I am pooped. I am packing for a cross country move, etc., instead of sleeping. So, it seems I caught up with some of that today at the SF IndieFest. I was in the theater for twelve short subjects and one feature. I was awake throughout the feature!
"The Shore" (dir. Dionysius Zervos, 2005, US, 100 mins.) This featured Lesley Ann Warren (who I can never take my eyes off of!) as a grandmother who loses her granddaughter at the beach. Tragedy ensues. It isn't quite at the hysteria level of "In the Bedroom", however there is plenty of ANGST. Ben Gazarra is her husband, and as you may know, he isn't exactly a bundle of joy, either. The film is competently performed and reasonably paced. The cinematography is subtly excellent, as the difference between 'then' and 'now' (as our characters have "Rashamon" moments in trying to figure out what happened to the girl) is beautifully contrasted between the 'joy' and the 'sorrow'. Did I mention how I love Lesley Ann Warren? I'd go see it just for her, regardless of the movie-of-the-week melodrama and the considerable bleakness of the overall tone.
Now, out of the twelve short subjects, three were live action and involved dance music, aka electro, trance, etc. The other nine short subjects were part of the program called "Animation Amalgamation". Of these twelve short subjects, I can only honestly speak to one, as I slept through nearly the entirety of the three programs that made up "Darkbeat: An Electro World Voyage". It was just too detailed. I remember one line from an interview, "With Electro mixed with Miami Dark, you get Detroit electro." Oh. Ok. And there were only a few of the animated shorts that I saw the entirety of, and I only want to address the one I liked.
"Rabbit" (dir. Run Wake, England, 2006, 9 mins.) This was sick and twisted as 'Dick and Jane' decide to release a magic demon from the belly of a live rabbit in the hopes of becoming rich. Visually, this was a hoot! It was a trip!! It was sick and twisted and I loved it!
Maxxxxx re "The Shore": "Ooooo... Cranky bird!"
re "Rabbit": "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"
Friday, February 16, 2007
I am pooped. I am packing for a cross country move, etc., instead of sleeping. So, it seems I caught up with some of that today at the SF IndieFest. I was in the theater for twelve short subjects and one feature. I was awake throughout the feature!
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Well, it was a strange lot today at the SF IndieFest.
"Yellow" (dir. Nick Peterson, 2006, US, 97 mins.) This is a quirky little movie, bordering on gimmickry. However, this slight musical love story makes up in visual flair, what it lacks in pacing and unsteady performances. Visually, director Nick Peterson has created a world that mixes Jacques Demy and Jacques Tati. The colors are big and bold and some of the physical compositions, as well as the extended use of silent sequences lend the film its frivolous French feel. The performers sing live to a track, which they handle the unconventional lyricism fairly well. It is within the spoken dialogue that the film comes to a SCREECHING HALT. They simply do not pick up their cues. I came to believe that they were over rehearsed for the music and then rushed into the scenes surrounding the numbers. There is one character, who happens to be French, who sounds like he may be delivering the lines phonetically. This is such a shame, as it has such a great look to it! And the screenplay itself has a couple nice twists and turns as our couple work out the parameters of their relationship. But it is just TOO SLOW.
"The Mermaid of the River Plate (La Sirena del Plata)" (dir. Clodomiro Luque, 2007, Argentina, 40 mins.) [no internet reference available] This dark little tale is based on a Charles Bukowski story about a pair of drunk men who steal a dead body, to find that she is gorgeous and they have the best sex of their lives with her, before dumping the body in the River Plate. Yes, well. There ya go! The photography was exceptionally dark and grim, which I guess befits the subject matter. The performances were exceptionally well done, as the two men portrayed a life long familiarity with each other. The corpse was exceptionally beautiful. There are a couple very dark chuckles to be had here. However, it felt incomplete in someway. The two men claimed to have fallen in love with her, but nothing really changes for them out of this bizarre episode, and therefore I as an audience member was not necessarily affected either.
