Saturday, April 21, 2007

Atlanta Film Festival - Day 2

I hit the pavement running for Day 2 of the Atlanta Film Festival, which now continues at its 'official venue', the Landmark Midtown Art Cinemas. Promising enough in print, however less than enough in reality. The Midtown Art Cinemas is an 8 screen art house, with the lobby the size of San Francisco's Opera Plaza, so it seems. Four of the screens are devoted to the film festival and the schedulers seemed to think it would be convenient to schedule the screenings within 15 minutes of each other. Thus providing a solidly PACKED lobby, without ropes or 'cattle chutes' to guide the hundreds to the appropriate screen.

There was ugliness at one point. However, it didn't come from me, though I fully supported him to the consternation of some of the surrounding crowd. As some of you know from my little fits at the S.F. International at the Kabuki, House Management is a hot button of mine. As are Luddite projectionists. I missed the first program of short subjects, yet was able to make the next three programs. All three had (from my viewpoint) simple projection problems, and by the end of the night, the last screening was over an hour late.

"Monday" (dir. Heidi Van Lier, USA, 2006, 89 min.) The best and worst aspect of this entertaining though maddening romantic comedy is that it is the stream-of-consciousness of an agoraphobic-obsessive-compulsive-depressive (played by Joe Kraemer, the director's real life husband), who believes his girlfriend left him in the middle of the night. The film is tidily and economically done with a running internal monologue as the man's day progresses. As he does or comes across certain things, remarkably edited flashbacks occur with the voice of the girlfriend haunting him. Though visually not so remarkable, though there is some digital color work done with the flashbacks, the editing is fairly tight and the OCD monologue has some inspired moments, which is extremely necessary as it runs with nary a pause for the entirety of the 89 minutes. And there is the rub. Though successfully portraying the character, I am afraid I completely understood why his girlfriend would leave him, which is a point of success on one hand, though a less patient audience might leave the screening, on the other. The video was projected in the wrong aspect ratio for about the first 10-15 minutes, as we watched the projector's menu be played with, I could feel a couple of us mentally WILLING the projectionist to go to the 'Aspect' menu and NOT the 'source' menu to fix it! This after having delayed the screening for 15 minutes to fix the problem to begin with. It added a bit of madness to a film about madness to begin with.

"The King of Kong" (dir. Seth Gordon, USA, 2007, 79 mins.) The screening was in the wrong aspect ratio (which was never fixed) and the first opening minutes there was no sound. However, this documentary about the obsessive video game players was able to surpass any technical difficulties in its screening. The video game is "Donkey Kong" and the film is near brilliantly paced as we get a history of the game and its 'king player', Billy Mitchell, who has based his life around his record breaking score from nearly twenty-five years ago. He is challenged by a 'nobody' in the person of Steve Wiebe, husband and father, who becomes the 'Rocky' of this story. The two men, as well as the people surrounding them, or of such strong character that it almost feels staged. But it ISN'T! This ranks up with the work of Errol Morris and Christopher Guest in its celebration of the 'little man'. I was totally fascinated and actually glued to the chair as it approached the climax. I loved it and whole heartedly recommend it!

The "Secret Screening", scheduled for 11:00 p.m., would be delayed an entire hour, due to 'technical difficulties' which we had been witness to through out the night. As it was projected, it was in the correct aspect ratio, however the screen matting was wrong and the projection should have been reduced to fit the matting. One of the people connected with the production was overheard by me to mutter as he was running up to the booth, "What amateur crap!"

"The Signal" (dirs. David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry, USA, 2007, 99 mins.) I was tempted to leave as the film began over an hour late, and I have pets to tend to now. However, I gave it 15 minutes and was GLUED. The concept surrounds a viral transmission that has interfered all broadcasts and phone reception. This viral transmission has a psychotic effect on those that become enraptured by it. If one were to pitch the story, it's sort of "O" meets a zombie flick. The mix of reality and psychosis is disturbingly violent and disorienting enough to keep me FIXED on the screen. The three directors (who each wrote their segment) use the single cast as they go through several episodes of madness. The supporting cast, particularly Scott Poythress and Cheri Christian who liven up the Second Section, completely nail the comic-horror tone of the film. The cinematography, which I assume was by the individual directors as there are none specifically credited, was wonderfully specific to the tone of each section. The 'gimmick' of splitting the film into three parts was not seamless, nor do I think it was meant to be. However, the directors/writers must have worked closely enough to maintain a continuity, even to the extent of cross-editing sections of each others work. It was a fascinating, funny and bloody flick to watch! It would be the PERFECT entry for SFIndieFest's Hole in the Head festival!

I ran home to find Belle (the 6 month English Bulldog puppy) happily awaiting to go OUTSIDE without spoiling the apartment!

Maxxxxx says
re "Monday": "I love you, too!"
re "The King of Kong": electronic phone ringing noises and such
re "The Signal": "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"

1 comment:

Brian said...

Sorry to hear of all the projection problems. It makes me remember not to take the professionalism of local festivals for granted.

KING OF KONG was at Slamdance and I was kinda curious, especially after being slightly disappointed in the superficiality of CHASING GHOSTS, the Sundance entry that featured Billy Mitchell as well. But I failed to make it.

THE SIGNAL, another I missed at Sundance, is part of the SFIFF late-night selections, and I'm glad to hear you liked it so well.