Sunday, February 11, 2007

SF IndieFest 2007 - Day 3

Today at the SF IndieFest, just a simple triple feature, though it felt like seven, at one point. It started off with such promise!

"Dante's Inferno" (dir. Sean Meredith, US, 2007, 77 mins.) This is a brilliantly conceived adaptation of Dante's "Inferno", set in the present time and using contemporary figures, settings and situations to illustrate the nine circles of hell. And when I say 'illustrate', I mean that most literally, as the story is performed by paper-and-stick puppets. The artwork is outstanding and the meticulous manipulation of the puppets is simply awesome. The script alone is too clever for words and would make as great of a live action feature as it does as a semi-animated/puppet piece. However, the expense involved to bring to life Sandow Birk's beautifully realized drawings and paintings of a contemporary hell, which have been brought to 'puppet life' by co-art designer, Elyse Pignolet,
would have been astronomical! Director and co-writer Sean Meredith ably adapted the art design and integrated the puppetry skills of Paul Zaloom into a unique cinematic experience. By using a centuries old puppet technique, the story of Dante's "Inferno" retains an antique mood, even if it is presented in extremely modern vernacular. Dermot Mulroney and James Cromwell provide the voices for Dante and Virgil. Also in the cast are Martha Plimpton and head puppeteer, Paul Zaloom. The music score by Mark McAdam is outstanding, including a huge musical number at the 8th Circle of Hell, called "We Are The Lobbyists"! The trailer for the film, which has been running as part of the IndieFest preshow, does NOT do it justice! I don't know if I would add this to my collection, as it is truly almost TOO quirky of a concept to want to sit through repeatedly, but I WOULD like friends to see it! Also, I did run down and pick up a poster after the Q&A. Oh, the Q&A was exceptionally technically and historically (about puppetry) oriented.

Unfortunately, for the next two features of the day, I ran the other way before the houselights even came UP for the Q&A's!

"The Third Eye" (dir. Leah Walker, Canada, 2007, 91 mins.) promised to be a horrific tale involving "voluntary trepanation: i.e. an ancient procedure that involves drilling a hole in your head to relieve the pressure in your skull and achieve enlightenment." What it is REALLY about is the strangely obsessive, if nearly incestuous, relationship between a woman and her recently deceased brother. Well, actually, he has been dead for one year, and as an anniversary memorial approaches, our 'heroine' becomes obsessed to find out how he died, which is sort of odd, since it has been a year. Some of the conversations she has with her brother's ghost are fairly well executed, and Tara Spencer-Nairn as the sister, gives the best performance in the film. And there are some really terrible performances and scenes, particularly a completely unbelievable moment in a coroner's office, with a completely unbelievable actor playing a smitten coroner. I almost considered walking out during that scene, however, being the horror-ghoul I can be, I simply HAD TO STAY to see if we would, indeed, come to the gnarly drilling of the skull! And we eventually do, during the last ten minutes, in what is supposed to be a shocking twist. But I really didn't care at that point and only stuck it out to say that I did and feel vindicated in writing this little recap.

"Rolling" (dir. Billy Samoa Saleebey, US, 2007, 99 mins.) had it's World Premiere tonight, with what must have been the entire cast and crew present, if the eruption of audience reaction in pocketed areas of the theater are any indication. The rest of the audience darted for the doorways during the end credits, including myself. The film starts off promising enough, as a documentary-like film about ecstasy (MDMA) use and abuse. It is well performed by the large ensemble cast, who may have been allowed to improvise their 'stories'. Eventually, this large group (eight principles and their supporting characters) all end up at the same rave, which moves to an even more private party, where the film reaches its long awaited climax. Yes, we wait ever patiently for one of them to die. And with such a large cast, it is anybody's guess who it was going to be. At least THAT is what kept me from leaving early. Director and writer Billy Samoa Saleebey simply did not edit himself. There is just too much material and too many monologues/interviews. The incessant cutting between the eight major players and then to the actual plots only made the film feel hours long. It is overly episodic and crowded. I lost track of who was who and related to whom by the time the entire cast had gathered at the rave. That is not to say that there were some good moments. However, there were dozens and dozens and dozens of moments. It was as if Saleebey and cast had come up with nearly 80 minutes of drug-related one liners and slammed them all together, with 10 minutes of generic house music cut in during the rave. I just lost all patience with this.

Maxxxxx re "Dante's Inferno": "Woooooooo!" cackle! cackle! cackle!
re "The Third Eye": "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"
re "Rolling": "What's your name?"

No comments: