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Showing posts from 2008

SIFF 2008, Blog#10

Cherry Blossoms - Hanami Dir. Doris Dorrie Contemporary World Cinema Program North American Premiere This is absolutely my favorite film of the festival. Upon leaving the theater, I kept thinking that it touched me similarly to Ozu's Tokyo Story. After further reflection, this is in many ways a remake of Tokyo Story. It is similar in so many ways, but this is in no way a criticism of Cherry Blossoms. It is just as powerful as Ozu's film about the interconnectedness of family. And just like Ozu's film, also made me want to pick of the phone and call my mother. In Cherry Blossoms, after Trudi receives the news that her husband may not have long to live, she drags him off to visit their children. Rudi would rather stick to his normal routine, but he humors his wife as they stay with their children and do some sightseeing. Eventually, this journey of understanding brings Rudi to stay with his son, who has fled to Tokyo. There Rudi meets a young, homeless Butoh dancer a

SIFF 2008, Blog #9

Visioneers Dir. Jared Drake North American Cinema Program World Premiere This is exactly the reason I don't see the premieres at SIFF. Letting Go of God was an exception as being the film presentation of Julia Sweeney's monologue, I was fairly certain it would be enjoyable. Well, I talked myself into taking a chance on Visioneers, an US independent film by a first time director, because of the cast. Silly me thought that a movie starring the comedian Zach Galifianakis would end up with some of his comedy liberally sprinkled throughout. Sigh. I was very wrong. Zach was there, but his comedy stayed home. George Washington Winsterhammerman (Zach Galifinakis) is part of level three Visioneers in the Jeffers Corporation. He works to keep productivity up in his group of 4 as people in the world around them begin to explode. These explosions are preceded by common symptoms, which George is also experiencing. As coworkers continue to explode, George's brother, Juli

SIFF 2008, Blog #7

XXY dir. Lucia Puenzo Contemporary World Cinema At one time, I used to see every film about alternative sexuality that I could find. Wait, let me rephrase that, any film on sexuality. Coming out stories, movies about gay men, lesbian films, any film that received a NC-17, even a movie with a penis puppet quoting the Marquis de Sade. And most of them sucked, but there was always the occasional gem that would become my very favorite film ever. It was 1997 that I developed my fixation with The Pillow Book, that I've never gotten over. Although it was about that time that I stopped seeing every movie I could with a queer theme. I just noticed that I've slipped into old habits with this year's SIFF as there has been a lot of GLBT content this year. In XXY, a surgeon and his family come to stay in a small village in Uruguay to meet Alex. Alex is a hermaphodite who has been taking medications to feminize her appearance, allowing her to completely pass as a normal

SIFF 2008, Blog #8

Letting Go of God Dir. Julia Sweeney Contemporary World Cinema Series World Premiere World Premieres are fairly rare at SIFF. While being among the largest film festivals, screening over 400 films most years, SIFF isn't the kind of festival that filmmakers premiere their films at. The only reason we probably got this one is that Julia Sweeney is local. We've even spotted her shopping at Uwajimaya with her daughter once. Otherwise, Letting Go of God would have probably premiered at one of the real festivals like Sundance or Toronto. But it didn't. It was premiered here and I was there and so was Julia and her family, who were seated directly in front of me. [grin] And Letting Go of God is proof of overwhelming talent as it was simply a recording of Sweeney's 2 1/2 hour monologue about her search for God and it remained engaging for the entire duration. Letting Go of God is her journey that begins with a couple of mormon boys who knock on her door to ask her if

SIFF 2008, Blog #6

Half-Life Dir. Jennifer Phang Planet Cinema Program I wish I could remember why I thought this would be good. Now that I look over the description provided by SIFF, it looks like a movie I would have avoided. It might have been the positive comments left on IMDB that led me astray. So Half-Life is set in a very near future where global warming has kept increasing, it does not appear to be safe to spend time outside without a respirator, and America is even more politically isolated from the rest of the world than it are today. In this future world, a single mother is raising her son and daughter. She has a boyfriend that is living with the family and they appear to be happy. The kids are another story. Both Tim and Pam are depressed. Tim daydreams about flying and beaches and Pam jumps off of the roof, apparently without causing herself any harm. There is some family drama. Mom's boyfriend is creepy and due to his creepy, inappropriateness with Pam, she and Tim run away

