Monday, May 28, 2007

SIFF 2007, day 2

Red Road- United Kingdom, Thriller

I learned at this screening that Red Road is the first of a trilogy of Advance Party films. This is a project in which films from different filmmakers will follow characters originated by Scherfig and Jensen. It sounds like a great project just to see how different filmmakers re-imagine these same characters in two more films. But anyway... onto the first of the trilogy, Red Road.

Red Road is a debut feature from director, Andrea Arnold. It is set in Scotland and follows Jackie (Kate Dickie). Jackie spends her days watching the CCTV monitors, watching for signs of trouble or illegal activity. I had to look up the use of CCTV in the UK to determine how widespread it really is, because I was wondering whether Jackie's job was a bit of paranoid, big brother science fiction, but it turns out that it is estimated that there are around 4,000,000 CCTV cameras all over the UK and that people, like Jackie, watch for suspicious activity 24 hours a day. That is a little creepy to say the least, but I digress. Jackie gets caught up in the activities of some of the people she watches, even going out of her way to bump into them on the street from time to time. Otherwise her life is fairly empty. Her relationship with her family appears strained, her husband is dead, and she meets a coworker for a scheduled, non-romantic sexual interlude.

This is until she spots Clyde (Tony Curran) on a monitor one day and is suprised that he has been released from prison. She becomes obsessed with his movements, watching him closely at work and then stalking him. At this point, the Red Road becomes very mysterious and tense since we are only given clues as to why Jackie is so interested in Clyde. And the tension only builds as she gets closer to him. Is he violent? Does he know who Jackie is?

The conclusion of the film is satisfying and a really unusual, dark and overtly sexual pathway for a character to take to find emotional healing. Damn good film.

Monster Camp- USA, Documentary

Monster Camp is a locally produced documentary about live-action role playing games. Specifically, the movie documented the live games of a group of LARPers in western Washington (NERO). My attraction to the movie was a curiosity about the draw of role playing games in general and because the documentary looked amusing.

As it turns out, this documentary was neither amusing enough or informative enough to recommend. All I got out of the experience was that boffing people dressed in silly costumes while claiming to be an undead lizard looked like fun, but not too much fun to watch really. Probably something I'd prefer to do without trying to throw packets of bird seed and chanting spells, but that's just me.

The director, Cullen Hoback, was in attendance and has the fun of being asked why he would make a documentary about a bunch of immature assholes. I have much the same question although I suspect the problem wasn't the subject matter or the LARPers, but the inability of the filmmaker to get his point across in any compelling or even entertaining fashion.

Monkey Warfare- Canada, Comedy

Dan (Don McKellar) and Linda (Tracy Wright) are roommates who pay the rent by sorting though other people's garbage for treasures to sell on ebay. In this way, they scrape by making enough to survive while in keeping with their counter-culture values, i.e. without working for the man and keeping a low profile to hopefully keep their past quiet. They also make enough to pay for their monthly pot habit, supplied by the young and idealistic Susan (Nadia Litz), whom eventually turns to Dan to help keep her in working bicycles and to give her history lessons in the ways to challenging the authorities.

While Monkey Warfare was not a riotously funny comedy, it was a highly enjoyable film and might even be a little inspirational for those who also want to fight the SUV drivers of today and have values far to the left of the mainstream. At the festival screening, we were even privy to the clip after the credits that was censored in Canada. The clip involved a how to on the making of a molotov cocktail, although I personally wouldn't follow their recipe. The results were less then impressive. Amusing regardless... and the music was pretty cool too. Enjoyable flick.

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