Sunday, June 28, 2009

SIFF 2009, Day 21

June 11, 2009

The Conversation
(1974) Dir. Francis Ford Coppola

From Blogger
My mother is just a little movie obsessed and as soon as VCRs became widely available, we had one. It wasn't long my mother was quickly amassing a huge library of movies. And in the late 1970s, much of that collection were blackmarket copies with Arabic subtitles or atrocious quality, simply because the movies were not yet available commercially. Central to her collection was anything and everything that Harrison Ford is in. Thus The Conversation is a movie that I've seen many times, although, I had always been far too young to really appreciate the film. So I was very excited to see that SIFF included a screening of this classic, which was probably selected because this year, Coppola has another film that played at SIFF, Tetro. One of my favorite things about The Conversation is that it is one of those movies that stands up well to repeated viewings. Everytime I watch it, the ending means something completely different.

But there's no way I'd attempt to write here about The Conversation, when plenty of other, better writers have done so.

Krabat (2008) Dir. Marco Kreuzpainter

From Blogger
And after The Conversation, we attending a screening of probably the biggest German production of 2008, Krabat. It was based on a book of the same name by Otfried Pressleur (English translation title: The Satanic Mill) which I have heard described as the German Harry Potter. It has been a very popular book in Germany, that many people read as a child and while Krabat is definitely a fairly tale, it is a very dark one.

Krabat is set in Europe just after the Thirty-year's War and the beginnings of the Plague. Krabat (David Kross) is an orphan due to the plague and is begging with a small band of children when he begins to have strange dreams. These dreams, along with a flock of crows, lead Krabat to a mill where the Master (Christian Redl) is waiting with a meal, a bed, and an apprenticeship. As Krabat does his work at the mill, he learns that he and the other 11 boys that work there are there to learn more than just how to opperate the mill. They are also apprentices in black magic.

Krabat is befriended by Tonda (Daniel Bruhl), and it is from Tonda, that Krabat begins to learn of the sacrifices that are made for being a part of the mill. The Master does not allow the boys contact with anything outside the mill and they will be killed if they are fall in love with any of the village girls. But this isn't the only sacrifice. The Master is also prolonging his own life by sacrificing one of the boys each year.

Krabat is an absolutely mesmorizing film. It looks like a big budget, Hollywood movie. The cinematography, music, and production are amazing and not at all typical of the films seen at the Seattle Independent Film Festival. The special effects are well done and are also not over used or too flashy like in too many American movies. Krabat is simply a very good, albeit, very dark adventure story that I found to be wonderful. I am now very curious about the book, which has been translated into English, but is out of print.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

SIFF 2009, Day 17

June 7, 2008

Four Boxes (2009) Dir. Wyatt McDill

From Blogger
I hope there were a few fledgling filmmaker at this screening of Four Boxes, because it was very instructive on how such a disappointing movie is made. Trevor (Justin Kirk) and Rob (Sam Rosen) run a internet-sales business, Go Time Liquidators, and are at the recently deceased Bill Zill's homeSa in the suburbs, listing his belongs for sale on the web. And to pass time, they watch Bill's fiance, Amber (Terryn Westbrook) joins them in the house, which is becoming emptier, and also becomes drawn into is a house that is wired with cameras and broadcast, but recently a new guy has appeared, who they call Havok, and he doesn't appear to know that he's being watched. And he's weird, and maybe a terrorist.

Four Boxes is one of those movies that sets itself up to manipulate the audience so that a trick ending is possible. By this, I don't mean to say that all films with a puzzle structure and a suprise ending are terrible, but they are if the audience can see what's coming 10 min in. Four Boxes is not nearly as clever as it wants to be.

But really, Four Boxes should act as a reminder to NOT make a movie just because it would be an easy film to make. Please, make a movie that you are inspired to make. Tell stories that you need to tell in order to sleep at night. Don't do it because you have a script that requires an easy to find set and then call it "film gris" because you couldn't afford to properly light it. Additionally, I doubt this film would have gotten around to film festivals if the director's good friend, Justin Kirk, hadn't agreed to star. Meaning Justin Kirk is a really great friend.

