First up was a documentary MIDNIGHT FAMILY. Mexico City is woefully understaffed by public ambulances--and that's an understatement. In place of a public system, an informal, largely unlicensed network of private ambulances serve the population. This is an extended ride-along with one of them, and it's the family business with everyone chipping in. They race other ambulances to scenes of accidents, they get abused by corrupt cops who need bribes or they might be run in for running an unlicensed ambulance business. They advise their "customers" whether to try to get help at a public hospital or actually get helped (if they can afford it) at private ones. Oh, and occasionally their customers can actually pay, and they eat something a little better than saltines and canned tuna. It veers wildly from tragedy to comedy (just like life) and is never ever boring (unlike life.) A hell of a ride.
Then a movie that really made use of the beyond-state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos format,THE SOUND OF SILENCE. Peter Sarsgaard stars as Peter Lucien, a "house tuner" in New York. The idea, vastly simplified, is that you might be having trouble sleeping not just because your old radiator is noisy, but because it's out of tune with your refrigerator, or the whole neighborhood. He's got quite an ear, and quite a wild theory. There's something orchestrating our lives. If not exactly controlling our every movement, it at least helps the denizens of New York City go about their lives without tripping over each other. And he thinks it's sound. Every neighborhood, every block has it's one chord. E.g., the Financial District has a fast-paced, frantic chord, while Central Park has a more relaxing one (I don't know enough music theory to even confirm this makes sense.) Anyway, that's his theory, and his house tuning business is a perfect way to collect data on that. But his theory runs into an anomaly--a woman whose troubles aren't fixed with a simple house tuning. The movie teeters on the edge of rom-com territory, as he becomes obsessed and maybe infatuated with her and how she just doesn't conform to his model of the world. She challenges him, and as he seeks recognition of his theory from the scientific community, it might just break him. A fascinating story that sounded amazing inside Dolby Labs. It'll be interesting when it comes out (in the Fall, I believe) how well it will play at the local multiplex.
And finally I ended the night with AQUARELA, the newest from Victor Kossakovsky (¡VIVAN LAS ANTIPODAS!, San Francisco Film Festival 2012). He takes his vibrant camera work and observational style to the world of water. From rescuers on not-frozen-over-enough Lake Baikal to hurricanes in Miami and everywhere in between. Water is life, but water can also be a deadly instrument of nature's fury. There's little to no narrative here, so it's difficult to describe in words. But it's beautiful, thrilling, sometimes terrifying. And again, in Dolby's amazing theater lab, I just sat back and let it wash over me (pun intended). Fantastic.
Total Running Time: 258 minutes
My Total Minutes: 503,291