Sunday, April 30, 2006

49th San Francisco International Film Festival - Day 10

We begin today with the 'Surprise Members Screening.' It is an annual event, in which the San Francisco Film Society administration thanks the members with a free screening in the middle of the festival. It is never announced what the film will be. But no one seems to mind, as the yummy danish, croissants and juice alone are enough to get us in there! Alexandra Ruhmann and Ben Friedland, Membership Manager and Membership Coordinator respectively, begin the morning welcoming us, in sort of a 'Sonny and Cher manner' (per Judy Brisby). Alex does most of the talking and Ben backs her up. She then introduced the exceptionally casual HFD, whose shirt was unbuttoned to the mid-chest, and he did some thank yous and introduced us to the morning film.

"Swimmers" (dir. Doug Sadler, USA, 2005, 100 mins.) is a typical independent film domestic melodrama, which is only remarkable due to some terrific performances, most notably Cherry Jones, Sarah Paulson (unrecognizable from her role in "The Notorious Bettie Page"!) and newcomer Tara Devon Gallagher, who has the unenviable task of playing most of her scenes opposite the two other actresses, yet she keeps her ground. The men are not so much in the background as they are weakly written into basic stereotypes: brooding husband, slacker first son, cherubic second son. There are some elements of wit in the screenplay, though I have a feeling that they were improvised by the performers. I didn't really find it to be too exceptional, though one should never pass up an opportunity to see Cherry Jones work!

I then popped across the Bay Bridge to Berkeley and the Pacific Film Archive for a pair of presentations over there with East Bay'er, Gretchen.

"Into Great Silence" ("die grosse stille") (dir. Philip Groening, Germany, 2005, 164 mins.) is a minimalist epic documentary of life with the Carthusian Order monastery in the French Alps. They take a vow of silence, ergo the reference in the title. At nearly three hours long, the film becomes something of a Rorschack test for the viewer. The director in the Q&A compared the film to a Rothko painting, which is sort of true. Some audience members were spiritually moved. As I was trying to focus on the film, an older gentleman a few seats away from me was CHOMPING on some gum or something. I know this sounds trivial, however during the three hours of silence, I found myself becoming sort of obsessed on the annoying noise nearby, and oddly enough, nearly meditating on that fact. I didn't want to disrupt those around me by telling him to can it, as I began to wonder whether it was part of MY test in this screening. No, it wasn't as spiritual as what the monks went through, nor necessarily as profound as some other audience members, but it was a mental exercise, nonetheless. It may also come as a surprise to some of you that I did NOT take a lengthy nap. Yes, I sort of 'wandered off' with my eyes shut a couple of times, but considering the late night fest the night before, I did pretty well! In the end, I did found this to be a very unique experience. It isn't one that I would rush out and repeat, mind you, however I am very glad to have done it.

I am not so glad to have witnessed "Princess Raccoon" ("Operetta Tanuki Goten") (dir. Seijun Suzuki, Japan, 2005, 111 mins.). In fact, I actually DESPISED this thing! Had I not walked out of it halfway through, I don't know what carnage I might have been responsible for on the drive back across the Bay Bridge! It is a pop musical, with a Kabuki stage setting, that is so sluggishly paced, I found myself wanting to snap my fingers at the performers in hopes of getting them to pick up their cues! The production as a whole is 'cute.' I LOATHE 'cute'! Especially poorly produced 'cute'! The hour that I saw was simply painful. Some of my discomfort could have been due to the literal and cultural translation as I didn't know what or who the characters were nor what their relationships were with each other. With that as a groundwork, the horrid pop songs that are slammed onto this period stage setting was jarring to the point of embarrassing. I simply could not stand this thing and had to leave as I'd rather get caught up on TiVo and sleep than spend an extra minute with this mind numbing crap.

Errata re SFIFF - Day 9: I received an 'ok' to acknowledge my source for the 'come-fuck-me-pumps' reference in that days posting. It was graciously offered by Sue Jean.

1 comment:

Maxxxxx said...

re the SFIFF Membership Staff: "I love you, too!"
re "Swimmers": "Time for shower!"
re "Into Great Silence": "QUIET!!!"
re "Princess Raccoon": "Do a poop!"