Manhole Children (2009) Dir. Yoshio Harada

From Blogger
Day 17 was a disappointing day. Manhole Children sounded like a fascinating documentary from Japan. I had hoped to learn about the situation in Mongolia that resulted in extreme poverty and hundreds of people abandoning their children. The children survived by scavenging food and using manholes as shelter from the harsh climate. The documentary filmed the chidren back in the late 1990s, then followed up on them periodically over the next 10 years. We learn that the government sealed up the manholes and attempted to return the children to their families, but that these efforts had little impact on the lives of those in the documentary.

Boldoo appears to have much promise as a child living in a manhole. His mother had sent him to the city to work when she couldn't feed all of the kids at home, hoping for a better life for him. As a child, Boldoo learned to survive and to occasionally even make enough money to go home to his family to visit. He eventually managed to build a tiny house with found lumber and provide shelter for his family and best friend, Dashaa.

But adulthood was not kind to these children who were never able to escape extreme poverty as seen from the lives of Boldoo, his friend Dashaa and Oyun, the mother of Boldoo's child. As adults, Dashaa continues to work hard to get by and feed and care for family, but Boldoo sucumbs to alcoholism and often returns to the manholes to survive.

My complaints with Manhole Children as a film, isn't the subject matter, but that I didn't feel any more informed after having seen it. The impact of poverty is a universal problem and in Mongolia it didn't look that much different then it does on the streets of Seattle. Once people fall into homelessness, getting out is hopeless and so the choices are to either keep fighting or to descend into substance abuse. This is a sad portrait, but didn't offer any insight into the situation or even figures as to how many people in Mongolia are still struggling in this manner today after the fall of communism and the rise of capitolism that brought about the immense poverty in the 1990s.

Hooked (2009) Dir. Adrian Sitaru

From Blogger
One aspect of attending an International film festival is the opportunities to see movies that come from all over the world. I don't ever take enough advantage of that. Instead of seeing a diverse group of films, I tend to gravitate towards specific genres (action, thrillers), countries (Japan, Denmark, UK), or directors (Araki, Kirby Dick), but while I've always enjoyed the movies I see at the festival, this does limit the kinds of films I see. Due to my strong distaste for Lars von Trier, I avoid anything that is described as dogma. Hooked was selected due to it being mentioned in The Stranger, and I'm very pleased with this addition to our rather full Sunday festival schedule.

In Hooked, or Pescuit sportiv, two lovers are traveling out of town for a picnic. Mihai (Adrian Titieni) is a math teacher who has left his job due to a disagreement over grading. And so Mihai and Sweetie (Ioana Flora) are getting away to relax, but there is some definite tension between them as Sweetie drives to their destination, but this is forgotten once she hits a woman in the road. Fearing the woman, likely a prostitute is seriously hurt or dead Mihai wants to take her to the hospital, but Sweetie wants to cover up the accident so she talks him into taking the body into the woods. But the Ana (Maria Dinulescu) wakes up uninjured and the couple try to act as if she had passed out. And she ends up picnicing with them...

From here is where the film gets really interesting. Seems writer/director Adrian Sitaru is very good at depicting relationships. Ana toys with the couple all movie. She draws out information and sometimes secrets that keep the couple on edge and reveal their secrets along with the nature of their reltionship in a natural way.

Hooked is a Romanian first feature from Adrian Sitaru and reading an interview with the director I was surprised to learn that he is heavily influenced by Dogma cinema and Lars von Trier. And Hooked is very Dogma. It was filmed on location, with hand-held camera. And I think this contributes to the intimate feel of the film, but it is also a carefully scripted and cleverly written piece that has much more understanding and affection for women then anything I've seen from Lars von Trier.

