Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Atlanta Film Festival 2008 - Day 5

The Atlanta Film Festival 2008 continues it's 9 day stay at the Landmark Midtown 8. My schedule today included four features and another ten short subjects. [THE AXE IN THE ATTIC was screened via DVD preview.]

LAND OF CONFUSION (dir. Jeremy Zerechak, US, 2007, 91 mins.) A brilliantly edited video diary of director Jeremy Zerechak's tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. I use the "B" word because it was so objectively laid out, that as the film progressed, I was never really sure where his politics lay or what would be his final point. However, by the end of his video essay, there is no question as to what his feelings are toward his service in Iraq and the continued U.S. presence there. I was sort of amazed at how Zerechak paced the emotional content so that the audience is in step with his building disillusionment, which does not become bitter and angry until the final moments. Compared to the emotional hyperbole that Michael Moore surrounds his films, even before the opening credits roll, LAND OF CONFUSION is simply brilliant! A MUST SEE!

MAKE-OUT WITH VIOLENCE (dir. The Deagol Brothers, US, 2007, 108 mins.) I was joking when I referred to "zombie mumblecore". But now, I've actually seen one. And I am not pleased. For reasons that are never explained (as far as I can remember), a young woman's corpse remains animated. She is not as much a zombie as she is a twitching corpse, which seems to be enough for an unrequited admirer to stash the corpse and continue his infatuation. This premise is not what was so bothersome, but it was in its execution. The pacing is glacial. In fact, I became painfully aware that this was quite on purpose as all the performances are as "dead" as the corpse. I am sure that was part of the point, but at 108 minutes, it was simply too much to bear! On one hand, the Deagol Brothers should be congratulated for accomplishing their goal. On the other, I do not appreciate that goal, to begin with. Ah well... [The film was screened as a 'work in progress' as it was still in post production for color correction and sound mix.]

THE AXE IN THE ATTIC (dirs. Ed Pincus, Lucia Small, US, 110 mins.) Technically, this documentary about the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina breaks the rules of "documentary" as the directors become personally and emotionally involved on camera. In fact, it is as much about how Pincus and Small react to the unresolved devastation as it is about how the survivors are coping with the chaotic mess that is FEMA. It is a risky move that treads the line between self indulgence and becoming the audience's surrogate. However, the emotional impact of the interviews with the victims are heart wrenching, regardless of the subjective point-of-view.

ROMAN DE GARE (dir. Claude Lelouch, France, 2007, 103 mins.) I just LOVE French thrillers! Director Claude Lelouch has devised a twisting little puzzle about the people surrounding an extremely popular mystery writer (Fanny Ardant!) and her assistant (Dominique Pinon), as they twist their way through the creative process of her next novel. Lelouch provides so many plot elements that the twists seem to occur every fifteen minutes! What makes it even more successful is that one is never lost, even in translation. Pinon (DIVA, DELICATESSEN) gives such a focussed performance that he becomes our guide throughout the film's narrative. Ardant (8 WOMEN) is given the opposite role in being a cipher through out the film, and she does it wonderfully! She balances herself on the bad side of evil, without completely surrendering to easy villainous choices. Her slightly evil ambivalence is what keeps the roller coaster flying. It has distribution and it will be added to my "Pinon Collection" once on video!

A program of ten short subjects were presented as "Off the Beaten Trail Shorts", for their quirkiness.

The program began with ABOUT FILM FESTIVALS (dir. Jim Jacob, US, 2007, 7 mins.). In the deadest of monotones, Jim Jacob answers questions about film festivals. It is seven minutes of brilliantly conceived and performed deadpan! In fact, it takes a couple of minutes to realize that it is a piss take of an educational video. Copies of this and his other work are apparently available directly from him, via his email. This was produced by Joe Swanberg, who also had a short in this collection.

SWEDISH BLUEBALLS (dirs. Kent Osborne, Joe Swanberg, US, 2008, 5 mins.) Joe Swanberg (HANNA TAKES THE STAIRS) took a simple idea about an opportunity lost and gave it a sexual farcical twist. A nice, short cinematic joke.

MY NAME IS POCHSY: AN INDUSTRIAL FILM (dir. Karen Hines, Canada, 2007, 7 mins.) At first, I thought that this was a Guy Maddin film! The look is incredible and her technique is fascinating. The screenplay itself didn't quite match the artistry of the visuals, but I am not complaining!

THE PHONE BOOK (dir. Kurt Kuenne, US, 2007, 23 mins.) and
SLOW (dir. Kurt Kuenne, US, 2007, 8 mins.) are the next two parts to Kurt Kuenne's series, which began with RENT A PERSON, and followed by VALIDATION. I just LOVE his stuff! He is also a composer and his score for THE PHONE BOOK was fascinating. THE PHONE BOOK is a literal, word for word, dramatization of sections from... the Los Angeles phone book. It does play itself out a bit longer than necessary, as it forces a plot out of the random group of people it introduces us to. However, the overall cleverness of the project over rides any mild criticism. SLOW, which is in technique an homage to Chris Marker's LE JETEE, featured an extraordinary narration for its simple morality tale.

THE ADVENTURE (dir. Mike Brune, US, 2007, 22 mins.) Existential humor is not everyone's cup of tea, but if you can get into the rhythm of Mike Brune's film, the payoff is fabulous. It makes me wish that Samuel Beckett produced films! What sort of surrounds an implied joke that if a mime died in an empty forest, would anybody hear him? If a mime died in front of you, would you really know, anyway? On an apparently remote forest highway, a retired couple happen to witness the "murder" of a mime, by another mime, and are faced with the question of what to do now. What is a little move of genius here is how underplayed the couple are that they become the audience surrogate. Without any real drama between them, they are witnessing what we are and thus, their predicament becomes the question for the audience. I just LOVED this, from the producers of last year's hit BLOOD CAR.

PINK SHORTS (dir. Jeffrey Huston, US, 2007, 9 mins.) The production design and cinematography are outrageous here! The screenplay is pretty heavy handed with its message, though. It is a bible story, more or less, about a girl who is wearing pink shorts because god told her to. What happens to them ends up as a sermon, which was just a bit simplistic. LOVED looking at it, but didn't really like listening to it.

THE RAPTURE OF THE ATHLETE ASSUMED INTO HEAVEN (dir. Keith Bogart, US, 2007, 5 mins.) Not so much a film as it is the filmed recording of a monologue delivered by John Larroquette. It's a nice monologue. Larroquette has a great voice. There. That's about it.

HEAVEN IS A COLOURFUL PLACE (dir. A. Jonathan Benny, Canada, 2007, 8 mins.) "A brief look at trans-generational racism", this is a daring little piece of work. In voice over, a grandmother projects her racism upon her toddler granddaughter, while her daughter is caught in the middle. Some of the language is particularly unnerving, especially as it is delivered with such sweetness by the grandmother. Visually, the film is sort of interesting to look at, though it takes a back seat to the narration.

THE OUTHOUSE (dir. Jack Truman, US, 2008, 5 mins.) The star of the underground sensation, PHONE SEX GRANDMA, returns in another Jack Truman film! This time, she shares her infinite wisdom regarding her bowel movements. Jack Truman could be the next John Waters! I just wish he would do more and more and more...! He is perverse! Woo hoo!

Maxxxxx says
re MAKE OUT WITH VIOLENCE: "Is it bedtime?"
re ROMAN DE GARE: "What's your name?!"
re THE OUTHOUSE: "Shhhhit!"

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