Saturday, April 12, 2008

Atlanta Film Festival 2008 - Day 3

The Atlanta Film Festival 2008 continues it's 9 day stay at the Landmark Midtown 8. Obsessive movie going has commenced with 4 features and 10 short subjects for the day. And only two projection problems, one of which didn't really matter. The day officially began with KOMANEKO/FLATLAND, which I screened earlier, so that I would be able to see:

FARM GIRL IN NEW YORK (dir. J. Robert Spencer, US, 2008, 83 mins.) Oh dear. Farce is such a bitch to really nail! This is a conflicting piece. The cast and pacing are great! Joshua Wade Miller and J. Robert Spencer deliver the tongue twisting patter with precision and speed (which was discernible despite the terrible sound problems the screening was having). The ingenues, Jeffrey Schecter and Allison Munn, perform their roles with the requisite naivety and guilelessness. Supporting players Chryssie Whitehead and J. Elaine Marcos also nail their bits! However, there is just something mean spirited at the heart of the piece that denies it the joy that watching performers fight for The Goal so much fun. Also, The Goal is not as clearly defined or pursued, as it changes as the plot progresses. What was to be a scheme to get sex, then mutates to falling in love, then it is to actually produce the play that was used to obtain the first goal. This doesn't allow the characters to play it to the life-or-death hilt that a great farce requires. However, even with the mutating motivations, the cast does continue to maintain the wackiness of their characters, which is why I am conflicted. Perhaps it would be best described as six characters in search of a farce.

YOUNG @ HEART (dir. Stephen Walker, US, 2007, 110 mins.) Director Stephen Walker found an inspiring and an equally inspired 'screenplay' in which to showcase the Young @ Heart Chorus: a group of senior citizens (with an AVERAGE age of 80!) who sing rock and roll. Not only are the subjects charming, but Walker captures them while in rehearsal for their next concert, which sets up the "hourglass scenario" for suspense. Then as if that was not enough, it is not necessarily a spoiler to say that due to the age of the participants, their physical survival of the process becomes part of the drama, too! It is exceptionally touching and, yes, I actually got choked up during the emotional climax within the concert itself! It goes without saying that it has distribution this spring.

JUMP! (dir. Helen Hood Scheer, USA, 2008, 85 mins.) So after having choked back the tears for YOUNG @ HEART, I walked into another documentary featuring characters at the other end of the physical scale. These kids are competitive jump ropers. Though I was vaguely aware that a national competition existed, I was NOT aware that it is also on an international level. The film focuses on six groups in particular and their journey to the nationals, and beyond. The characters are conspicuously raw to Scheer's camera, as any attempt to "perform" is left to the stage during their competitive routines. Some of these routines are simply phenomenal! And as they progress, Scheer is able to build enough emotional investment in the competitors, that for the second time in one day, I got choked up during the climax! It may be compared to SPELLBOUND in a Gym, but the format still works!

LET THEM CHIRP AWHILE (dir. Jonathan Blitstein, US, 2008, 91 mins.) Oddly enough, as I write this, I can not say I remember much from this film - an unfortunate, though not unexpected occurrence in a film festival setting. However, I do know I enjoyed it as it was unspooling before me. It is a relatively gentle experience, comparative to Woody Allen, or even De Sica, from which he quotes UMBERTO D. Director Jonathan Blitstein showed a clever visual panache and lovely sense of pacing. His characters were well drawn, yet the overall gentleness of the screenplay lacked a memorable edge. I think the piece would be best served screened outside of a festival experience. Blitstein is definitely someone to keep an eye out for.

The day ended with a program of ten Experimental Shorts. In alphabetical order:

24 FRAMES PER DAY (Director: Sonali Gulati - USA - 7 minutes) A door is photographed at 24 framers per day (for nine months) as a conversation between an immigrant and taxi driver plays underneath. Apparently it is pointing towards a statement about what is "home", but it remained unclear, or at least, inconclusive.

A CONVOLUTION OF IMAGINED HISTORIES (Director: Micah Stansell - USA – 9 minutes) The film was a visually fascinating recollection. It appeared to be an attempt to visualize someone else's memories, which can be challenging to view. However, Stansell's layering of images was fascinating to look at, while the monologue underneath it grounded the piece from being too esoteric.

DEAR BILL GATES (Director: Sarah J. Christman - USA - 17 minutes) Though this had a much more forward screenplay, it is its collage of visuals that sets it into near poetic motion. What begins as a series of unanswered email to Bill Gates, becomes a warning about the monopolizing of cultural memory. Sort of. Regardless, I really LIKED it!

DOXOLOGY (Director: Michael Langan - USA – 7 minutes) A visually splendid (though unfortunately screened in the wrong aspect ratio) fantasia about... tennis? god? hygiene? I don't know... But it looks great!

drop (Director: Bryan Leister - USA – 4 minutes) Simply, an animated drop of water. The soundtrack is as beautiful and minimal as the image. It was four minutes of meditation, that I just LOVED!

OFFICE MOBIUS (Director: Seung Hyung Lee - USA - 6 minutes) A fabulous take on life on a cubicle farm, where all actions seem interconnected and repetitive.

passage (Director: Peter Byrne - USA – 7 minutes) Though I remember it being lovely to look at and listen to, I am afraid that it gets a bit lost in this large of a collection of shorts. Purely design and sound, for art's sake.

rewind (Director: Atul Taishete - India – 9 minutes) As entertainingly described by the Palm Springs Film Festival:
"Backwards told is roulette Russian and diamonds, greed of tale riveting this."

SHAKE OFF (Director: Hans Beenhakker - Netherlands – 10 minutes) A beautifully made video of a young man dancing. Yet as he moves, the setting that he is in continues to morph and change around him.

SUCH AS IT IS (Director: Walter Ungerer - USA - 12 minutes) "The film is divided into four parts and four themes: the underground in the city; above ground in the city; a field in the country; and fog and the ocean." That is from the program guide. I totally did not get that from watching this. In fact, this would be my least favorite of the collection. It was also the first of the program, which scared me...

Maxxxxx says
re FARM GIRL IN NEW YORK: "Cranky bird!"
re YOUNG @ HEART: "Dooby dooby doo-ooo"
re JUMP!: Flies around the apartment!

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