SIFF 2009, Day 16

June 6, 2009

Grace (2009) Dir. Paul Solet

Grace was another film from the midnight adrenaline series and first feature from writer/director, Paul Solet, who was at the screening. He talked about his interest in film being cultivated by his camp councilor. Turns out Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) was once a camp councilor and trusted to council children. But anyway, I'm guessing it was the Eli Roth connection that helped bring Jordan Ladd into the project to play the lead, Madeline Matheson, a woman who desperately wants to have a baby.

Madeline and Henry (Stephen Park) appear to have a great life. Madeline has given up work to become a full time wife and mother, but so far all of her pregnancies have ended in miscarriage. Finally she is pregnant again and the couple decides to use a homeopathic birthing clinic and midwife instead of the more common hospital birth. Close to the end of term, the couple are in a traffic accident that ends with loss of both Henry and the unborn child. But Madeline will not allow labor to be induced and carries the dead fetus to team, waiting to have a natural childbirth at Naturebirth. And shortly after Madeline gives birth to the dead baby, her midwife, Patricia Lang (Samantha Ferris) find Madeline nursing the baby, Grace.

However, this is not quite the perfect miracle. Grace is not a normal, healthy baby. Madeline notices a smell and flies accumulate around the crib. And Grace has a thirst, not for milk, but blood.

In general the tone of the film is perfect for this tale about unnatural nature of childbirth and motherhood. I mean, just because everyone says nothing is more natural than having a baby, I cannot imagine anything that less natural or more terrifying then having something growing inside for nine months. There is plenty in that probably universal terror to base a film on. But with Grace, Paul Solet was attempting to tell a story about the intense bond between mother and child, a bond so strong that a it is only natural for a mother to kill in order to protect her child, and in the case of Grace, she's willing to kill to feed her child.

Well, if that was the intended subtext, it wasn't a complete success. I saw a different film in Grace that was more about the intense need of some women for a baby. And that this drive is, at some level, unnatural. That's how I read this film. In many ways, this was the same movie as Jan Svankmayer's Little Otik, but with more gore and significantly less horror. But despite not going as far as has been done, it did work, but it was far from the pro-woman movie that the filmmaker seemed to believe that he made. Sadly, many of the female characters were not well developed or particularly interesting, but the worst crime was the attempt at a lesbian plot line that completely depended upon unrealistic stereotypes.

And my question is, why aren't women making horror movies about motherhood? Because perhaps, this material in the hands of a woman could birth a more subtle and interesting film that comes across as more genuine.

Friday, June 19, 2009

SIFF 2009, Day 15 part 2

June 5, 2009

Black Dynamite is a tribute to 1970s blaxploitation and was born of a collaboration between director Scott Sanders and star, cowriter, fight choreographer... Michael Jai White.  And if Black Dynamite is any indication, they know exploitation cinema of the 1970s and made this homage to the genre that encapsulates all of the elements that made the movies of the era so enjoyable.  The plot is most definitely a nod to the genre as at first, Black Dynamite is looking for the man who killed his brother, but the plot spirals a bit out of control eventually leading Black Dynamite to battle the devious Dr. Wu on Kung Fu island.  Black Dynamite even takes The Man on face to face when he arrives at the white house. 

But the silliness of the plot doesn't  mean the Black Dynamite isn't completely awesome.  First of all, this movie is the blaxsploitation movie that was never made.  It is perfection.  Somehow it looks as if it was made 30 years ago.  The wardrobe is impeccable, the filming locations must have been broght in via time machine, and the music is incredible.  I even read somewhere that it was filmed using film and equipment of the era.  Black Dynamite is completely old school.  And it doesn't wink at you a single time.  This is a film with complete respect for the era and the genre.  There isn't a single lazy, "look at the silly 1970s clothes/hair/culture" joke in this movie.  It is very funny, but it is fun and often hilarious because it is played totally straight. 

