Saturday, April 23, 2005

48th SF International Film Festival - Day One

Oh dear. It's a (double) triple feature Friday, starting with:

"Cine'vardaphoto" (dir. Agnes Varda, France, 2004, 93 minutes) This is a triptych of short subjects by Agnes Varda: "Ydessa, the Bears and Etc..." (2004?), "Ulysse" (2003?) and "Salut les Cubains" (1963). The thread that binds the three shorts is that still photography is the central subject. I LOVED "Ydessa...," which focused on an art curator who has turned exhibition itself into an art form. Her collection of 100's of photos of people holding teddy bears - from the turn of the century through the second world war, is exhibited in a way which BLOWS people's minds!! Even on film! That is all I'll say about that, so as to avoid a spoiler. (This program repeats one or two more times in the Festival and has distribution, so GO SEE IT if you can!) The second was not nearly as fulfilling, though still sort of interesting as Ms. Varda follows up with a pair of models that she worked with 30 years prior. The third short, which is an 'animated' collage of photographs she took in Cuba in 1963 was difficult to follow, as it was in French with terribly grainy subtitles against a lot of white background. So. Well. I dozed off at one point. Which was good, 'cos I needed to prepare for Rrrrrrrroxanne(!)'s award presentation.

It would seem that the French Consulate in San Francisco is just THRILLED with the work that Rrrrrrrroxanne(!) has done these past four years. (Has it really been FOUR YEARS since the Pompous Asshole, er, I mean, Peter Scarlett left the SF Film Society??) Rrrrrrrroxanne(!) was made a 'Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres' by the Minister of Culture and Communication of France! This is outrageously ironic since she can not pronounce the title she was just given. Poor Rrrrrroxanne! (She also appeared on stage in Dolce and Gabbana, if I'm not mistaken. I think she should have chosen Chanel or at least YSL.) Anyway, during the Consulate's introduction of Rrrrrrroxanne(!), he mentioned her career on Broadway as having worked with Bob Fosse and Ute Hagen. Judy snarked, "Was she an usher?" which made me snot! Anyway, Rrrrrrroxanne(!) gave a brief and well rehearsed acceptance speech in English and French and got out of the way for the director of:

"Kings and Queen" (dir. Arnaud Desplechin, France, 2005, 155 minutes) Desplechin made a short introduction regarding the screenplay awards that the film won in France this year and that he'd be available for a Q&A afterwards, if we will stick around since it is fairly long. He didn't mention that is fairly DIFFICULT to get through, though. I've got real mixed feelings about this one. There is a central female character and the men in her life: father, son, the son's father (who she never really married), her ex-husband and her present boyfriend. She is pretty, oh, well, crazy. Yep. Crazy. Neurotic just doesn't do her justice. On top of her neurosis is the certifiable craziness of her ex-husband (who spends most of his time in a mental hospital or with his psychoanalyst). We also get to meet the rest of their families: parents, brothers, sisters, etc. The bottom line is: it's a HUGE cast, in completely neurotic situations for two and a half hours. I guess the 'American equivalent' would be "Hannah and Her Sisters." But in French. For two and a half hours. Because of the length, the complexity of the many relationships, oh and the visual jarring of widescreen handheld cinematography, I found it VERY difficult to sit through. I was checking the time around the one hour-fortyfive minute mark and wasn't sure I was going to make it! However, the epilogue was beautifully written and actually brought me 'back down' from the hysteria that the previous couple of hours had placed me in. The point the film makes is really quite lovely and philosophical. I just wish it hadn't taken so LONG to do it! I did not stay for the Q&A (and I am most likely not going to throughout the festival, as they can be tedious affairs at best and embarrassing at their worst). So, I popped upstairs for the Stella Artois reception before the Midnight Movie.

I had a lovely chat with the new Membership Coordinator, Alexandra Ruhlmann! She's my new best friend! (Don't worry Reva and Nicola! You two STILL rule!!) We decided that it was too early in our relationship to start gossiping about her boss, yet! So we just popped back a couple of beers before going back downstairs for:

"3... Extremes" (dirs. Fruit Chan, Park Chan-Wook, Takashi Miike; Hong Kong, Korea, Japan; 2004, 125 minutes) This is sort of an Asian 'Trilogy of Terror.' Fruit Chan's piece was "Dumplings" which was BEAUTIFULLY photographed by Christopher Doyle ("Hero" "Infernal Affairs" "Rabbit Proof Fence" etc.). Now, I don't want to spoil any of these, but let's just say if I were to pitch this, I'd call it a mix of "Vera Drake" meets "Sweeney Todd"! hee hee hee! TOTALLY creepy ickiness! AWESOME!! The second piece was Park Chan-Wook's "Cut." GORGEOUSLY designed and shot! Hideously sadistic! But really a confusing piece about an extra's revenge upon a director he has worked with and has no idea who he is. The torture and motive are perfectly laid out. It's how and why the director changes that I just didn't understand. Not at all up to the standards of the other two pieces. The final piece was Takashi Miike's "Box." Now, some of you know that I have a love/hate thing going with Miike's work. He cranks out an ENORMOUS amount of work EVERY YEAR. Some of it I LOVE ("Bird People of China"), some of it I can sort of get behind ("Ichi the Killer," "Audition") and some of it is just horrible ("The Happiness of the Katakuris"). "Box" is somewhere on the UPPER end of the scale. Miike's best and worst quality is how excrutiatingly SLOW he can pace his film so that he can achieve the maximum shock effect when necessary. In a piece of this length (appox. 30 minutes) it works perfectly! The creepy quotient was FABULOUS!! The shock quotient had people screaming in fear! However, his pacing also had someone a couple of rows back asleep and snoring. (Well, it was 2:30 AM by the time the program ended!) The ending was sort of out of left field and maybe too bizarre for the sake of just being... bizarre. But the rest of the film was gorgeously creepy and the climax was fittingly fraught with tension! I'd keep an eye out for this, most likely on home video. Watch it. In the darrrrrrrk....

Oh!! And before the Midnight Movie began, they had a short trivia quiz for some passes to the rest of the Midnight Movie series. For some odd reason, I just HAD to answer one of the questions (about Miike, ironically enough) and have ended up with SIX passes (two for Saturday and four for next Friday night)! So if any of you locals are interested or know of someone who is (Jimmy: Saki and Penny?), drop me a note or call my cell. I'll have them on me for the rest of the festival.

Gotta get to SLEEP now!! (4 am!!) Apr. 23rd, 2005|04:19 am

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