[SIFF Weekend One]

Nevermind the backlog, here’s the SIFF capsules. That is, if I don’t skip everything else and post about SIFF now, I might as well just give up. Obligatory background: this is my 14th year attending, I’m only planning on about 30 films*, and I currently have tickets to about 20, including the Secret. Let’s get this party started!

One of the things I look forward to most about the festival is the opportunity to see Asian film. First up, the Hong Kong/Taiwan film Prince of Tears is understandably indulgent, being a composite of memories from the director’s childhood, but is all-around gorgeous: cinematography, costumes, and the cast are all beautiful. The perspective is that of a fairy tale, the traditional kind containing true horror, as beloved adults surrounding two sisters are arrested & accused of being communist spies. I’m looking forward to seeing star Joseph Chang later in the festival in Au Revoir Taipei.

I believe From Time to Time is my only Films 4 Families selection this year. Adapted from a novel & directed by Julian Fellowes, it’s a charming fantasy/ghost story. It’s very mildly cheesy in spots, an effect of being a children’s film, but even though you know more or less how it’s going to end, it’s a lovely ride getting there. Maggie Smith is delightful as ever as the grandmother, and Dominic West is a classic, sneering villain as the evil butler from the past. Also, I have to say, it was solid Jaci-bait, what with the present of the film being the end of WWII, and the past being Age of Sail/early Regency. I would very much like to read the original series.

Holy Rollers was my first totally crazy over-sold screening of the festival, and even starting a half hour late (on an already late screening) it was a great time. I have yet to meet a Jesse Eisenberg film that I do not enjoy. Here his character is a Hasidic Jew who gets caught up in an ecstasy smuggling ring. Based on a true story, and definitely my recommended feature of the weekend. I don’t know why the current IMDb rating is so low. Save it to your queues!

All I will say about Secret #1 is that it was full of failures of communication. Also that I enjoyed it. Shhhh. This is my second year doing the Secret Festival, and I only wish I had started sooner. It is absolutely the only time that I can have the experience of viewing a film with zero preconceptions. Such a unique thing, and very much worth getting up for an 11am Sunday screening.

We’ve been excited about On the Town for weeks, and deservedly so. Musicals on the big screen are such a fabulous treat. I am looking forward to the Grease sing-along (and still think SIFF missed a chance — a sing-along Everyone Says I Love You would have been a great addition to the Ed Norton tribute series. I know at least two people who would have gone. Um. Including me.)

The weekend finished off with a Northwest Connections feature, The Penitent Man. It’s a low-budget time travel piece in the tradition of Primer (which is far and away the better film, so if you haven’t seen that, please do.) I found it to be a great example of the importance of casting; the film is largely conversation, so much that the concept would have been better served by the novella format rather than a feature film. However, Lance Henriksen was great, elevating the material he had to work with. Bonus: street scenes shot in my neighborhood. See my supermarket & my walk home immortalized on film! Or, I suppose, on digital.

* Not very many, I know, in a festival of 250 features. But I am poor. So it goes.