And Black Dynamite is an awesome bad ass and has brought back the action hero.  I think Michael Jai White might just be the new Chuck Norris, since all of those "facts" that are attributed to Chuck Norris IS Black Dynamite.  And the SIFF audiences overwhelming agreed that Black Dynamite kicks ass as it took home the Golden Space Needle.  Don't miss Black Dynamite when it opens in September.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

SIFF2009, Day 15

June 5, 2009
Humpday (2009) Dir. Lynn Shelton

From Blogger
Humpday is the little, Seattle film that everyone is talking about.  It won a special jury prize at Sundance and is opening nationally in July.  This is a bit of a shock that a small, "mumble" core movie based on local The Stanger's annual porn competition Hump has leaped into the limelight.  Although, perhaps the timing is perfect for Lynn Shelton's film as there is interest in movies about relationships between men, recently dubbed bro-mance movies (i.e. I Love You Man).  But Humpday has much more realism and characters with depth in comparison to any of the Apatow movies.

In Humpday, Andrew (Joshua Leonard) shows up at Ben (Mark Duplass) and Anna's(Alycia Delmore) home looking for a place to crash.  Andrew and Ben were good friends in college, but their lives have moved in very different direction.  Ben has gone the traditional route and is married and owns a home in Seattle, while Andrew wanders the globe and considers himself an artist.  Shortly after Andrew's arrival, he and Ben have a few too many drinks and decide that as Andrew's next big mind-altering project, they should shoot a porn movie for Hump.  Because two straight men having gay sex on camera makes some sort of artistic statement. 

But the next day, this idea definitely transforms to a dare that neither is willing to back down on.  Ben doesn't want Andrew to believe that marriage has made him predicatable or dull.  Andrew also is reacting to a situation that revealed that he isn't nearly as comfortable with his sexuality as he thinks he should be and so both men feel they need to prove to the other that they could make this movie, even though they are straight and do not want to. 

How the movie plays out makes it a very awkward comedy.  But unlike most Hollywood comedies, this one does shine a light on relationships.  I really enjoyed watching Ben interact with his wife.  I thought she would be more stereotypical, but over the course of the film, I found I could really relate to her and Ben's relationship. And for me, it highlights why sometimes the lies are more about protecting someone's idea of who you while othertimes they happen in order to challenge or destroy a perception of who you really are.  And I think these two men along with most of us are struggling with the idea of who we are versus how the world sees us and even how those closest to us sees us. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

SIFF 2009, Day 14

June 4, 2009

The Escape (2009) Dir. Katherine Windfeld

From Blogger
The Escape refers to Danish journalist Rikke Lyngvig's (Iben Hjijle) escape from a group of terrorists in Afghanistan who planned to kill her is Denmark did not withdraw their troops. Her escape was made possible due to the help of her Afgan guard, Nazir (Faegh Zamani), who felt sympathy for her when he realized that she would be killed in a few days time, but he told her that she can never reveal that she did not escape on her own, because if anyone were to suspect that she escaped with his help, we would be killed. 

Once free, Rikke returns to Denmark a hero, resulting in interviews and even writing a book about her experiences. She keeps her word and never reveals that Nazir made her escape possible.  However, Nazir flees Afghanistan seeking asylum and contacts Rikke for help. But if she helps Nazir her career is at risk, since she will have to admit that she lied numerous times to the press and even in her own book about having escaped her captors unaided. 

The Escape
succeeds in being a captivating film with some excellent performances.  Iben Hjejle is wonderful as the very career minded journalist, for whom being taken hostage and surviving was little more than an opportunity to launch her career.  And Lars Mikkelsen, like his brother Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale), seems to have a fascinating sort of charisma that lends complexity to his characters.  The Escape was a high tension drama that has a bit to say about the politics of the Danish involvement in Afganistan and the role the media can play in politics.  A pretty impressive first feature, from director Katherine Windfeld. 

