Tuesday, May 11, 2010

San Francisco International Film Festival 53 (SFIFF53) - The Loved Ones and Solitude Standing

The 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival screens April 22–May 6 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, the historic Castro Theatre, the Landmark Clay and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. For tickets and information, go to www.sffs.org or call 925-866-9559.

In an odd bit of programming at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival, there were a pair of screenings regarding the joys, sorrows and HORROR of being single: THE LOVED ONES (the final of "The Late Show" sidebar) and a collection of seven shorts grouped as "Solitude Standing".

THE LOVED ONES (dir. Sean Byrne, Australia, 2009, 84 minutes) was by far the most extreme of the screenings in "The Late Show" sidebar this year! The performances are so solid, that the emotional content more than keeps up with its violence quotient, which is nearly off the charts, as far as new ways of torture are concerned!  It is an "ugly duckling revenge fantasy" for all intents and purposes. However, Robin McLeavy's performance as the rejected Lola, is filled with such sadistic glee, that as fun as it is to watch, she ably avoids gaining any audience sympathy. Xavier Samuel plays her latest victim, but I found him to be a bit too 'emo boy' for me to really get behind, regardless of how competently he expressed the physical pain his character endures. It is really John Brumpton's performance as her long suffering father (and inspiration, more or less) that elicits the most compassion. Well, to an extent. There is that moment with the power drill, however...

The festival included a program of seven short subjects, all having to do with being alone, under the title "Solitude Standing." 

The Darkness of Day (dir. Jay Rosenblatt, USA 2009, 26 min) From the pgrogram guide: "Using fascinating and varied images salvaged from discarded film library collections, this poetic documentary explores suicide and the inherent aspects of depression, mortality and isolation." And, yes, it is about as depressing and bleak as it sounds. Still, fascinating to watch, but not exactly a great party-short!

The Shutdown (dir. Adam Stafford, Scotland 2009, 10 min) No doubt, part of the fault relies on myself for having waited nearly a week before posting comments on this program. However, unlike most of the other pieces, I really do not recall much of anything from this reminiscence by Alan Bissett and what happened when his father was caught in a petrochemical plant explosion. Given that it won the Golden Gate Award for Best Short Documentary this year, I probably have only myself to blame.

Me Time (dir. Matt Schuman, USA 2009, 11 min) "Steve" has decided to clean out his 'friends'. So, after making a list of "best friend(s)", "friends" and "acquaintances", he begins the not-so-pleasant process of dumping those who he doesn't feel overly connected to. It's a humorous enough premise (and gawd knows it is something I face every time I log onto Facebook!), but in actually playing it out, it doesn't really pull together, and the 'punchline', however O'Henry-esque as it is, lacks the emotional punch I think that Schuman expects. However, the production values are all around terrific and it is a fairly memorable little experience.

Laundry (dir. Danielle Katvan, USA 2009, 5 min) Silently and poetically, Katvan's little film dwells upon the romantic in the most of mundane places: A Laundromat. Katvan transcends her setting effortlessly and tosses in a lovely, if not semi-ambiguous climax, all within her brief five minutes. I'd love to see more from her.

The Armoire (dir. Jamie Travis, Canada 2009, 22 min) The richly deserved winner of the Golden Gate Award for Narrative Short, Jamie Travis concludes his Edward Gorey-esque trilogy of  "Saddest Children In The World" (which includes The Saddest Boy in the World (which I LOVED at Frameline, 2007), and Why the Anderson Children Didn’t Come to Dinner, which I've also seen and spooks me out!) with this story of a missing child and how his friend, Aaron (remarkably acted by William Cuddy), remembers their last day together.  Travis' production design continues to be enchanting, while his script is ultimately the most disturbing of his trilogy!  I look forward to seeing them gathered together as a single DVD! PLEASE!!

The Translator  (dir. Sonya Di Rienzo, Canada 2009, 8 min) Perhaps the most cinematic of the pieces in this program, Di Rienzo places a woman, whose job is to translate and subtitle French films, on a subway with her boring boyfriend, thus allowing her to daydream dialogue for those around her. She also gives herself a happy ending.  Fairly fascinating to watch unfold and as it doesn't give itself away.

Still Birds (dir. Sara Eliassen, Norway 2009, 13 min)  The program guide describes this as "unsettling fable", which is sort of an understatement! Had this been feature length, it would be perfectly placed in "The Late Show" sidebar! It is hard to describe, except to note that the group of children and teen performers that have been gathered for this are all exceptional, especially in their ability to contort themselves, physically and vocally, to Eliassen's demands.  It is the story of individuality, or more precisely, one little girl's attempts at keeping her voice. There is some disturbing Aryan undertones throughout, as redheads fight against shockingly blond children. The only verbalizations are the thoughts inside our heroic little girl's head.  It is a strikingly executed "fable"!

Maxxxxx says re THE LOVED ONES:  [cackles maniacally as he BITES my hand!]
re Solitude Standing: "Wooooo!"

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

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