5 more movies on Sunday, to wrap up the big second weekend and lead into the final 4 days of bonus screenings (now everything in the festival--including the Closing Night feature--has played at least once.)
This was a day of running back and forth between the Big and Little Roxie, starting in the Little Roxie for THE LOVE SONGS OF TIEDAN. It takes its inspiration from (and is dedicated to) the folk song tradition of Er-ren-tai, from director Hao Jie's home region near the Mongolian border. It's a bawdy type of comic mini-opera often sung as kind of a dialogue between two people. Tiedan as a child is seen first as a little boy who falls for Er-ren-tai singing Sister May. Later we see (in the only scene that anchors the story in a time period) the Cultural Revolution banning Er-ren-tai in 1966. Then we see a grown-up Tiedan, getting into romantic entanglements with all three of Sister May's daughters (who are only called First Daughter, Second Daughter, and Third Daughter.) I have to confess I was pretty exhausted and struggled to stay fully awake during this movie. But the parts I was awake for were pretty funny. I really should watch it again.
Then over to the Big Roxie for the shorts program Stranger/Danger, the shorts program that just brings the weird.
#POSTMODERN: The technological singularity, as a musical comedy.
BREAK: A man says goodbye to his best friend--his goldfish.
By the way, this reminds me of some of the themes I've been seeing in this festival. Goldfish, pregnancy, broken glass, and vomiting. So the perfect Indiefest film this year would be about about a pregnant woman and her goldfish breaking windows while vomiting. That...I wanna see that movie.
CASIMIRO EFFECT (EFEITO CASIMIRO): The true story of a UFO incident that happened in the small Brazilian town of Casimiro de Abreu back in 1980. And just because the predicted UFO landing didn't happen (the man in contact with the aliens said it was because the field was too crowded with spectators) it doesn't keep people from believing.
LOVE (LIEBE): The fine line between romantic love and creepy possessiveness is explored in this odd love triangle.
MR. GRILLO: THE THEREMINIST: A documentary about Thomas Grillo, an under-appreciated musical genius in Jackson Mississippi who is a master of the Theremin. But not just to make spooky 50's b-movie sci-fi music. He plays beautiful classical music on it, and reveals the Theremin--in the right hands--to be the most versatile and expressive instrument possible.
MR. LAMB: A romance between a lonely waitress, a convicted killer she loves, and the cop who loves her. And a story of wood that is too green to burn well.
THROUGH THE TUBES: An old woman, a clogged and overflowing sink, and imagination/memory.
Then back to the Little Roxie for the feature THE WAIT, starring Jena Malone and Chloe Sevigny. They play sisters whose mother has just passed away after a long illness. They receive a mysterious phone call from a psychic saying that she will be resurrected if they just wait long enough. Emma (Sevigny) believes it, and keeps their mother's body in the house. Angela (Malone) doesn't, and thinks her sister is crazy for suddenly believing in magic. And then...well, an atmosphere is definitely set. There's a forest fire slowly encroaching while planes drop retardant on it. Angela meets a guy and falls in love, which changes her view of what is and isn't possible re: resurrection. And...well, like most of the audience members I was talking to afterwards, we just kept waiting for something that would make it all make sense or at least be worthwhile. Maybe it's the exhaustion from the middle of going all-out at a film festival, but I just couldn't hold onto anything in the film. I was bored. That's what I'm trying to say--I was bored. At least at the end I could quip, "THE WAIT is finally over."
And then back to the Big Roxie for BLUE RUIN by Jeremy Saulnier of MURDER PARTY fame. This is a very different movie, although there is some comedy it is mostly a serious story of revenge. A disheveled homeless man named Dwight (Macon Blair, also of MURDER PARTY) gets picked up by the cops, who explain that he's not in trouble but they want him to know that Teddy Cleland has been released from prison. This triggers Dwight into action. Specifically, into murdering Teddy at his "welcome back" party. And only much later do we get any information on why Dwight was so intent on revenge. That comes after learning Dwight has a sister who has children and that the Cleland's will want revenge for Teddy and...well, things spiral worse and worse. The movie takes a well-known genre--the revenge picture--and breathes some fresh life into it by looking at it sideways. Instead of 'bad-guy does bad thing, good guy becomes bad-ass and gets revenge, happy ending!' we start with a good guy who never really has a chance of becoming a bad-ass. And we start with revenge before knowing what the bad guy did. And we spend most of the movie looking at the aftermath of that revenge. And there are twists, and it's awesome, and hopefully not only will Jeremy Saulnier not have to go six years between movies again but Macon Blair will be recognized as the great actor he is. Because I want to see both of them working a lot more.
And finally, there were two shows in a row at the Big Roxie...but I had to run to the Little Roxie to grab the luggage I had stashed there and then back to the Big Roxie for PROXY. We start with very, very pregnant (i.e., about-to-pop) Esther at an obstetricians visit. Walking back to the bus, she is knocked out and viciously attacked. She survives, but the baby is dead. In fact, the attacker seemed to be targeting the baby. After some time in the hospital, she is released and urged to go to grief counseling support groups. There she isn't exactly keen on speaking up but she does make a friend in Melanie, who seems downright cheerful for a griever. There are several surprises and twists. I don't want to give them away but let me say that for the second half of the film the characters who started out as secondary become the primaries. Oh, and Indiefest/Roxie favorite Joe Swanberg plays Melanie's husband, and is pretty fantastic in a very dark role. Now...I want to tread around this pretty carefully, because I don't want to give anything away. But I do want to say that at 2 hours long the movie feels long. I liked most every scene in it but felt like the pacing dragged, and maybe some scenes could have been cut or at least tightened up. And there's a term for this, taken from a Faulkner quote, and there's a dark humor joke I could make about it that only makes sense if you know what the movie is about. So I won't say it, but I'll let you figure it out for yourself. Oh, and would it be much of a spoiler if I explained the title?
Total Running Time: 479 minutes
My Total Minutes: 352,135