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

SIFF 2009, Day 10

May 31, 2009

Kisses (2008) Dir. Lance Daly

From Blogger
After being called the best Irish film of 2008 in the Irish press, I had high expectations for Kisses, and was not disappointed.  Dylan and Kylie and friends and neighbors in an impoverished North Dublin.  One day, after a particularly ugly argument at home with his alcoholic parents, Dylan flees home with Kylie.  They head into Dublin to search for Dylan's brother, who ran away two years before.  On their search, they buy roller-sneakers, steal meals, search for places to sleep and try to avoid the authorities who will send them back home.

What is most striking about Kisses is that due to the very honest portrayals of Dylan and Kylie, the film manages to be a touching adventure into the discovery of another world outside of the gray and seemingly hopeless lives at home.  Kisses is a bit of an adolescent lovestory between Dylan and Kylie as they learn to depend on each other.  Kisses additionally manages to be a sweet film about childhood that doesn't once become saccharine. 

Friday, June 12, 2009

SIFF2009, Day 9

The Hurt Locker (2008) Dir. Kathryn Bigelow

From Blogger
Okay, I admit it. Using this image is a bit misleading. But at the beginning, when I realized that I had inadvertently picked a SIFF movie with Guy Pierce it it, I was so excited, but he's only in the movie for a few minutes. But he was in the part of the movie that I was really enjoying.

The Hurt Locker is about a unit of soldiers that disarms bombs. And I was quite enjoying this movie when they were in Iraq doing their job. There was tension, suspense, and just enough plot. It was a bit like a decent action movie set in Iraq. Sadly, Kathryn Bigelow wasn't content with making an action movie set and the movie eventually brought the soldiers back to the families in the states and futher attempts to demonstrate how illsuited the men are to live back home.

La Mission (2009) Dir. Peter Bratt

You've seen this movie before, only this time, it is set in San Fransico's Mission District.

Plot synopsis: Che (Benjamin Bratt) is an upstanding member of his community in the mission district. He knows everyone, brings elderly neighbors groceries, and fixes up fancy cars with his buddies to parade around town in. He's just a swell guy. But then, he finds out his kid is gay. OMG! And kicks him out and generally cannot cope, cuz there ain't no such thing as a gay latino.

But the native american side of the family understands and Jesse stays with them. Che (big shock) eventually comes around and accepts his son, but not until after some gay bashing and gang violence have occurred in his community.

For the genre, this is a better than average flick, but again, it is all so familiar and it is a bit dull to watch a movie when you know exactly what is going to happen, and even how it will likely get there.

SIFF 2009, Day 8

May 29, 2009
(2009) Dir. Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel

From Blogger
Not many films included in the Midnight Adrenaline series sparked much interest this year when I was just glancing at the schedule, but this was the exception. The synopsis just completely intrigued me. Deadgirl asks the question of what would happen if two average teen-aged boys were to find a girl tied up that no one knew anything about. In exploring this simple set up, Deadgirl becomes an analysis of manhood in American culture.

My very brief plot summery isn't really sufficient. The two boys that find the girl are JT (Noah Segan) and Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) on a day that they cut school and end up exploring an abandoned hospital. Deep in the basement, inside a locked room, they discover the naked body of the girl under plastic and to their amazement, she is alive. Rickie wants to take the girl to the hospital and tell the police, but JT is going to take full advantage of finding a "totally hot" naked girl strapped to an exam table, so Rickie leaves. When he returns, he learns of JT's discovery. The girl is not a normal girl. She cannot be killed and she appears to have more in common with a wild animal then a human.

This plot point allows this movie to explore some very dark, disturbing territory without becoming repellent. JT and plenty of others who find out about the girl do horrific things to her, but the story isn't so much what is happening in the basement room of the hospital, but is more about what Rickie is going to do about it. He is the only one who knows about the girl who doesn't participate in the gang rape and even attempts to free her. But he doesn't stop them, when all it would require is to contact the authorities. Why doesn't he? Well, because JT is his best friend. And also, because this whole situation has brought into question what it means to become a man. And right or wrong, his lack of participation makes him less of a man in their eyes and thus, in his own.