"Un Chant d’Amour" (dir. Jean Genet, France, 1950, 26 mins.) Jean Genet's only film as a director is beautifully shot in silent B&W and incredibly HOT! Genet's homoerotic staging of two prisoners and their guard, both in the prison and in their fantasies, is brilliantly executed. Genet focuses his camera in all fashions of views: from full nudes, to a close up of a flaring nostril. Genet does not use sound in his film, forcing the viewer to completely focus on closeups of faces, armpits, and semi-erect penises. And his ability to control his performers, even in silence, and build up such tension and compassion and eroticism is breathtaking. Considering that the film is 56 years old, the fact that it stands the test of time and is still quite exciting to watch only attests to the genius that was Genet. The print that was screened had the last two reels switched, which was a bit unsettling, however hard to distinguish as Genet's vision is so impressionistic that one could argue that the abrupt ending was correct. Anyway, the film has been available in Region 2 DVD, BUT it is being RE-RELEASED in the U.S.!! Woo hoo!! I can't wait!
"El Doctor" (dir. Suzanne Pitt, Mexico/USA, 2006, 24 mins.) A gorgeously executed animated short about the surreal patients surrounding an alcoholic doctor. Between the outstanding visual style and the plot of surprises, this kept me captivated for its short 24 minutes.
Maxxxxx re "Yellow": "Doobie doobie dooo-ooo"
re "The Mermaid of the River Plate": "ech!"
re "Un Chant d'Amour": "I love you, too!"
re "El Doctor": "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
My little brain was confused today and I screwed up my viewing schedule at the SF IndieFest. Yet again, I saw only a single program. I will make up for it tomorrow, though!!
(Oh, and a word on my 'Day Count'. I have this anal fixation in referring to "Opening Night" as Day 0, and then starting the count of Day 1 on the next day. I am the only person in the world that seems to do that. So, I will adjust the count starting with today.)
"Stalking Santa" (dir. Greg Kiefer, US, 2006, 85 mins.) This was an exceptionally clever mockumentary about a research project into the existence of Santa Claus. William Shatner lends his best "National Geographic voice" as the narrator. The performances by the cast are quietly and believably understated. Chris Clark and Lisa Clark play husband and wife (as they are in real life). Chris' portrayal of an almost sadly obsessed 'santa-ologist' and his life work proving that Santa is real plays off of Lisa's long suffering, yet supportive spouse. She can steal a shot with just a quick glance at the camera, which expresses her love and her frustration with her husband. It is a terrific performance. Chris Clark's performance is nearly marathon in size. His dialogue is non-stop and his arc from hope to desperation and back is played without pathos. He has an assistant, played by Daryn Tufts, who has the unfortunate role of being the sidekick in a parody that needs to be played straight. His character is given a bit too much quirkiness to pull off the illusion. However, he does maintain an innocence that supports the story, where just an inkling of cynicism would deflate it.
The subtlety of the performances contribute greatly to the mockumentary. If it were not for the outrageous subject matter, there might be doubt as to whether or not the plot was real! Also, the mock-ups of hard evidence (cave paintings, recordings, photos, etc.) are just too fun and give away the slender premise. There are interviews with a score of children, which lighten up the film, as well as my own cynicism about how 'cute' it could have been. There is an earnestness and sincerity of tone that carries the premise. Even William Shatner's deadpan narration belies any disbelief and avoids the self-parody that could have destroyed, or at least distracted the audience from the gentle wit of the piece.
The film has found a distributor and it is more than worth a look.
Maxxxxx re "Stalking Santa": "Bless you!"
Monday, February 12, 2007
For various reasons, today at the SF IndieFest, I saw only a single program. Though there was a second program that I'd already screened at the IndieFest press preview, so I will include that here.
"Ten Canoes" (dirs. Rolf de Heer, Peter Djigirr, Australia, 2006, 90 mins.) First, let me say that this was nearly a religious experience for me. The WIDE SCREEN (I LOVE THAT!) cinematography by Ian Jones reaches breathtaking extremes and is creatively used to tell the four levels of stories, within stories. The script's structure by Rolf de Heer was reminiscent of "The Sargossian Manuscript", though not as mind bending. We begin in the present outback of Australia, as a narrator tells us that we are about to hear an ancient story. The film then goes to black-and-white as the ancient story unfolds, regarding a young man who covets his older brother's wives. The older brother then begins to tell the young man a legend from long ago, which is enacted in full color, though it has a golden hue about it. Within THAT story, the characters begin to tell stories about what has happened to a missing woman of the tribe, at which point the screen takes on silver chromatic tones. This was sort of an important little stylistic choice as the stories would cross paths more than once. The performances are all in aboriginal tongues, and the film is subtitled. In fact, the performers are all members of an existing tribe from the Northern Territory, so the settings and rituals are presumably quite authentic. The near alien nature of the characters and their behavior and rituals quite unexpectedly took me out of myself. It wasn't until a 'death dance and funeral ritual' that I realized how far into it I had gone. The funeral ritual was a near psychedelic spiritual experience! The movement and sound were of such authentic antiquity that something deep inside actually felt transported to a very primitive place. It was a stunning moment. After that climax, the screenplay nearly brilliantly brings us back into the present with some ribald humor within the second layer story, before the narrator gently guides us back to the present. I simply loved this film and unhesitatingly recommend it and will search it out for my 'permanent collection'!
