On the way out of Leaving I heard the gentleman in front of me say that it wasn’t the sort of movie that you liked or didn’t like, which is very true. I can’t say that I enjoyed it, since it was quite upsetting, but I did respect it. It’s a French film, starring Kristin Scott Thomas as a woman who has spent 20 years maintaining a home & raising a family, and existing in a marriage that has devolved into more-or-less roommates.

There’s a fantastic dialogue-free scene of her & her husband in bed; she’s reading a text on reflexology, he’s playing with his phone, and they might as well be in different rooms altogether. It’s the polar opposite of the scene in No Country for Old Men, where Josh Brolin & Kelly Macdonald have a conversation on the couch, both looking straight forward, but with such a clear & deep intimacy. It’s all in the performance. Fantastic.

Scott Thomas’ character isn’t always easy to like, which I appreciated. She falls in love with a Spanish fellow who is doing manual labor under the table for her husband, and when she tells her husband about it, he moves from benign neglect to straight-up abuse, believing he can make her stay through sheer force. (After the screening I heard a guy say “well, it’s not like he was torturing her *every* day”, as if emotional blackmail, wife beating, and intimate partner rape is a-ok as long as you limit yourself to a few times a week. I believe I showed great restraint in not punching him in the nose.) Her character makes decisions which were painful to watch, but were emotionally true, and her performance is brilliant. But it’s definitely not the sort of movie that you like or don’t like.

I did think it noteworthy that the film was written and directed by women. I felt that it made quite a difference in the storytelling. Not that a man couldn’t possibly have told that story in that way, but it’s rare.

[sex & drugs & rock & roll]

sex & drugs & rock & roll is a beautiful mess of a movie. It’s a fantastic example of ordered chaos, a semi-linear production taking us through the life & career of Ian Dury, played masterfully by Andy Serkis. I don’t know what the American distribution for it is like, but any award-season buzz they can generate for him is well-fucking-deserved.

The supporting cast was fabulous: Olivia Williams as Dury’s astonishingly understanding wife, perfection as usual, Mackenzie Crook with possibly the most amazing hair I have ever seen on film, and great child actors Bill Milner as Dury’s son Baxter and Wesley Nelson as young Ian.

Plus, there were a few supporting roles that lit up my inner fangirl: Doctor Who’s Noel Clarke as producer Desmond, also from Who (& with not nearly enough screentime!) Arthur Darvill as keyboardist & songwriter Mick Gallagher, and last but not least, The History Boys‘ Andrew Knott as a reporter.

The film evoked Fosse for me. I’m sure that was unintentional, but whatever, kids, it’s my blog. It’s built around a stage performance, with Dury as the ringmaster-slash-emcee telling the story of his life. Visually it was very Cabaret — black hat, white make-up, sheer decadence, while emotionally it had more in common with All That Jazz, the challenges of a creative life versus health & family, and the contrast between real life and the world of the storyteller.

On the way out someone said that they thought all films should be 90 minutes long, but I could have stayed inside this one for quite a bit longer.

[May 30th films]

(I’m pressed for internet time, so I’m going to do this a bit in reverse. Because obviously I have been so chronologically correct in this blog to date.)

Secret #2 was another foreign language drama. It was compared to another film, which I have seen before & loved, and went out and bought after the feature. (This is not a clue as there’s no one on earth who would know if I added something to my DVD collection.)

Next up was my first documentary of the festival, Marwencol. It was recommended all over the place, and rightly so. Marwencol is the name of a fictional Belgian town Mark Hogancamp created out of scraps of wood, toy dolls, and action figures, as a sort of self-imposed art therapy after a brutal attack left him with a brain injury & robbed of his memories. He populated the town with alter egos of people in his life, created an ongoing narrative, and takes flat-out amazing photographs of the stories.

It’s getting distribution in the fall, and I highly recommend it. I think it would actually be pretty interesting playing with Prodigal Sons. That’s for when I run my own theater, I suppose! The director was in attendance at my screening, which was particularly cool because he was able to call Mark to get an update on the doings in Marwencol, and we were able to give Mark himself a well-deserved round of applause. They were also selling books of Mark’s photographs at the screening. I didn’t get one since I didn’t have enough cash on me, but I plan to order one.

Finally, I had my only midnight screening of the festival: Splice. I added it for the cast (Adrien Brody & Sarah Polley) and the writer/director (who also did Cube.) I felt a little goofy about the whole thing since about five minutes after I ordered my ticket I started seeing ads for it on TV. But, I figured, there was no way any standard screening was going to beat a midnight at the festival for crowd energy, and I was right. It was a packed house, and I ran into a few more friends in line, which always improves things.

The film itself, though, man. Where to begin. Early on in the picture, I was expecting I’d be writing about how annoyed I was by the relentless gendering of the chimera. Little did I know that by the end gender issues would be the least of my concerns. Gore I am okay with, jumpy outy things are not a problem, & general mutant action is fine by me. What I did not expect was the ongoing squicky sexual content. If Splice had been a piece of fan fiction*, it would have had a list of warnings the length of my arm. That said, the movie was highly effective; I was definitely engaged the whole time. Engaged and horrified. I just think that there are some of you who will need to know going in that it has, for example, a sex scene of great horror and neverending-ness. EW. Ew ew ew.

Speaking of squick, before Splice we got a trailer for RoboGeisha. It certainly appears that anything worth seeing in that movie is in the trailer, and a few things I wish I hadn’t seen as well.

* On a related note, thank you SGA fandom for making David Hewlett’s mere existence in the movie hilarious to me. I have this weird affection for Rodney created entirely by LiveJournal icons.

[SIFF notes, weekend one]

Something new at the Festival this year is regular showings of trailers before features. It’s been miss more than hit, though. At Prince of Tears one ran for Bodyguards & Assassins (starring the *other* Tony Leung), which I promptly added to my schedule.

However, all the others have been awful: Princess Lillifee (a pink animated monstrosity), The Sentimental Engine Slayer (which just looks messy), & Night Catches Us (wherein everyone speaks in clichés, and I honestly thought it was a parody trailer, except that it has such a fantastic cast. It has a great IMDB score, so maybe it’s just an unfortunate trailer).

Something not new is the spotting of minor Seattle celebrities. At The Penitent Man I saw Sean Nelson & Lynn Shelton. I must admit I did not go up to Shelton and discuss with her how much I disliked the display of straight privilege in Humpday. This has less to do with any desire to be tactful than it does with the fact that I’m a chickenshit. (I do still have huge problems with that movie, though. Just sayin’.)

Also not new at the Festival is projection getting fucked up, particularly at the Egyptian. It took three tries to get the start of The Penitent Man with sound and not just picture (first time ever I was thankful for digital — if it had been on film we’d have just had to deal with it). A bonus is that it gave writer/director Nicholas Gyeney more opportunities to be be charming, including running to concessions & buying candy to distribute to the crowd. No, really. Feel free to let me know the last time that a director handed out candy at your local multiplex.

I’m also starting to compile my list of movies-wot-I-missed out on. Top of the list is Castaway on the Moon, a South Korean sort-of love story which I saw recommended a lot, but none of the times worked out for me. I also missed Alan Tudyk in Tucker & Dale vs Evil, a film about two rednecks who would very much like to relax, if spring breakers would only stop dying on their property. I gave it a pass because it’s the sort of thing where the tone is quite difficult to get right, but I am hearing that it totally works, and that it knows when a joke is finished and doesn’t drag it out. Amazing how rare that is.

I start volunteering this week, so I look forward to eavesdropping on passholders and getting the scoop. It’s almost more exciting than getting film vouchers. Almost!

[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.