In the end, this is not a movie with heroes or villians, but that instead implys that all men are monsters, even the ones with the best of intentions. Additionally, Deadgirl points out that boys don't start out as monsters, but are taught in their attainment of manhood. And while I don't agree that all men are beasts, I do think it is worth considering that the American cultural ideal for men may premote the development of monsters.

Danse Macabre (2009) Dir. Pedro Pires

From Blogger
Some features have a short screening with them. I am very bad at finding these, but I did see one short this year, the fascinating Danse Macabre. This film is a poetic and very visually stunning look at life after death. This isn't a film about a supernatural afterlife, but instead the very natural process of the changes a body goes through after death. There are depictions of the body being moved, of embalming, of rigor mortis, and so on. Interesting concept.

Most fascinating was the choreography. The body appers to be played by a dancer and this dance is preformed with poses instead of movement.

I enjoyed this short. It was visually rich and a perfect companion to Deadgirl.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

SIFF 2009, Day 7

May 28, 2009

The Merry Gentleman (2009)  Dir. Michael Keaton

From Blogger

Every year, I say to myself that I'm not going to see the movies that I can only see at a film festival and skip the stuff that will at some point open wide. Certainly the movie directed by and starring Michael Keaton will be in theaters before summer ends, right? Well, I couldn't contain myself and had to see it. It has my favorite batman in it. And Frank Logan has a bit in common with batman as they both have a really big secret.

In The Merry Gentleman, Kate Frazier (Kelly Macdonald) is running away from an abusive relationship. In her new life, she looks up into the snow to see a man (Michael Keaton) about to jump from a building, but her scream startles him and he instead falls backwards to safety. When being questioned by police, they realize that the man she saw on the roof was likely the sniper responsible for a murder in the building across the street. The story that unfolds isn't a mystery or thriller, but instead a movie about sadness, loss and the finding connections. Unlike the majority of Keaton's roles, Frank Logan doesn't say much. He has this in common with Kate and after he helps her with her Christmas tree, a friendship blossoms. They are both people with a past and with secrets and they simply seem to understand one another. I connected to these scenes where they spent time together in the hospital or burning the Christmas tree. Those moments of the film were incredibly fresh, honest and genuine. And they were wonderful in that they allowed an intimate friendship to develop between a man and a woman without it being romantic. They were people who could depend on one another, not lovers and that was refreshing.

But there were aspects of The Merry Gentleman that bothered me. I had a difficult time believing Kate Frazier's character. Sometimes, she seemed more like a man's idea of an abused wife than the real thing. She was just so incredibly naive and I just couldn't believe how she continued to flirt with every man she encountered when obviously she had no interest in relationships with men at all. And to not get that the cop was coming on to her seemed downright unbelievable. So, this nagged at me all movie and I know that women do exactly that, flirting unknowingly just to be friendly and likable, but Kate was someone who was hiding from her past and as such, I would expect her to be seriously guarded and distrustful of all, especially man, and Kate didn't appear to be.

But despite that, I did really enjoy this film and a adored these two characters, the quietly charming and lonely Kate and the silent hitman. And it was wonderful to see a film that explores relationships between men and women that aren't based on sex. People have other needs, and Kate and Frank needed someone in their lives to be with that doesn't demand to know that details of their past lives. Just because the past may have shaped us into who we are today, doesn't mean we all want to be constantly reliving it.

SIFF 2009, Day 5

May 26, 2009

Daytime Drinking (2008) Dir. Young-Seok Noh

This film was added to the schedule after only watching the trailer. Something about the tone of the trailer totally charmed me, so I didn't bother doing any further research on the small, South Korean film. In Daytime Drinking, after quite a few drinks Hyuk-jin is convinced by his friends to to on a trip the following day. But when he arrives, none of his friends can be found. What follows is a very understated comedic film where Hyuk-jin is constantly disappointed. He has just been dumped by his girl friend, his friends don't show up for this trip, he stays at the wrong inn, he cannot get a bus back home, and the couple of women he meets along the way just take advantage of him. From the sounds of it, Daytime Drinking should be a frustrating film to watch, but while I felt bad for the character, I did see the humor in his bad luck. He was just so trusting of his drinking buddies and hopeful that the trip had to improve, that I couldn't seem to help optimistic as his trip continued it's downward spiral.

