Friday, April 27, 2007

Atlanta Film Festival - Day 8

The Atlanta Film Festival continues at its 'official venue', the Landmark Midtown Art Cinemas. Well, Day 8 was a well rounded, potpourri of a day! Two features: one narrative and one documentary, followed by shorts: five comedies and six war stories. In the order of the day:

"The Killer Within" (dir. Macky Alston, USA, 2007, 77 mins.) Bob Bechtel is a mild manner, if not meek, little professor of environmental psychology. Almost no one knows that when he was in college in the mid 1950's, he went on a killing spree in his dorm. He was found not guilty due to insanity, he spent 4 years in an institution and was released to live the normal life he is living. Until now. The documentary follows his 'coming out' process in admitting his past to his family, friends and students. He is doing it as a reaction to the Columbine High School tragedy and as part of his lesson plan in the social dynamics of 'bullying' and its results. Thus begins the other side of the story: the victim's family and friends, as well as the former classmates, debate Bechtel's reasoning and continue to question his motives and the resulting verdict. This is the most compelling section of the documentary. The Bechtel family's reaction to this is where the film starts to dissipate. In profiling the family as being so 'average', the director misses a chance to emotionally invest the audience in them. So, their reactions to the resolution are not as effective as they could have been. It is an intersting and, obviously contemporary, topic, however it seems to just skim the surface.

"Hollywood Dreams" (dir. Henry Jaglom, US, 2006, 100 mins.) First off, let me state my prejudice in that I do not particularly like Jaglom films. There is just SO MUCH TALKING, that it gets to be a buzz in my ear! However, with "Hollywood Dreams", there isn't so much buzzing as neurotic rambling. But Tanna Frederick's performance as the emotionally unstable (or is she?) wannabe starlet is so complicated that her nearly non-stop babbling is sort of infectious. She is playing against Justin Kirk, who 'brings the pretty' as they say, and seems to almost be at a loss in playing against her. (The film does appear to have been improvised within Jaglom's scenes.) Not to mention that he is given a character that is a 'closeted heterosexual A-list gay actor' which is sort of hard to play. Karen Black and Melissa Leo are able to stand their ground against the mercurial Ms. Frederick, as they draw no lines around their characters, and thus are pretty hard to describe. In fact, I don't know what Karen Black's actual role is in the film, except as sort of a sexual predator and initiator.

Jaglom's tale is an exceptionally cynical view of what the 'Hollywood dream' is. Though the group of characters are in the business, you never actually see any 'business' happen. The characters are all centered around a pair of 'producers' who house them, preparing them for their big break. Yet there are no projects awaiting or being developed. The producers are gay partners, too, which seems to be tossed in here as another aspect of the craziness of pursuing the Hollywood dream. I don't know quite what to think about that. Everyone is drifting about in their own fantasies, so Jaglom would be saying. And in the middle of these fantasies is the nearly psychotic world that Tanna Frederick creates. It's an outstanding performance in a grey little film.

After the two features, there were two programs of short subjects: one set in war stories and one featuring comedies, a total of eleven shorts. I can not say that I was blown away by any of them. In fact, I left after three of the six war stories. The comedies were not so much as 'funny' as 'humorous'.

"BITCH" (Dir. Lilah Vandenburgh, USA, 15 min.) was possibly my favorite of the bunch. It's sort of about 'punk love' but features a brute of a woman, who could be a teenage Fellini heroine. She's big, mean and in a weird way, adorable.

"MAGIC" (dir. Colin Corrigan, Ireland, 18 min.) Under most circumstances, I would have loved this charming little flick about a down on his luck magician wooing his weary girlfriend. However, the rest of the program was proving so mediocre that the subtle charms of this short were almost lost on me.

"AMERICAN DELUXE" (Dir. Aaron Brownlee, USA, 15 min.) Cleverly written, but typical bit of satire on the 'American dream'. We've seen this many times before.

"LOOK ALIVE, MR KLINE" (Dir. Jacob Hensberry, USA, 25 min.) Due to no fault of the film itself, but due more to the other pieces accompanying it in the program (and general fatigue), I dozed off and slept through the entirety of this. Ooops!

"MARTI'S PARTY" (Dir. Annabelle Murphy, Australia, 15 min.) I woke up as this started, but found myself 'out of the groove' as it were and not know how long it was going to run, I decided to step out for air.

The 'world at war' shorts, of which I only saw three of the five:

"ALL'S FAIR" (Dir. David Jibladze, USA, 19 min.) An anti-torture-in-Iraq story, which actually creates some tension and doubt, though the resolution is predictable from the start. A soldier must choose between obeying orders and guarding an interrogation of a prisoner or breaking the chain of command and taking a stand against torture.

"CLEAR CUT, SIMPLE" (Dir. Vineet Dewan, USA, 14 min.) Another anti-torture-in-Iraq story, though this one leaves no doubt as to where its morals lay. (Based on a true story written by a former U.S. Army soldier in Iraq.)

"KILROY WAS HERE" (Dir. Charlie Boyles, USA, 15 min.) With some disturbing imagery, a WWII parachutist is caught in a tree in France where children find him and eventually they bond against the Germans. There is a bit of 'Lord of the Flies' in here, as well as 'Forbidden Games', however for 15 minutes, the film has no real dialogue (none of the French or German is translated) and that is always remarkable.

Maxxxxx says
re "The Killer Within": [Maxxxxx is strangely and suspiciously silent]
re "Hollywood Dreams": [Maxxxxx is strangely and annoyingly sqwaking loudly]
re the shorts: "Is it bedtime?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your an asshole. Quit going to festivals, we don't need or want people like you in attendance.