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 fourboxes.tv. Bill's fiance, Amber (Terryn Westbrook) joins them in the house, which is becoming emptier, and also becomes drawn into fourboxes.tv. Fourboxes.tv 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.



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