[Pickups: February. Revival edition.]

* The Little Princess screened as part of the Children’s Film Festival. This was the 1917 adaptation starring Mary Pickford, and the Film Forum got me in with the magic words “live score”. Performed by Leslie McMichael on three harps, it was a perfect match to a great hour of classic silent melodrama.

Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Children’s Film Festival audience was one of the best behaved I have ever experienced. Adults would do well to take a lesson from them. (Especially, ironically, paying audiences. Free screening audiences know to put the damn phones away.)

* As a tie-in with the SciFi and Fantasy Short Films, SIFF Cinema again ran a series of SciFi on Blu-ray. (Yes, film would be better. But Blu-ray in a theater is still light years ahead of my TV. Plus, audience! And leaving the house! Anyway.) Last year I made it out for 2001: A Space Odyssey (which put me to sleep every damn time I tried to watch it on video, but in the theater? It is just as brilliant as everyone says. If you have the opportunity, take it.)

This year was a change of pace from that, with a double feature of Time Bandits and Galaxy Quest. The former I had never seen before & found utterly charming, and the latter I have long adored, even though I have never seen any Star Trek at all. It still totally works, and it was a treat to see them both on the big screen.

* Earth Girls Are Easy is an 80s classic, terrible and also awesome, and quite formative in my, uh, perception of Jeff Goldblum. In other news, it’s for the best that I don’t live closer to Central Cinema, or I would be there every damn night.

* I saw the American cut of John Woo’s historical epic Red Cliff when it was released in 2009, and was unimpressed. I did think it was unfair to judge on half of the film (especially considering what a fan I am of the talent it had both in front of and behind the camera), so I was delighted when SIFF Cinema programmed the complete version. All 16 reels of it! (insert dreamy sigh).

It truly was a totally different feature, and though there were melodramatic and overly sentimental moments, they felt better earned this time around. The sex scene was still boring, though. Sad but true. The action was epic, dramatic, and absolutely clear, which is not always a given; the cinematography was beautiful; and I can’t imagine seeing it anywhere but on the big screen.

…also, can we take a moment to scan that list of films and giggle about the fact that they are all technically revival? A silent film, scifi/fantasy cheese, and a Chinese epic. Awesome.

[Final week. Woe!]

* Au Revoir Taipei was exactly what I needed to kick off the last week of the festival: an unashamed bit of fluff. It’s one of those movies where a bunch of disparate characters interact over the course of an evening: a young guy who means to fly off to Paris the next day to win back a girl, a bookshop clerk, a gangster & a bunch of wannabe baby gangsters, and a few basically inept cops. It maintains an even keel throughout, doesn’t draw itself out past its natural conclusion, and manages to have a dance sequence that doesn’t make me want to punch things (Imma lookin’ at you, (500) Days of Summer.)

* I only watched half of Perfect 10, and then I decided that instead of spending any more time with those characters I would rather go out to the lobby and knit. So I did. I felt some guilt, because the directors seemed like lovely people, but I really did not like their movie, and I had already sat through one poorly-acted local feature already this festival, and at least *it* hadn’t been offensive. So it goes.

* Turn It Loose was a lot of fun, a documentary on b-boys, specifically following the 2007 Red Bull BC One competition in South Africa. I particularly liked the understated political aspect of it. We’re given profiles of competitors from all over the world (Ben-J from Senegal is totally my favorite), and title cards relating to their battles, but no voiceover, which is great.

In one particular sequence, Lilou, an Algerian dancer living in France wears a keffiyeh to mark his solidarity with the Arab world while battling against Roxrite, an American dancer who, to Lilou & to other competitors, represents all of American imperialism, wealth, and power. However, we then get a profile of Roxrite and learn that he’s an immigrant from Mexico, that he and his family experienced homelessness when he was younger, and that he’s still struggling to get by, but dance is what has kept him alive. It’s all in the editing, showing everything these guys have in common with each other whether they realize it or not.

* Live scores to silent movies just seem to get better every year, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was no exception. Written by Stephin Merritt & performed by him, Daniel Handler, Johnny Blood, & David Hegarty on the organ, it’s part score, part script, part musical, part MST3K. It put me back in mind of Utopia in Four Movements, actually, in terms of being a film experience that can only happen within that moment of time and space. Also, I still have the theme tune stuck in my head; it was earwormy enough to replace Bran Nue Dae‘s theme tune!

* I liked everything about Monogamy except the story. Which… seems like a ridiculous statement, but it’s true. I picked it in the first place for the cast (Chris Messina & Rashida Jones), and they were great. The direction was loose & intimate, and the cinematography was gorgeous. But I knew pretty much where it was going the whole time: there’s a line of dialogue early on that told me how the A plot was going to end, and I knew the end of the B plot from the moment it started, so that big reveal was totally lost on me.