"Green Mind, Metal Bats (Seishun Kinzoku Batto)" (dir. Kumakiri Kazuyoshi, Japan, 2006, 96 mins.) I screened this as part of the IndieFest press preview a few weeks ago, but decided to 'hold the recap-review' until it popped up in the context of the festival itself. The plot involves a pair of baseball players. One is a batter who is struck in the head with a baseball and goes a bit psychotic and becomes involved with a baseball obsessed alcoholic woman who will lead him unto a violent path. The pitcher responsible for the pitch to the head, is now a policeman with a bad arm. Criminals and police - guess there's going to be a crossroads, huh? As predictable as the plot outline is, the performance by Maki Sakai as the raging alcoholic has some priceless moments! However, the two lead men sort of bored me as their inevitable return to each other never really had much tension. Also, the film felt like it was trying too hard to be 'quirky'. I can't give specific examples, except that the random violence was just so... random. At times, quite funny, but for the most part the plot didn't seem to have an honest motivation, as much as a series of near-gags. I had the chance to see it again tonight, however I passed, especially after having had the experience of "Ten Canoes"!
Maxxxxx re "Ten Canoes": "Woooooo!" followed by indistinguishable clicks, chirps and tweets.
re "Green Minds, Metal Bats": "What'cha doin'?"
Sunday, February 11, 2007
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?"
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-delà 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!"
Friday, February 09, 2007
I began the first REAL day of the SF IndieFest fairly slowly. (I planned on going to Sacramento for "The Animation Show, Vol. 3", however...) I attended the first program of the day, "Filmmaking in the Nude", a conversation with Chris Gore, creator of "Film Threat", the magazine, which is now the website. He arrived a few minutes late, coming in directly from the airport, which might explain his slow start. However, once he got warmed up and running, it became a fascinating hour and a half of information, but more importantly, a character study of what kind of drive and 'salesmanship' it takes to get anything done in the film business. He is a veteran of innumerable film festival selection committees and produced his own screenplay, "My Big Fat Independent Movie".
His 'lecture' really relies on questions from the audience. Apparently, he has quite a young-and-independent filmmaker following, some who were there with questions regarding how to get producers, how to pitch, how to get into festivals (which he has written a book and seemed a bit put off that readers ask questions the book addresses), and he spoke fairly animatedly, if not a bit cynically, about the future of film distribution. He feels that as drive-ins have nearly disappeared from the landscape, so will cinemas, as view-on-demand and digital downloading of product become more common place. He does see this as a good thing. He uses the iTunes model and how mp3 downloading may have hurt the recording industry, but it has helped the music business in allowing independent and non-corporate-subsidized groups find an audience. He feels the same can happen for independent film once it is released into cyberspace, to be shared by a wider audience base than a typical limited independent release now finds.
A sample of his humor, if you are not prone to go visit Film Threat or his personal website at www.chrisgore.com, can be encapsulated by his retelling of witnessing the birth of his first child. He said the first thought that ran through his mind was, "This is more gnarly and bloody than the birth scene from "Alien"!" He laughs at himself that on the single most important day of his life, he compared it to a movie.
It turned out to be a pleasant enough start to an ever increasingly busy week!
Maxxxxx snickers, insiduously...
Tomorrow: 4, perhaps 5 programs.
The 9th Annual San Francisco Independent Film Festival or SF IndieFest to its fans, opened tonight at the Castro Theatre! It. Was. A. Madhouse! AND it was oversold, though there were a pair of empty seats directly in front of me, which were reserved for that doyenne of the SF press, Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle. Though it was a shame that those two seats went empty and wasted due to her apparent cinematic ennui, it was a blessing that I didn't have to be distracted and annoyed by her broad and theatrical 'page flipping' of the legal pad on which she takes notes during the film, not to mention her obnoxious across-the-row arm stretches. ALSO, the SF IndieFest has been spared what would have been her typically inarticulate report and/or review of the evening. But I digress with my carping and now return to what was a great night, overall!
