Thursday, August 23, 2007

4th Annual Atlanta Underground Film Festival - Day 2

Also posted at Southern Screen Report
The 4th Atlanta Underground Film Festival continued by expanding into other venues tonight just across the street from the Eastside Lounge, at a fabulous pub called The Earl. Designed as a traditional English pub, there is a bar and restaurant area up front and a 'club' area in back, where bands appear and tonight's screening was held. Being that this was the 'opening night' for THIS space, there were last minute technical difficulties. Even with that, and I meant to include this with last evening's post, the festival crew were able to get the program started within ten minutes of the published start time, which is HIGHLY COMMENDABLE!

Tonight's program was a compendium of "Local Shorts". As would be expected, it drew quite a crowd. There were eight pieces included in this surprisingly polished group of shorts. In alphabetical order:

Ignore (Dir. Michael Palma - GA - 10 min.) This was a documentary about a graffiti artist, who had some remarkably insightful things to say about the 'art of graffiti', both personal and political.

I Stand Alone (Dir. Blake Myers - GA - 3 min.) and Jump Rope with Gutz! (Dir. Blake Myers - GA - 5 min.) were a pair of really nifty, bloody, splatterfests! I STAND ALONE was a fairly typical alien invader yarn, but with a cool stylistic twist at the end. JUMP ROPE WITH GUTZ! wears its punchline on its sleeve, but the twisted bloodbath that leads up to it made me snicker! Yes, evil snickers!

Me and My Bot (Dir. Julian Modugno & Jamie Gaar - 5 min.) This faux trailer is for a sci-fi flick that actually encompasses many, if not nearly ALL possible genres within its five minutes. Though the performances are a tad stiff, if not amateurish, the production design and editing do their best in setting that 1970's 'feel good flick' tone. The script is more clever than the production that realizes it.

Moustache Rifle Vignette (Dir. Ian Cone - GA - 6 min.) Though I found this to be the weakest of the group, it is also the riskiest. Directed as a silent film with intertitles and set in 1927, it concerns itself with something to do about an engaged couple and an assassin that the man has hired. What makes it even trickier is a gag with the intertitles that makes the second half of this quick six minutes even harder to decipher. I admire the risks that Ian Cone took, however I can't say that they paid off, for me, at least.

Russell Baby (Dir. Andrew Treglia - GA - 20 min.) A tour de force by director/writer/editor/star Andrew Treglia. GRIM is a bit of an understatement as far as the style and tone of the the piece. However, it is painfully honest, even at its most melodramatic. It concerns itself with the hurdles of a pimp and his 'main girl' as they try to take a step up in their lives. Needless to say, it isn't easy and it isn't pretty. But Treglia is sort of hunky.

The Street Cleaner (Dir. Nathaniel Nauert - GA - 34 min.) This piece crosses that odd 'short threshold' for me at the 30 minute mark. At that point, I feel the filmmakers need to decide whether to edit it down or expand it to full length. THE STREET CLEANER feels like it needs to expand into a full length thriller involving the murders of Savannah prostitutes. In fact, at one point, I thought that the project was a feature length teaser. I would not be surprised to hear that director Nauert is planning one. His film has some truly remarkable moments. Yet, it has some truly unexplained, if not illogical plot points. Its climax is just not fully explored in the script nor in the performance. The lead female character has the potential of an enormous character arc. However, that possibility is slighted. Ultimately, the director is responsible for that, but it is hard to summarize the problems of script, performance and direction without leaking so much of the plot as to spoil it. It is professionally shot and edited. If the characters' motivations were clearer, this would be stunning. As it is now, the vagueness surrounding the climax and denouement seems like an attempt at a twist, where it is really just a bit annoying.

The Procession (Dir. Tom Rittenhouse - 25 min.) This flick tread along the fine line of annoyance also. Not due to vagaries, but quite the opposite. It is a 'buddy flick' we have seen many times: intellectual nerd is paired with hunky, dim jock. What kept it on its toes was the quirkiness of the episodes that the pair travel through. Once I let down my guard to the absurdity of some of the plot, I actually enjoyed and admired the screenplay. I just wish that the two leads were not such archetypes. That said, I could see the argument that having such recognizable characters make their nearly surreal adventures on their road trip more accessible. It is a project that could be cut down to one brilliant gag or expanded to a feature length coming-of-age comedy.

Maxxxxx says
re Ignore: "Such a pretty bird!"
re I Stand Alone/Jump Rope with Gutz!: "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"
re Me and My Bot: "What's your name?"
re Moustache Rifle Vignette: "Dooby doobie doo-ooo"
re Russell Baby: "Cranky bird!"
re Street Cleaner: "What!"
re The Procession: "har har!"

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