First a few drinks and snacks at the VIP Soiree (which featured the Maverick Spirit award to Chef Dominique Crenn.) Like most of the Soirees, if you got there right at 5:00 there was plenty of food and wine, and by 5:20 it was so crowded it was kind of hard to get a glass of wine and the food disappeared within seconds of it appearing. But I got there early and got to enjoy everything.
So then I started the actual films off with the Silent Film program. This took quite a bit of soul-searching, because as much as I love these films, I've seen them many times before. And as much as I love Dennis James rockin' the Mighty Wurlitzer organ, I've even seen the feature, SAFETY LAST with Dennis James playing. And there were so many other films to see at Cinequest, many of which I won't have any other chance to see. But, my argument came down to this--"Screw it, I'm seeing the silents!"
COPS (1922): The legendary Buster Keaton in one of his best short films. To prove he's a good businessman and win the girl, Buster gets into a ton of wacky shenanigans which lead to pretty much every cop in L.A. chasing him. Hilarious.
SAFETY LAST (1923): The legendary Harold Lloyd in what is certainly his most famous film. Even if you've never seen a silent film, I'm sure you've seen the shot of Harold hanging from the clock on the side of the building. Interesting trivia--legend has it he really did climb that building. They set up a platform every floor that was just out of the shot so if he fell he'd only fall one story...if he didn't bounce off the platform and plummet to his death (this longtime official account has been refuted by a stuntman who claims Lloyd had a false facade built on the roof of another building. In any case, to get the right angle for the camera shots the platform was pretty small and there was still a danger of Lloyd falling over the edge if he fell.) Another interesting bit of trivia--he did that all without the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, which had been blown off in 1919 when a prop bomb (think the classic black sphere with a fuse sticking out) he was holding in a publicity shot turned out to be real. Anyway, the whole thing is hilarious and as someone with a healthy dose of acrophobia, the shots of him dangling from the side of the building really, really gets to me.
Some interesting similarities between the movies--both are shot in the same block of Los Angeles (you can recognize the famous building) and they both open with a shot of the hero behind bars that turn out to be something other than jail. So while I had seen them each many times, I don't think I've ever seen them paired together, and that was really cool.
Then I rushed over to the Camera 12 for the next program, which started with a bonus showing of the short NO ONE PUKES IN HEAVEN, which I had seen previously (and liked quite a lot) in Shorts Program 1. It holds up well to multiple viewings.
And that was the lead-in to the absurdist comedy POLSKI FILM. Festival European programmer Charlie Cockey introduced the films and explained a bit about the Czech sense of humor and how much they like "mystification"--questioning what is real. Well, that's on display like crazy in this film. It opens with a puppet rat insisting this isn't a puppet show. 4 Czech actors make a movie, playing themselves, about 4 Czech actors making a movie playing themselves. One of them even drops out, forcing them to audition for an actor to play him--and then he shows up in his alter-ego to audition to play himself. Some scenes are played for broad, bizarre comedy, and some scenes are played completely seriously to the point where you wonder if you're seeing a scripted moment in the film or they just left the camera running and caught the actors in the serious moments of discussing their craft and their lives. Absurd, mystifying, and maybe about 20-30 minutes too long. As much as I liked it at first by the end it just seemed to be dragging on. But then, maybe that was just because I was facing the prospect of not having any time to run to the meetup for a quick drink before the midnight film.
So as it happened, I didn't have time to run for a drink before MON AMI, so I had to watch it sober (gasp! Even the filmmakers were surprised, as I'd been drinking with them all week). I had actually seen it before at Holehead, so let's take a look at what I said then:
First up was the comedy MON AMI, which George (Kaskanlian, the festival head) introduced as DUMB AND DUMBER meets FARGO and HOSTEL. And damn, that's a pretty good description. I hate to admit it, but sometimes George knows what he's talking about. Two friends from age 6--one a congenial slacker and one who is...also a slacker, but totally whipped by his wife--work in a hardware store. When the owner decides to retire and leave the company to his meathead boys, the two friends are a bit pissed that they didn't get promotions after their years of loyal (okay, rude and boneheaded) service. So they come up with a cunning plan to kidnap the boss' daughter and hold her for ransom. And things go hilariously, bloodily wrong. I don't want to spoil anything by detailing their comedy of errors, but I will say that its the two friends obvious bromantic chemistry that makes it all work. The way they rib each other and call each other pussies (for being to wussy to commit murder) but still ultimately have each other's back is both believable (at least in the context of the ridiculous situations) and endearing. Everyone should be lucky to have friends as loyal as these, and no one should be so cursed as to have friends this stupid.
Yup, that's pretty much nails it, without giving too much away. I'm happy to just add that it's still funny a second time. And then I brought the filmmakers (and a few other guests) to my Freemark Abbey Suite at the Fairmont, where we drank and talked and laughed until about 4 am. Awesome!
Total Running Time: 312 (approximately. I didn't time the silent films so I used the IMDb running times of 22 minutes for COPS and 70 minutes for SAFETY LAST. I'm pretty sure it was actually a bit longer than that.)
My Total Minutes: 320,301