Monday, February 13, 2006

Resting From the Rest of the IndieFest

Yes, yes, I've been slightly neglectful, or at least tardy, in posting and recapping the second half of the San Francisco Independent Film Festival. I have excuses!! A) It was Chemo-Week, so I was 'out of it' for part of the week. B) Things weren't striking me as must-sees, or at least after the cinematic orgy of "Mad Cowgirl" (it's got an encore screening on Tuesday night! 9:30 pm), I just wasn't as needful in my viewing habits. (I even walked out of one!) But enough with the excuses already.

Topping my list in the features is "Ellektra" (dir. Rudolf Mestdagh, Belgium/Netherlands/Germany, 2004, 103 min.). I really didn't have any expectations walking into this, but it delivered on so many levels. Mestdagh's screenplay intertwines a half dozen stories of people who suffer SEVERE debilitations in their lives, i.e. a concert pianist whose fingers are amputated. They are brought together by a young woman via text messages to their cell phones, where they experience one of the most thrilling climaxes I've seen on screen in a LONG while! I was blown away! Of course, during the Q&A afterwards, some guy asked why Mestdagh 'sold out' with a happy ending. Our moderator joked, "Leave to a San Francisco audience to hate a happy ending!" Oh fuck you both! I LOVED it! And told the director such afterwards, where he guided me to his distributor to obtain a copy on dvd - a REAL catch as it were, since there were only 17 prints struck! Maxxxxx gives it a whooping whistle!!

Topping my list in the shorts was "Pretty Kitty" (dir. Gregory McDonald, US, 2004, 4 mins.). This was sick, twisted and hysterically funny! The man wrote, directed, edited and starred himself. His editing is of special note as the suspense of him digging through a kitchen utensil drawer and it's pay-off was fabulous. (He's also quite easy to look at! hee hee) I snagged him after the screening and will be getting a copy of this, too! Maxxxxx gives it a "Sweet, sweet eye juice!" (Yes, I taught him that actual phrase for my own sick enjoyment!)

Of the approximately 30 other short subjects I saw, only "The Listener" (dir. Michael Chang, Ireland, 2005, 11 mins.) came close to catching my attention the way that "Pretty Kitty" did. "The Listener" played before "Ellektra" and it was a fabulous pairing! Briefly, a deaf woman becomes infatuated with a blind man. Awkwardness and surrealism ensue. I loved it! Must have it! Maxxxxx whistles, plaintively.

Other features of note included "Filmic Achievement" (dir. Kevin Kerwin, US, 2005, 80 mins.) which was a 'Spinal Tap'esque treatment of a class of students in an accelerated film production school. I appreciated the snarky typecast of characters, but it just didn't go FAR enough. It tries to make the mockumentary a tad TOO real, when it could have easily gone way out there into farce-land. Which I like. If I had my druthers, anyway. Being a armchair director/producer and all. But it was well crafted and had excellent pacing and knew better than to milk for laughs (which is a topic that will come up later). Yep, I liked it, but won't need to have it. Maxxxxx chuckles.

Also, for closing night was "The Great Yokai War" (dir. Takashi Miike, Japan, 2005, 124 mins.), which is Miike's foray into children's fantasy. Where "Filmic Achievement" may not have gone far enough, discrimination is NOT in Miike's forte! He just vomits up images in this thing! It is sort of a Japanese "Never Ending Story" meets "HR Pufenstuff" meets "Dark Crystal" meets "The Lord of the Rings" meets... Well you get the idea. I have sort of a love/hate thing going with Miike (LOVED "Bird People of China"! HATED "Ichi The Killer"! LOVED his part of "3 Dumplings"! HATED "Audition"!), but this sort of broke that rule. It was so fabulous to look at, but it ran too long. There were a couple of characters that served no purpose, but took a lot of screentime. However, the yokai are incredible to watch and look at. It would be a keeper, just as a curiosity piece and easier to take in a couple hour long parts. Maxxxxx screams in terror and flies around the apartment!

The 'star studded' event for the fest was a late showing of ."Masters of Horror: Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" (dir. Don Coscarelli, US, 2005, 52 mins.), which featured the presence of Mr. Coscarelli ("Phantasm" "Bubba Ho-Tep") and Agnus Scrimm (the Tall Man in "Phantasm"), who was featured in the flick. (This is part of a Showtime series apparently.) Mr. Scrimm was actually extremely informative during the Q&A in his analysis of what makes Coscarelli such a good director. (It was having to do with 'the reveals' of each character.) It was a nifty enough little flick and I did not stay for the Dario Argento that followed it. Another "Sweet, sweet eye juice!" from Maxxxxx.

Now, working my way DOWN in the features, I would have to include "Waterborne" (dir. Ben Rekhi, US, 2005, 85 mins.). I hate to relegate this to a derivative, but it's sort of a "Crash: WMD" as we follow a large group of Los Angelenos during a crisis: the city's water supply is contaminated with a biohazardous material. Our cast of characters go into meltdown, of course, and some of them awfully quickly, I might add. Rekhi has good technique, great pacing, a good cast, but the screenplay is just a bit forced for my taste. It just didn't click for me. (Available at Amazon for 32% off? Naw, I don't think so.)

Speaking of not clicking, "Sidekick" (dir. Blake van de Graaf, Canada, 2005, 87 mins.) had hardly any kick in it at all. It's supposed to be this humorous story of a guy who discovers a man with special powers and decides to train him to become a superhero. Hilarity is supposed to ensue, however, you can feel the director pausing for laughs. That's a killer. Ironically, the script has been picked up to be Hollywoodized, so it's not going away. But there is some potential there. Just not with this director or cast. (The lead is surprisingly TALL as I found out at the closing night party.) Maxxxxx asks "Is it bedtime?"

And rounding out the bottom of the features I saw would be "Under the Rainbow" (dir. J.R. Heffelfinger, Japan/US, 2006, 75 mins.) This was only 75 minutes?! I walked out of it at maybe 30 minutes into it. It is a D U L L little feature about a man in midlife crisis in Tokyo. I guess. It was D U L L. I couldn't stand it and had to get out into the SUN!!

As I said further up, there were over 30 short subjects. Here are a few that still stick in my mind as worth mentioning. "Circus of Infinity", "Dirty Mary" (featuring a TERRIFIC farcical performance by a woman who gets just a bit TOO drunk during her HOT DATE), and there was a truly twisted little bit that would make David Lynch proud (and Maxxxxx would LOVE) called "Duck Children" which you can watch "here."

I'll leave you with the Duck Children...


JimmyD said...

Yeahhhh. Awesome coverage!

Jay, the Angry Little Man said...


ClizBiz said...

Cool! Great coverage and witty prose. Love your grumpiness. I'm in SF too and will be covering SXSW for KUSF - maybe I'll see you there.

I think I'm gonna check out "Pretty Kitty" based on your rec.