Jeff Ross, the SF IndieFest founder and executive director greeted the excited crowd and began the annual role call of sponsors, which he always appears a bit bored with. The crowd grew restless. He also had the unfortunate duty to inform us that Mary Sweeney, producer and ex-wife of David Lynch, would not be present as was previously announced. This is mixed news, as the 3 hour Lynchian Epic would probably be best followed by cocktails and munchines (aka The Opening Night Party!) than by a Q&A. So, let's begin.
"Inland Empire" (dir. David Lynch, US, 2006, 172 mins. - though I THOUGHT I read it was 190 somewhere...) is another 'dream film', in the same spirit as "Eraserhead" and "Mulholland Drive". It sometimes annoys me that David Lynch fans feel the need to speak of his films as enigmas or inscrutable puzzles that should just be experienced and not psychologically explored as the Jungian exercises they are. For me, I look for the 'object of reality' that usually and quite briefly appears at the very beginning of the film, and then I spot the 'entrance' into the dream. These two keys seemed fairly obvious to me in "Inland Empire", but I will not divulge them here as spoilers. I will let YOU figure out who is the dreamer and what is the dream. I will say that David Lynch drops us down a literal rabbit hole (in Polish!), following our 'Alice' as she navigates through the dreamer's hysteria and catharsis.
Laura Dern's nearly marathon performance through out this psychic nightmare is spectacular. Her role in the film is so complex that her character alone is throwing critics and audiences into analytical whirlpools. I will admit myself, that deciphering her character's purpose kept me busy and fully vested within the film. The three hours flew by while watching her work! She is ably supported by some Lynchian regulars (Justin Theroux, Grace Zabriskie, Harry Dean Stanton) as well as Jeremy Irons, Diane Ladd, Mary Steenburgen and an unrecognizable Julia Ormond! As far as the giant rabbits were concerned (voiced by Naomi Watts, Lara Harring and Jack Coffey), I found their inclusion to be a bit gimmicky, but I came to understand their purpose.
Speaking of gimmickery, Mr. Lynch's 'discovery' of digital video has reportedly changed his idea of what filmmaking is all about! He shot "Inland Empire" over a two and a half year period, without a script until the day of the scene. He uses, if not nearly absuses, the technology to its furthest limit, without going into CGI. He and his other camera operators (there is not a 'cinematography' credit) ply every trick in these little cameras' bags to create some truly unsettling, surreal and violent imagery. The framing is always exemplary! He has taken his close ups to extremes he only imagined on film. The manipulation or discontinuity of the actual 'grain' of the image seems to have some purpose depending on which reality or dream the scene is in. However, I found the necessary subtle refocusing one must do to adapt to the different 'textures' a bit distracting. The art direction, set decoration and costume design were crafted by an unusually large team of six artists. They ably created the innumerable worlds in which our 'dreamer' travels. The sound design starts before the film does with the trademark Lynchian bass level machinery that makes a sub-woofer purr! There is not a composer credited, though there are quite a few song credits at the end (including Cy Coleman's "Colors of My Life" from 'Barnum'?!). However, Angelo Bandelamenti's influence is felt throughout.
With all its fantasy and nearly circus of images, the film does not feel the weight of its three hours. However, that time commitment might be what keeps it from taking its place alongside "Mullholland Drive", "Eraserhead" or even "Blue Velvet" as being his latest dream piece to be watched repeatedly to fully appreciate and experience the nightmare he created. My friend JimmyD attended with me, and appeared to like it A LOT, though as houselights came up, he turned to me and said, "Ok. Explain it to me!" I did my best as we made our way to The Party!
The Opening Night Party was held at The Porn Palace, www.kink.com's party space and previous studio rental space (before recently acquiring The Armory). The place just smothers you with atmosphere! It is also large, with numerous spaces, which helped break the crowd up. The "Pancake Playhouse" (a Burning Man camp) were present, flipping pancakes at us, as well as some yummy quesadillas! There were three large and well stocked bars tossing drinks at us! (I remained on ginger ale, since vodka is no longer sitting well with me. Pity me!) The music was OK, though perhaps a bit generic. The crowd was filled with semi-costumed Club-Kid-Wannabes. It is so cute to see a bunch of Mission area thirty somethings party like they were 20 again. Ha! But this party ROCKED the socks off compared to last years! Good job, guys!
Maxxxxx says re "Inland Empire": "Wooooo...! Such a good bird!"