Friday, March 24, 2006

Asian-American Film Festival (Part 2: The Kabuki Screenings)

Ok. Me = Bad. Sorta. Due to circumstances within and out of my control (aka chemo-day and sold out programs), I was only able to attend two programs during the second half of the 24th San Francisco International Asian American Fim Festival at the AMC (soon to be Sundance) Kabuki 8.

"Be With Me" (dir. Eric Khoo, Singapore, 2005, 90 mins.) first reminded me of Svankmeier's "Conspirators of Pleasure" but then it became so much more! It is an interwoven trio of stories, told nearly silently. Why? Perhaps because the central story is based on the autobiography of Theresa Chan, who has been deaf and blind since she was 14. She plays herself and is a remarkable presence! The other two stories (a teenage lesbian in an unrequited love affair, and a security guard who is emotionally unable to approach the object of his affection) pale in comparison to Ms. Chan's recollections and musings about love in her life. (I'd love to read the book now.)

The lack of dialogue gives it a nearly zen-like pacing. Ms. Chan's sequence is replaced by a sub-titled narration. Unlike my usual disdain for overly narrated 'cinema,' it totally works here. The teenage girls communicate via text messaging on their cell phones and instant messaging via p.c.s. The security guard is nearly unable to communicate at all, until he finally writes a letter. All of this together gives the film a totally unique style that I have never encountered before. The program notes compare it to a new age of silent film, but even that doesn't really do it justice. Ironically, this was Singapore's submission for the Oscar this year and it was disqualified for not having enough 'foreign language.' I call 'bullshit' on that!

In conclusion, it is difficult to verbalize something that was so nearly purely visual and cinematic. Despite some awkwardness in intertwining the three stories, I loved this. Maxxxxx says "Sweet, sweet eye juice." (Twisted bird!)

Unfortunately, I did not love the second shorts program I saw at the festival, entitled Mystery Arcade. I usually LOVE shorts programs, but this as well as last Saturday's were totally underwhelming at best. Out of the five shorts in this collection, I LOATHED one, was bored out of my mind by one, tolerated two and enjoyed one. ( Maxxxxx says, "Do a poop! Do a poop!") In order of preference:

"Hiro" (dir. Matthew Swanson, Canada, 2005, 20 mins.) A really GEEKY bug collector becomes a hero in dealing with the mob. Don't ask how. It's totally Quirky and yes, that is with a capital "Q"! There were some inspired gags that made me laugh out loud (a rarity at this fest, it seems). Unfortunately, this was the third in the program and I would have enjoyed it more had it been placed earlier.

"Astronaut" (dir. Ian Kenji Barbour, Canada, 2005, 29 mins.) In a nearly brilliant piece of cinema verite, three young guys are interviewed and a revelation of their interconnection is slowly revealed. What makes this 'nearly brilliant' was the performance of the on-line game player, who falls in love with one of the other players, but only in the game. He was so 'present' and real that it is his performance that grounded the film in its style. His dialogue (improvisations?) is also so funny that it lifted the story of the three looking for 'Jane' out of its potential dreariness into something fairly entertaining.

"Missing" (dir. Kit Hui, USA, 2005, 14 mins.) It's sort of a David Lynch-esque telling of a man's frustration over his wife's sudden disappearance and the odd clues she has left him. Not totally satisfying as he isn't that good of an actor and the initial sequence is just too vague. However, the climax was a fairly good pay-off.

"My Break Ups Into A Million Pieces" (dir. Amir Motlagh, USA, 2005, 16 (LONG) mins.) and "High Wind" (dir. Vanessa Ly, France/USA, 2005, 17 (PAINFULLY LONG) mins.) were just DULL attempts at 'art'. I hate that. And that's all the space I am going to give them. Unfortunately, these were the only directors present, so I did NOT stay for the Q&A afterwards.

I promise to be much more THOROUGH as the season kicks into high gear with the S.F. International Film Festival, which opens in just a few weeks! Wheeeeeee!!!

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