Film Fest Day Four ALL

Film Fest Day Four

Today I managed one film, which was a special screening of Douglas Sirk’s Technicolor melodrama starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson. The print was pretty rough, but what made the night special was that director Todd Haynes, whose Far From Heaven is a palimpsest of Sirk’s film, introduced and talked afterwards about his film and Sirk’s.
The film itself is on the surface a very straightforward “love will find a way” weepie, but you don’t have to search too hard to find all sorts of weird things underneath, and I don’t mean watching Hudson’s performance with what is known now about his sexuality. The sexual wolfishness of the men (apart from Hudson), the awful children–Freud-espousing daughter, asshole son, the bitchy women, the deer that appears at the end. Like many films from the ’50s, it just seems bizarre.
Haynes had some great things to say about Sirk’s film, especially about the use of color. He mentioned how the very complex color schemes in Sirk are a far cry from today. “Now you can see a thriller–every shot is blue. Or a memory sequence. It’s all gold. And that’s it?” He also spoke about Fassbinder’s own take on Sirk in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (coming out next month on DVD, with some commentary by Haynes), his next project (apparently a rhapsody on Bob Dylan that promises at worst to be fascinating), his move to Portland, his student days at Brown University, and much more. A very modest, affable man, and one of the few truly important American filmmakers at the moment.

Film Fest Day Three THE

Film Fest Day Three

Okay, now I’ve seen a brilliant film. You hope that something in a festival is going to come along and just leave you gasping, and for me, this latest by the Dardenne Brothers is masterful. I reviewed their last film, Rosetta, which equally impressed me, so I was a bit prepared for their style of filmmaking–documentary-style, rough, handheld.
The trouble is with the film is that there’s a particular twist in the plot that occurs about 30 minutes into it that precludes me from discussing the film in any depth, for I hope whoever reads this will want to seek the film out. You can, however, find some dumb reviews online that will ruin it for you, so good luck to you.
(Fortunately, Roger Ebert shares my opinion and method of writing about this film, and winds up saying some good things about it. Ebert is a populist and a media figure, but I give credence to his opinions, even when I disagree. Maybe it’s being in Chicago that does it.)
Anyway, what I can tell you about “The Son” is this: for the majority of the movie, the camera hovers around the neck and back of its protagonist, a carpenter who teaches juvenile delinquents in some sort of social program. He’s asked to admit one more kid, but brushes the assistant off, saying he has no room. He then paces, anxiously, and seems intent on spying on the kid (who we have still yet to see). For about twenty minutes many scenes follow like this, with nothing explained. In fact, nothing seems to be happening at all. He gets a visit from his estranged wife. He does some situps. He paces some more. Sometimes he’s at home. Sometimes he’s at work. And all along the camera is on him like a hunted animal–you have to crane your neck to see the background sometimes, he’s so close.
But then one line of dialog changes the entire point of the film. You realize that what seemed pointless, even strange activity, now has a purpose, as does the camerawork. It took my breath away, and from then on The Son becomes suspenseful and completely involving.
The symbolism, too, sneaks up on you, from what seems like ordinary surroundings. This too I can’t really speak about as I’d give some more away. So, er, I really recommend it.
The audience left much to be desired, made up of people whose jaded nature was only matched by their ignorance. “That’s it?” someone said at the admittedly abrupt ending. Others then chimed in: “That’s it? Will there be a sequel?” and other such stoooopidity. What is with these people? Even the multiplex crowd aren’t like this.

Film Festival Day One/Two

Film Festival Day One/Two
Your trusty blogging bastard has been given a press pass to the Santa Barbara Film Festival, which opened Friday night (the night I went to review the Chekhov play).
First of all, you can read my article on Flying A Studios that constitutes my coverage of the fest for this ish.
Then, bear with me as over the next week I give a few comments on the films I wind up seeing (I’m not doing the fest non-stop–I have other things to attend to, other writing assignments and such, but I’ve got at least one film per day).

Being the documentary on environmental sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, a big favorite of my friend Phil, who introduced me to his work. As Goldsworthy says in the film, his job is “to make all the effort look effortless.” His sentinel-like cones of slate, his pools of leaves, his serpentine motif running through a majority of his work, all look beautiful in the photos, but the documentary by Thomas Riedelsheimer adds the dimension of time, which Goldsworthy’s work is very much about. Seeing the pieces change over time as nature reclaims its materials is a major element. Goldsworthy has the patience of a monk (or a clay animator) and much suspense occurs watching him nearly finish a piece only to have the bloody thing fall apart. Good soundtrack by Fred Frith, working with what looked like a Swedish or Eastern European ensemble (credits went very quick).

Ken Loach’s new film is a big, steaming chunk of Scottish depression, in which a 15-year-old tries desperately to improve his lot, only to have the fate of his class and social standing grind him down again. Many in the British press don’t like Loach, seeing him as a melodramatic ol’ Red lefty, but for American filmgoers not used to seeing realism on screen (or, if you live in Santa Barbara, outside in the streets), this must have seemed like the grittiest, grimiest, most despairing portrayal of being young, ambitious, and downwardly mobile they’ve ever seen (8 Mile is a completely safe and moral film and doesn’t count). The two people next to me were particularly troubled and particularly clueless to the essentials to the plot. “Is that a knife?” she said when a knife appeared. Or they tried to second-guess the film using their limited knowledge of mainstream film. Also of bemusement was the woman’s need to put her head between her knees anytime the film approached violence of any sort (yes, there’s a stabbing, but even the Hayes Code would have let it pass). She didn’t have her table in its upright locked position, but it’ll do.
Despite all this, the film itself was pretty good–I didn’t enjoy it as much as “Bread and Roses”–and the young lead bore a passing resemblance to another Loach hero, David Bradley in Kes. Added benefit: sensitive American moviegoers discovered the myriad uses of the word “fuck” and “cunt,” which you haven’t heard properly till it’s come out of the mouth of a pizza delivery boy missing his two front teeth. Watch as the swear words above result in many more hits to this site.

The Pang Brothers (or should that be The Brothers Pang?) nearly deliver the goods in this Hong Kong/Thailand horror tail, indebted heavily to The Sixth Sense, Ka

Last night, meself and my

Last night, meself and my theater-going chum Olivia went to check out The Cherry Orchard at UCSB’s Hatlen Theater, having been assigned it to review. Hopefully, the Voice’s Web site will publish it (they don’t always publish my stuff online if I’m not the lead review or article). I wanted to have a look at some production photos elsewhere so turned to good ol’ Google search. On the way there, I came across this pathetic Cherry Orchard Message Board, full of failed attempts by clueless undergrads to get easy answers over the Internet. How about using yer noodle?