Sunday, February 11, 2007

SF IndieFest 2007 - Day 2

I am NOW at the SF IndieFest, FOR REAL! Two features and nine short subjects, today. Though the shorts started the day, I'll throw those in after the two features.

"Beyond Hatred (Au-delĂ  de la haine)" (dir. Olivier Meyrou, France, 2005, 86 mins.) is a documentary, with sort of a French twist. A young man was murdered by three skinheads because he was gay. The film focuses on the families of the victim and one of the murderers, as well as their attorneys. However, it is done in the verite style: there are no interview questions, but a series of discussions between the people involved and a few 'monologues', delivered not to the camera, but as voiceover to lengthy shots of the crime scene or homes of the involved parties. The documentary avoided any sensationalism or exploitation of the crime or the victim. In fact, we do not even see pictures of either the perpetrators or the victim. There is no discussion or the use of factual evidence or testimony. Instead of focusing on the details of the crime, it focuses on the relationships between the parents and the involved teenagers. In fact, there were a couple of moments I was not certain who was speaking, particularly when the attorneys and therapists were involved. The film perceives the role of the French judicial system to be not one of revenge but one that was searching for a resolution and a deterrent. In other words, both the defense and prosecution are trying to achieve the same goal: to see that this does not happen again, as opposed to who will win and how severe will the penalty be.

"Mojave Phone Booth" (dir. John Putch, US, 2006, 88 mins.) is an anthology of four stories, which all eventually cross paths at a remote phone booth outside of Las Vegas, as well as the need to dispose of magnetic taped media. These two little plot points, which seem so quirky, in fact set the film's nearly existential mood. Each main character reaches a climax or at least acquires guidance from a mysterious caller (Shani Wallis) who coincidentally calls this remote phone booth when our characters arrive there. Each section is excellently paced and at a perfect length. What could have felt long and episodic, is actually quite smoothly drawn together. The film is well acted by an ensemble of recognizable faces, i.e. Steve Guttenberg and Missy Pyle. (Ms. Pyle is finally allowed to be her gorgeous self!) The production values are slim and the cinematography is workmanlike, via HDV. The focus of the project is all about the writing and performances. John Putch and Jerry Rapp pulled together a fascinating and entertaining screenplay, which they shaped around their cast. They made it quite clear during the Q&A that this was done quite purposefully, with production values nearly as severe as the Danish 'Dogme' (aka Van Triers, et al). However, unlike the 'Dogme school' of film making, Putch has achieved a polished look and performances from his cast.

Oh, and a word or two about the Q&A's at the SF IndieFest. I love them! The audiences are extremely, technically well-versed and the questions are almost always related to the actual production, and not of the "Oh thank you for making this beautiful film because it makes me want to talk about me and how I relate to it" variety that just irks me. During the Q&A of "Mojave Phone Booth" I learned about the conversion of HDV from 420i to 24p, and that he edited the film on a G-4, with a 2 tetrabyte hard drive. I love that stuff!

The first two programs I attended this afternoon included ten short subjects. In preferential order:

"The One" (dir. Dave Laden, US, 2006, 19 mins.) Unfortunately, other than director Dave Laden's personal website, there is no other information out there to share with you about this brilliantly subtle and psychotic gem! In parodying the recent trend of blogcasts, youtube vids and even reality TV diary room confessionals, Laden strings together a series of 'diary entries' regarding his latest attempt at dating. The camera is focused solely on a chair from which we see him in various states, both physical and mental, as the ensuing relationship evolves. His talent to use that single frame to dissect his character's physical, emotional and mental state was nearly spectacular! I. Must. Have. This!!

"Shank" (dir. Janessa Joffe, US, 2006, 17 mins.) Though it plays out a bit too close to being an "Afterschool Special", it is Brittany Carson's performance as a teenager with a crush on Coach that breaks it away into something a bit more special. Though she plays it a bit too cute (and I hate 'cute') at times, there is an underlying cynicism in her performance that is slyly winking at us as she faces her first time with a man's penis. It was a very funny scene!

"Musi Byt Ma (She Must Be Mine)" (dirs. Brian Emery, Max Hoffman, Czech Republic, 2006, 10 mins.) A sculptor, his wife and a patron converge in a bizarre but comic tryst. The patron, who is instantly in love with the wife, falls just as instantly in love with a sculpture of her. And has no inhibitions in displaying that love to the sculpture, in front of the couple, in the studio. It is all sight gags, so it's hard to describe here, except that it made me laugh!

"Happiness" (dir. Sophie Barthes, USA, 2006, 11 mins.) It's a quirky little morality tale, set in a condom factory and featuring a woman who wants to buy happiness. Literally. A box labeled "Happiness". It's that or a pair of shoes. hee hee hee...

"Alcatraz" (dir. Juan Reyes, USA, 2006, 18 mins.) An overweight misfit teenage girl faces some sexual confusion by the Big Man On Campus. Though not necessarily well crafted, the script has quite a bit of promise in this day of "Ugly Betty".

"Die Besucher (The Visitors)" (dir. Ulrike Molsen, Germany, 2006, 39 mins.) Though by the end of this slightly overlong or underdeveloped short, depending on how you look at it, I came to understand what it was doing and why. However, those first 30 minutes were just plain confusing, as is the heroine. She takes in boarders while her significant other is out of the country. This family of three then begins to play games with her. So it seems. I think. Their final act clears most of it up, but... well, not really. I'd like to see this developed into something feature length so that the family of boarders are not such ciphers.

"Night Becomes Day" (dir. Jacob Hinmon, USA, 2006, 14 mins.)[no hyperlink available] This was almost 'cute'. I hate 'cute'. Actually, it was really going for pathos, which is nearly as bad as 'cute'. A man is so lonely that he masquerades as a taxi driver to meet people. On his birthday, ergo the PATHOS. I'm not so hot on pathos.

"The Trainee" (dir. Craig Rosenthal, Singapore, 2006, 9 mins.)[no hyperlink available] Sort of a comedy about a neophyte convenience store robber, who becomes the victim. Sort of. Eh.

"My Name is Wallace" (dir. Bob Pondillo, USA, 2006, 18 mins.) Now THIS was 'cute' and FILLED with 'pathos' and thus, I LOATHED it! A big, fat lonely and mentally slow man decides to look for TRUE LOVE via a 900 line. His lovableness just oozes over the phone with such sincerity that the sex-line operator falls in love with him. Or so the story goes. What I saw was a bad actor INDICATING every line and moment in his attempts to make sure that we, the audience, loved him as much as inhumanly possible, so that we would cheer him on, even as he throws himself at the phone-girl. What was even more unfortunate was that the actor was sitting only a few seats away from me, and even before the screening started, he was making a spectacle out of himself. I just wanted to slap him. And then I saw this film and I wanted to kick him, too. Harsh? Don't care...

"The Portrait" (dir. Nobuyuki Miyake, Japan, 2006, 16 mins.) This was so NOT cute, and actually slow, quiet and dreary that at only 16 minutes, I couldn't wait for it to end. Synopsis (taken directly from the SFIndieFest Program): "An insect photographer is asked to take his uncle's funeral portrait." Ok.

Maxxxxx re "Beyond Hatred": "Wanna go back in the cage."
re "Mojave Phone Booth": "Hello?"
re SF IndieFest Q&A's: "What's your name? What's a chicken say?"
re "The One": "I love you! I love you, too!"
re "My Name is Wallace": "Ssssssshit!"

1 comment:

Paul said...

I thought they got rid of that phone.