Monday, April 24, 2006

49th San Francisco International Film Festival - Day 4

I'm sleepy. Starting at 10:00 a.m., with the "School's At the Festival" program screening of:

"Eden" (dir. Michael Hofmann, Germany, 2005, 98 mins.). Cooking as seduction! Woo hoo! Well, that and more as Josef Ostendorf portrays a very large chef who is only able to express his feelings through the art of his cooking. He is fabulous in this! He plays opposite Charlotte Roche, a married mother who finds an emotional and physical release in his 'cucina erotica.' It is wonderfully written and edited, almost as a recipe itself. It will give you the ingredients for an upcoming scene, and without condescendingly guiding you through all the steps involved, the final consequence is revealed. Those scenes are almost as mind-opening for the viewer as the food is for the characters. The film allows the chemistry of events to mix off screen, and presents the final products in the scenes. I love that! I was actually pretty touched at one point during its climax! I also enjoyed the Q&A for this film, as the students actually ask simple and pertinent questions, without kissing ass or trying to impress the audience and director with their own insights.

Following "Eden" was an unannounced free screening of "Cartography of Ashes" (dir. Dolissa Medina, USA, 2006, 45 mins.) which was originally part of the 'Satellite Performances' playing against the SFFD Fire Station #7 training tower last Friday. Today it screened at the Kabuki. It was a really nice commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the great San Francisco Earthquake, as well as a tribute to the work of the SFFD during that disaster. There is also a gentle educational component in which the audience is brought to realize how important it is that the residents be prepared for 'the big one.'

After that, and following up on the recommendation of a certain party that will remain unnamed to protect his 'innocence,' I popped into "In Bed" ("en la cama") (dir. Mates Bize, Chile, 2005, 85 mins.). The entirety of the film is located in bed with a couple who are in the midst of a one night stand. Yep. That's it. Oh, there's a good amount of commingling going on, but the ENDLESS DIALOGUE that plays between rounds plays like a poor man's "My Dinner With Andre" under the covers. I will admit that I did doze off for a few minutes, but didn't miss a thing. Visually, the director is faced with the '"Lifeboat" Quandary' that Hitchcock brilliantly maneuvered around. Unfortunately, Bize doesn't sit still enough to allow scenic changes, however slight, to occur. It was dull to look at (even if Gonzala Venezuela is a hottie!) and duller to listen to. Yawn.

I next popped into the middle of 'Circles of Confusion' which was a program of 10 experimental short subjects. I missed the first three due to "In Bed," and here in order of preference are brief bits about the remaining seven."Suspended 2" (dir. Amy Hicks, USA 2005, 5 min.) Hicks has manipulated a drive across the Bay Bridge to appear creepily like a look into the future, as is evidenced by the still pictured above. Looked great and was nice and short, for a demonstration of her visual technique.

"Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine" (dir. Peter Tscherkassky, Austria 2005, 17 min.) "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is deconstructed and deformed into an optical hallucination of widescreen visceral miasma! Yeah, sounds 'artsy' but I really lost myself into it for a few minutes there! Woo hoo!

"site specific_LAS VEGAS 05" (dir. Olivo Barbieri, Canada/Italy 2005, 12 min.) was simply a series of helicopter shots of Las Vegas and its environs. What sets it apart is the odd focus of the lenses, which gave the visuals the look of miniature set pieces. Its hard to describe, but was sort of fascinating to look at for a bit.

"Benediction" (dir. Tess Girard, Canada 2005, 12 min.) was a nice impressionistic memorial to the director's father. The visuals were distorted, as her memory of him was fading. (That is what I got out of it, as I did come into it halfway through.)

The following three ranged from trite to utter CRAP, and I don't want to waste anyone's time talking about them. I list them as a future warning: "Open" (dir. Katherin McInnis, USA 2005, 4 min.), "Relative Distance" (dir. Cathy Begien, USA 2005, 12 min.), and most hideously last, "Troglodyte" (dir. Desiree Holman, USA 2005, 7 min.) which featured performers in chimpanzee outfits, dancing and inevitably having sex with each other. This was the 'utter CRAP' moment.

Next up, "The House of Himiko" (dir. Isshin Inudo, Japan, 2005, 111 mins., according to the program, however, it actually ran 135 mins., causing me to be late for my final feature.) is a seaside rest home for elderly gay men. An estranged daughter of one of the men RELUCTANTLY (yes, all caps) takes a part time job there to assist them in their daily living. Campy comedy and LIFE LESSONS (yes, all caps) ensue. The performances are widely unbalanced. All of the men are obviously gifted actors and comedians. The daughter is not. The pacing in the last third of the film is PONDEROUSLY slow, as it hopes to work our unwilling heroine into a catharsis. Perhaps by itself, it would have been more bearable. However, sandwiched into a FULL DAY (8:45 pm at this point), it was just tiresome.

"The Life I Want" (dir. Giuseppe Piccioni, Italy, 2005, 125 mins.) started a few minutes late, so I walked in during the opening credits. This is sort of an Italian version of any number of Truffaut 'film/actors-within-a-film' type of affair. It's been done before, which sort of trivializes this production. However, Luigi Lo Cascio (the younger brother in "Best of Youth") is so appealing to gaze at, if not too much so, as the character would have benefited from the weariness that Marcello Mastroianni brought into this kind of role. Sandra Ceccarelli does a very tricky and well performed job as an up-and-coming actress who may or may not be using all the men around her as career moves. The two of them together save the film, though it is too long for its own good.

It's a shorter day tomorrow (three, MAYBE four programs) and a guaranteed appearance by the HFD!

3 comments:

Maxxxxx said...

re "Eden": "Breakfast?! Breakfast?!"
re "Cartography of Ashes": "Ooooo!"
re "In Bed": "Is it bedtime?"
re 'Circles of Confusion': "Poopie bird!"
re "The House of Himiko": "Cranky bird!"
re "The Life I Want": "Pretty bird!"

Maya said...

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who sometimes thinks of the carnal bed as a lifeboat. 8^)

Netta said...

How do you do this? You are amazing -- and incredibly insightful! Woo hoo for Jay! I love reading your blog but am stunned that you manage to do it! See you later today! xoxoxo to you and Maxxxxx!