Friday, May 3, 2013

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 8

Two more films last Thursday, on what I've dubbed "Mumblecore Night" at SFIFF.

First up was Noah Baumbauch's and Greta Gerwig's FRANCES HA. It's a sweet and funny story of best friends Frances and (Gerwig) and Sophie (Mickey Sumner). They live together, mostly off Sophie's money--she's an editor. Frances is an apprentice dancer who can barely scrape together rent money. Of course, this is in New York, so that's quite a bit, and as one friend points out she's not really poor, that's an insult to actually poor people. They're like two people with different hair. Until, as happens, Sophie moves in with her boyfriend, leaving Frances to bounce from place to place, trying to keep her head above water and never resorting to demeaning "normal" jobs just to stay alive while she chases her dreams. One wouldn't be too far off the mark to dismiss this as "spoiled white hipster problems" but there's a charm, wit, and goofy grace to it (as much a product of Gerwig as Baumbach) that makes you root for her, even when a happy ending would just be taking a shitty office job and getting a shitty apartment.

And then (after a quick stop for another Grolsch at the festival lounge)...something really weird. COMPUTER CHESS is the latest from Andrew Bujalski, and he recreates the lo-fi look of the 1980s perfectly. Not just the fashions, or the clunky computers with fat CRTs, but he actually shot on analog video (using a camera from the 60s). Teams of computer chess nerds from universities (including my alma mater, Caltech, as the defending champions), industry, and one eccentric lone wolf meet in shabby hotel conference room for a competition. And things quickly veer away from chess--to love, the soul, artificial intelligence, etc. They're sharing the hotel with a strange relationship encounter group/cult who do stuff like jamming their hands in loaves of bread to feel...something? And that's before the drugs kick in. Weird, weird stuff, and maybe my favorite film in the festival.

And that was Thursday at SFIFF. About time to start the big second weekend (where I'll miss a chunk of Saturday so I can cheer on my beloved SJ Earthquakes) and the final stretch to closing night next Thursday.

Total Running Time: 177 minutes
My Total Minutes: 326,431

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