Saturday, April 23, 2016

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 2

Or day 1? I've been doing this long enough I should at east know how to count. In any case, I skipped Opening Night, and this is the first full day of the festival...which I call day 2.

I started the day in Tibet, with PATHS OF THE SOUL. Tibetan villagers decide to make the arduous pilgrimage to Lhasa. It's a 1,000 mile journey. On foot. Kowtowing the entire way (every few steps they clap their hand paddles together and prostrate themselves on the ground, even touching their forehead to the road.) Have I mentioned it's 1,000 miles? They load up their supplies into a trailer, pulled along by a tractor, and set out, stopping only to rest for lunch and to set up camp each night. Cars roll by them, but still they make their way. Obstacles are put in their path, ranging literally from death to birth. But still they make their way. It's shot in an observational and contemplative documentary style (but it is a scripted narrative) and features gorgeous landscapes of Tibet. It made me want to visit Tibet--but as a tourist, not as a pilgrim.

PATHS OF THE SOUL plays again April 23rd, 2:00 at the Alamo Drafthouse and April 29th, 4:00 at the Pacific Film Archives.

Then I checked into my hotel for the weekend, the lovely Inn San Francisco. And headed over to the festival lounge--a cool venue called Amado's at the corner of Valencia and 21st Street--for a little happy hour indulgence courtesy of Fort Point Beer and Blue Angel Vodka (also Coppola wines, but I didn't imbibe any of that)

Next up was HONG KONG TRILOGY: PRESCHOOLED, PREOCCUPIED, PREPOSTEROUS. Director Christopher Doyle (better known as a cinematographer) created the film starting with interviews from ordinary Hong Kong residents--children, adults, and the elderly. And then put images to their answers to craft...less of a story than a whimsical love letter to his adopted city. It's divided into 3 sections. In PRESCHOOLED, children play and work in roughly equal amounts. Whether they're fetching and carrying stuff, or practicing with tutors so much that school is almost redundant, we see the lives of children--the next generation of Hong Kong. In PREOCCUPIED, we take a look at the 2014 Umbrella Movement, the short-lived sit-in protest and demonstration for democratic reforms. We see the optimism, the drive, the cohesion, and ultimately the crackdown and breakup of the movement. Also, we get introduced to Umbrella beer--which looks an awful lot like Corona, but has an umbrella logo on it and seems to be the official drink of the movement. And finally, in PREPOSTEROUS we get silly with old people. Specifically, old people on a speed-dating adventure all over the city. And intersecting with the children on a tour bus. Where their teacher Kevin, who has stolen some Umbrella beer, leaves them to go off and get drunk. I love that 'drunk white guy' is the thread that ties all three stories together. Really makes me feel important!

HONG KONG TRILOGY plays again April 26th, 6:45 at the Alamo Drafthouse.

And then for something really strange and shocking, with WILD. Ania (Lilith Strangenberg) works a dull office job that consists mainly of fetching coffee for her creepy boss. Her life is going nowhere, until one day she sees a wolf on the edge of the local park. And she becomes obsessed with it. And when I say obsessed, I mean romantically fixated on it. When fixing him a nice steak dinner doesn't do the trick, she organizes an all-women hunting party, tracks him down, drugs him, and drags him back to her apartment. And...if not tames him, at least seduces him. Gross spoiler alert (highlight to read): she tempts him into cunnilingus using her menstrual blood. But this isn't just some shocking, sensational 'what the fuck is wrong with Germans?' film. Director Nicolette Krebitz is an accomplished actress, and she has, to the best of my knowledge, crafted a sort of modern feminist fairy tale. Now I'll admit that I'm not a woman, so I won't understand all of the female condition, but here's my best guess at empathizing. This is about how men treat women as animals already. It's about the creepy fact that when a guy hits on a girl, her saying "no" doesn't end it. Her saying "I have a boyfriend" does--because men have more respect for another man's 'property' then they have for female agency. There's definitely an element that she's seducing this wolf as protection against her creepy boss. But it's also about how far women will go to be with the man they want. She will literally let herself go feral, descend into an animalistic state, to be with her love. And I'm sure there are other intriguing angles to this, too. It's definitely not exploitation, there's quite a bit of depth here, just not necessarily the type I can grasp. Either that, or she just really wants to fuck a wolf.

WILD plays again April 26th, 6:00 and April 28th, 3:00, both at the Alamo Drafthouse.

And finally, I ended the night with THE GREASY STRANGLER, which would've been the sickest film I saw on almost any other day, but I had just seen a woman have sex with a wolf. Big Ronnie and his son Brayden run a disco tour. Big Ronnie also likes eating grease. He even wonders why people don't put grease in their coffee instead of cream. In fact, he eats so much grease, you probably think he's the greasy strangler. Well, no comment. Also, no surprise. Also, hopefully I have you overthinking that. This is not a movie for overthinking, it's a movie for greasy, comic murders and people yelling "bullshit artist!" at each other over and over and over again. Oh yeah, it's a movie that revels in repetition as much as in the greasy killings. It also revels in male nudity, father-son hate, and general unpleasantness. And it's kinda hilarious.

THE GREASY STRANGLER plays again April 25th at 9:15 at the Alamo Drafthouse.

Total Running Time: 395 minutes
My Total Minutes: 426,117

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