which being released by IFC as ABOUT CHERRY.) It is, in short, a pro-porn story about a young naive girl who gets into porn. The either appropriately or ironically named Angelica (Ashley Hinshaw) runs away from home (and her alcoholic mother) and travels with her best friend Andrew (Dev Patel) to San Francisco. She had previously done a little nude modelling for pictures, but once she's in San Francisco she gets hooked up with kink.com at The Armory, and her career really begins and he name becomes Cherry. The movie also features co-starring performances by Heather Graham as the director who launches her career and James Franco as a lawyer and coke-head who picks Angelica up in a strip club (where she's working as a waitress, not as a dancer.) As I alluded to earlier, the movie is mostly interesting for it's pro-porn point of view (director/writer Stephen Elliot and co-writer Lorelei Lee both come from the sex worker world,) and how pornography is really the one stable, positive part of her life. I was also impressed with the tastefulness but undeniably erotic nature of the actual porn shoots. I don't think there was an actual "beaver shot" in the movie at all, but as someone who has watched his fair share of porn and his fair share of simulated porn in "legitimate" films, I was impressed with the...let's say...effectiveness of the scenes. Compared to say, SHOWGIRLS which came out when I was in college and still couldn't get me up, it's pretty remarkable what a shot of Cherry's face can do instead.
CHERRY plays again April 27 at 9:15 and April 28 at 3:00, both at the Kabuki.
Total Running Time: 349 minutes
My Total Minutes: 279,671