Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jason goes to SFIFF--Closing Night

Well, I've had the whole weekend to recover, so I might as well finish up my festival coverage with the last two movies I saw, and then the festival is officially over for another year.

First up, I saw TRISHNA, Michael Winterbottom's take on Tess of the D'urbervilles reset in modern India. So first a confession--I've never read Tess of the Du'rbervilles. So for all I know this is a wonderfully innovative adaptation, but sadly it never really caught my interest as a movie. Freida Pinto plays the titular role, but kind of sleepwalks through the movie giving a performance that made me reassess whether she was actually any good in her breakout performance in SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. After a traffic accident cripples her father, she takes a job in a hotel, offered to her by Jay, a wealthy businessman and heir to his father's hotel fortune. She takes the job for money, but he has romantic plans. And the romance goes nice for a while, then goes very, very bad. I bet if you've read the book you know how bad. I get the sense that the book was a story of class differences, and coming from a lower class Tess is treated like the property of the businessman. Resetting it in India seems to focus on the caste system (even if it's not explicitly spelled out) and makes me wonder if this isn't a bit racist. At least, all the Indians I know (who, granted, and Indians living in America) get pretty defensive about the caste system and claim it's a thing of the past.

Anyway, on the closing night film. Let me try to lay out the bare elements of the story without getting into details first. Poor boy living in a poor country (I don't know, does the Philippines count as third world?) At one time he was even homeless living in the park. Had some trouble with drugs and alcohol at one time, but is clean now. And he's a big fan of a certain institution. In fact, he practices to be just like them. And then, just when he's about to give up on his dreams, that institution contacts him with an offer to try out and see if he's got what it takes to join them. And he does, and is successful, and basically lives a fairy tale life.

Now if you wrote that script for a fictional movie, first nobody would believe it, it's just a little too perfect. Second, if you actually got it made the soundtrack would probably feature a lot of the inspirational music of the band Journey (especially, say, their hit Don't Stop Believin'.) Well, the documentary DON'T STOP BELIEVIN': EVERYMAN'S JOURNEY is the story of Arnel Pineda, Journey's new lead singer. They were going into the studio to record a new album but didn't have a lead singer. Neal Schon was actually on Youtube looking at video of Journey cover bands and found Arnel's band Zoo, and thought he was perfect. They flew him out, auditioned him, and after jet lag and nerves wore off, he killed it. And the rest is history. Well, the rest is the history of an incredibly successful tour, a legion of new Filipino fans, and marveling at how Arnel had the pipes to not just sing but run around the stage like "a cross between David Lee Roth and Bruce Lee," a quality that earned him the nickname "Air-nel." And it's a history of converting the haters who insist Journey isn't the same without Steve Perry (Arnel, for his part, doesn't argue. He's a Steve Perry fan who is just doing his best and letting his performance speak for him.) There are a few moments in the film that talk about difficulties and temptations on the road, and you get the sense that it's foreshadowing a 'Behind the Music' moment when things break down, he cheats on his wife or falls back into drugs and alcohol. But luckily [SPOILER ALERT!!] it's foreshadowing for a breakdown that never happens. It's really a remarkably, consistently upbeat story. And it's all true, which is even better.

And then it was all over but the Q&A, featuring all the current members of Journey. And featuring an impromptu bit of singing by Arnel that pretty much blew the audience away (I heard from at least one person there who wasn't a Journey fan before, but was moved by that moment.) And then, of course, the after party. Crowded, noisy, but plenty of free beer and food (yay garlic noodles!) as long as you're willing to fight through the line for it.

Total Running Time: 234 minutes
My Total Minutes: 283,221

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