Daytime Drinking certainly wasn't one of the best films I've seen this year at SIFF, but it wasn't bad either. The film suffered from being overly long and poorly executed. I was certain that the theater had started on the second reel, when the movie began in mid-sentence during the conversation where Hyuk-jin was convinced to leave town the next day. But no, as there were other instances of strange, abrupt cuts along side long scenes of nothing at all.

But I thought a couple of the characters had charm and in general enjoyed his meandering journey. And plus, it's a helpful reminder of ethics of (Korean) drinking, and all of the ways it can get you into trouble, ya know, for those times when you find yourself drinking with Koreans.

Fear Me Not (Den du frygter) Dir. Kristian Levring

Another film from Denmark, because Danish movies rock! And one usually thinks of Dogma when talking Danish film, but Fear Me Not, like all of the Danish film that I've seen this year at SIFF has little in common with Dogma. Fear Me Not was cowritten by the director and Anders Thomas Jensen, who also wrote Brothers, After the Wedding, and wrote and directed one of my favorites from SIFF a couple of years ago, Adam's Apples.

Mikael (played by the awesome Ulrich Thomsen) has a great life, but something is missing and while claiming that he's happy to not be working, he is restless and enrolls in a clinical trial of a new medication. After some concerning side effects are brought to light, the trial is suspended, but Mikael likes the changes he is experiencing and he continues taking the drug in secret. The result is a complete change in his personality that he fully embraces who he has become and what unfolds becomes increasingly aggressive and violent.

Fear Me Not was definitely an enjoyable thriller. The writing was smart and the actors in the leads were quite good. I definitely recommend Fear Me Not to anyone who enjoys a good psychological thriller. This was a very intriguing look at the aspects of human nature that everyone probably has, but that are repressed. Until, they are allowed to manifest themselves, due to say taking a drug with unknown side effects.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

SIFF 2009, Day 4

May 25, 2009

We Live in Public (2009) Dir. Ondi Timoner

From Blogger

We Live in Public began over a decade ago as a document of doc-com entrepreneur Josh Harris' experiment with filming the most intimate activities of life and putting it out on the internet. In the 1990s, during the dot-com boom when he, along with many others, had become rich and he was constantly experimenting with creating and using the internet in new and innovative ways. He created a bunker in New York city that was completely wired. There were cameras everywhere inside the bunker and he invited people to live there where everything was free, except for one thing, the video footage. He would own that.

Well, the experiment was part art project, a bit social experiment, and completely fascinating. But We Live in Public doesn't end with the police raid of Josh Harris's bunker. Instead it explores his life, his relationships and the impact of technology on the emotional lives of everyone. We Live in Public is about what I'm doing right now. Putting my ideas out on the internet for all to see and how that act has consequences and changes my life. And this is something that I'd never really thought about. I had considered the loss of privacy that can result from Facebook, My Space, Live Journal, etc. And try to at least by aware of what I launch into this superhighway, knowing full well that this is a public place, but I had never considered that this act has an impact on my life off-line. And I certainly had never thought about what the popularity of Facebook says human nature.

See this movie. I was blown away by the immense complexity of what could have been a simple documentary on another dot-com millionaire's rise and fall, but exploded into a wonderfully thorough analysis of how technology changes who we are. It is only playing at festivals, but considering the reception it is receiving, I'm hopeful that it will be picked up for distribution.

Terribly Happy (2008), Dir. Henrik Ruben Genz

Two years ago, the SIFF theme was Danish Cinema. I pretty much ignored it and went about my normal viewing habits of whatever appealed, gravitating toward Asian cinema. But I did take in one film from Denmark, Adam's Apples, which is among the funniest black comedies I've ever seen. Since then, I take notice of any film from Denmark and they do fantastic black comedies, and Terribly Happy is no exception.