SIFF 2008, Blog #5

Sparrow dir. Johnny To Contemporary World Cinema This is only my seventh film at SIFF2008 and I feel satisfied. I have seen a charming comic film with a huge pickpocket showdown. It didn't have the flashiness of the pickpocket duels of A World Without Thieves of SIFF 2006 and also sadly lacked Andy Lau, but despite those short comings, I was totally charmed by Johnny To's Sparrow. This year I scoured the schedule for asian cinema and came up fairly empty handed. While there was no lack of films that sounded intriguing, most of them are western. But there are three Johnny To films this year; Sparrow, Triangle, and Mad Detective. A bit a research on availability made me grab a couple of tickets for Sparrow, since the other two can be found on DVD and it also, from the introduction, it might be the best of the three. Score. I just went to IMDB to see what other of Johnny To's films I've seen. Actually, Exiled appears to be it. I'm puzzled by this as I was certa

SIFF 2008, Blog #4

Mirageman dir. Ernesto Diaz Espinoza Midnight Adrenalin Series Mirageman is a super hero movie from Chilie. And it is very enjoyable. Maco is a martial artist with a past tragedy that still impacts his every decision. His parents here murdered, he was raped and his littler bother was brutally beaten, resulting in his need for hospitalization for constant care. But one day, on a run, he stumbles into a home invasion in progress, where some women are being held hostage. He covers his face with a ski mask and efficiently defeats the bad guys and Mirageman is born. As you can probably guess, there isn't anything truly original about the story. It is the same super hero story that is architypical. But it is the the use of the basic plot, with some great martial arts, and the totally expected plot arc that is exactly what works for this film. In Mirageman, they know that the reason there is a formulae for these movies, is because it works. We love it every time, so why not give

SIFF 2008, Blog #3

Boy A dir. John Crowley Contemporary World Cinema It recently occurred to me that there have been a few films, usually from the UK, that tell a story about childhood from the point of view of a bully. And what is particularly striking about some of these stories is that they refuse to judge the protagonist for these actions, instead they just observe them with little commentary on the act of bullying. Boy A on some levels does this too, In Boy A, Jack (Andrew Garflied) has been released from prison. His mentor, Terry (Peter Mullan) help him establish a new identity in a new place, far away from the crime that he commited and served time for. During their meetings, Jack occasionally wants to talk about his past life, before prison, but Terry wants him to move on. To live in the present and to focus on becoming a new man. And Jack really does seem to be doing quite well in his new life. He is liked at work, makes friends, and even finds a girlfriend. This is a huge success story c

SIFF 2008, Blog #2

The Edge of Heaven Dir. Fatih Akin Emerging Masters Series There have been so many recent films that could be compared to The Edge of Heaven due to its structure of intertwining stories. Crash, Short Cuts, Magnolia. But to do so, is misleading. The Edge of Heaven is not actually a story made up of stories that entertwine due to coincidence, but it really just one story, or one shared goal, to help Ayten. In the first part of the film, titled the death of Yeter, Ali invites Yeter to live with him and in return he will pay her salary. Yeter is a Turkish prostitute in Germany. While living with Ali, she comes to know his son, Nejat, who is a professor. Due to the circumstances of Yeter's death, Nejat tries to find her daughter in Istanbul to fund her education. Unbeknownst to him, Ayten has fled Turkey and is in Germany living with Lotte, who tries to help Ayten get political asylum. After another tragedy, the story winds back to Turkey ending in a German bookstore owned by Nej

SIFF 2008, Blog#1

The Mother of Tears SIFF Series: Midnight Adrenalin Dir: Dario Argento The Mother of Tears is the third and final installment of Argento's trilogy that started with Susperia. And in The Mother of Tears, his daughter, Asia, steps into the lead role. And Mother shares a lot with its predecessors, including the sometimes erie, but more often silly Gobin soundtrack that, in this movie, tended to consist primarily of "Mother of Tears" whispered over electronic rock music. If you don't want the movie spoiled, don't read too much further. The Mother of Tears is a good time if a scary monkey, geysers of blood, large bands of goth chicks marauding witches that stick their tongues out and say Blah, alchemists with ancient texts written story book style in modern English, glimpses of cannibalistic lesbian orgies (I think) and Asia Argento covered in sewage. This was all quite popular and met with much laughter and applause. But it should be noted that The Mother of T