Although, I wouldn't categorize Terribly Happy as black comedy. Noir horror, suspense that just happens to be very darkly comedic is more like it. Police officer Robert Hansen is transferred to a small town to act as their marshal. Quickly, he discovers that he will not last long in this small village if he insists on doing things by the book. The townsfolk have their own way of doing things and don't much appreciate the interference of outsiders, who tend to disappear. Terribly Happy often reminded me of Blood Simple, although only in tone. This was a suspenseful and curious film that was often quite funny. Someday, I'll have to see if Henrik Ruben Genz's other films are as interesting as this one.

SIFF 2009, Day 3

Paper Heart (2009) dir. Nicholas Jasenovec

Post movie tweet: Paper Heart- Documentary or fiction? Regadless, sweetly charming mumble core romance exploring the nature of love that feels true.

I really wasn't sure what I was watching throughout this romantic comedy that stars comic Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera, playing themselves.  And that is exactly what was throwing me off.  Paper Heart is a totally fictional film, where the cast all play characters with their own names, but the plot of the film is that Charlyne and Nickolas embark on a journey to find out whether true love exists.  Charlyne doesn't believe in love and says she has never been in love, but while filming, she meets and begins to date Michael Cera and the decision is made to keep rolling and to capture every moment on film, to see where it goes.  Can Michael Cera change Charlene's mind about the existance of love? 

So while watching this film, interlaced with interviews about how ordinary people on the streets of America have or have not found love, while a romance develops between Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi, I couldn't help but be pulled in enough to wonder if there was any reality to the film.  Did they ever date?  Are they are real life couple who decided to base a film on how two actors could fall in love?  Or was this purely a movie, and this nagged at me all movie. 

Well, it is just a movie, based on a screenplay written by Nicolas and Charlyne, but I guess it is saying something about the acting that I really did question whether what I was seeing was real all movie.  The stand out in the movie is Michael Cera.  While I enjoyed Charlyne's preformance and especially her puppet shows to tell portions of the story that were not caught on film,  it was Michael Cera who kept me laughing.

So this was an enjoyable addition to our festival line up that will be released in the USA in August.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

More Upcoming SIFF 2009 Films

We've done it again.  13 or so festival movies just is not enough.  So more tickets were purchased.  Even with a final looming at 8:00 AM Saturday morning, that I'm not at all prepared for, I still keep seeing movies.  I think I have a problem.

So these are in my near future.

Tonight, The Escape (Flugten), Denmark, Contemporary World Cinema
Friday, June 5 Humpday, USA, Northwest Connnections
Friday, June 5 Black Dynanite, USA, Midnight Adrenaline
Saturday, June 6, Grace, USA, Midnight Adrenaline
Sunday, June 7, Four Boxes, USA, Contemporary World Cinema
Sunday, June 7, Manhole Children, Japan, Documentary Films
Sunday, June 7, Hooked (Percuit Sportiv), Romania, Contemporary World Cinema
Thursday, June 11, The Conversation (1974), Archival Presentations
Friday, June 12, talhotblond, USA, Documentary Films
Saturday, June 13, Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Archival Presentations
Saturday, June 13, The Clone Returns Home, Japan, Contemporary World Cinema
Sunday, June 14, Poppy Shakespeare, United Kingdom, Contemporary World Cinema

Sadly, Mesrine was cancelled. 

It's a little strange looking at the schedule this way.  I hadn't realized just how many American movies I'm seeing this year.  I think we are seeing nearly every Danish film this year, but that's because they are awesome, and as usual, plenty of Japanese films.  No Hong Kong cinema or anything from China this year.  I was tempted by Chen Kaige's newest, but seriously, it looked a bit dull.  Beautiful, but like western opera, I'm guessing that Chinese Opera will not be my thing. 

And I'm seriously behind on writing short reviews of the films I have seen, but I'll get to it.  I'm only.... 10 movies behind... That's not so bad, right?