Saturday, March 12, 2005

Christ. It’s day 11 of 12. Skull pounding, feet throbbing from trekking all over creation in those hot little heels, liver threatening to walk off the job in the homestretch. Still, your intrepid Cinequest correspondent is at it again, hobnobbing with second-tier celebrities and scouring dark theaters for the must-see maverick movies. Here’s what not to miss:

“My Big Fat Independent Movie”: I heard some mixed reviews about this fart-joke-filled spoof from director Philip Zlotorynski and producer Chris Gore (maybe you’ve heard of him), but I dug it. Following a Jon Favreau/Vince Vaughn-esque swinger, a gun-toting Travolta/Jackson duo lifted right from “Pulp Fiction” and a slutty, Jennifer-Aniston-in-“The-Good-Girl”-type cashier as they embark on a botched robbery in Vegas, the comedy parodies everything from “El Mariachi” to “Mulholland Drive”, Spike Lee to Guy Ritchie to Dogme 95. The digital feature had about a million effects ranging from complex to cartoonish; the filmmakers explained how they pulled it off on a budget during a panel last weekend. The script hits a sweet chord by being both film-school smart and unabashedly low-brow (example: in the requisite “seemingly unconnected sub-plot,” a character modeled after the guy from brainy, esoteric “Pi” agonizes not over some complex mathematical concept but over the recipe for the perfect pastrami sandwich).

“Verflixt Verliebt” (Switzerland): Okay, by now I’ve seen at least four features and three shorts that have something to do with trying to make a movie, but this Swiss film—about a biology student that gets mistaken for a famous Argentinean filmmaker—is justified for two reasons. First, there is, like, no Swiss film industry, so the fact that this feature even got made is kind of a miracle. Second, there is no omniscient camera; every frame was shot by cameras that actually exist in the context of the film, belonging to either the film-within-the-film’s production team or the documentary crew following them around, or one of many various security cameras.

“Svoi” (“Our Own”) (Russia): And you thought “Saving Private Ryan” had a gory opening sequence. In the first 10 minutes of “Svoi,” a man’s skull has been crushed by a tank and another’s face shot right off during a raid on a Russian city by Nazi soldiers; this carnage and more is rendered in excruciatingly graphic detail to make sure you know them Russkies don’t pull any punches.

“Trench Road” (Finland): We have the ‘60s to thank for ambiguously heroic lead characters. Violently obsessed with cobbling together the pieces of his broken family, Matti becomes a “home front veteran,” a kind of domestic soldier whose war is not fought on the front lines but rather in the home, his masculinity proven in the kitchen rather than on the battlefield. Throughout the film, we’re forced to identify with a main character that is simultaneously delusional and sweet, fanatical and tender, dangerous and still, somehow, kind-hearted (we think).

“Boxers and Ballerinas”: I didn’t want to believe the hype, since hyped-up festival fare is often the most disappointing. But this 94-minute documentary by 24-year-old Mike Cahill and 21-year-old Brit Marling deserves the praise it’s been getting on the festival circuit and in the press. Weaving a compelling argument about the complexities of the Cuban political situation and the effect that defections, travel restrictions and the embargo have on Cuban talent (namely the country’s athletes and artists), “Boxers and Ballerinas” is now headed to festivals in Cleveland, Florida, DC and San Francisco. Catch it, yo.

Notable Shorts:

“What The”: Simon Ellis’ short is long on special effects and mind-fucking conceptualism about TV and voyeurism.

“Fluent Dysphasia”: It takes a mysterious brain condition to get a negligent dad to communicate with his school-aged daughter, who’s the only person that can understand him after a concussion leaves him unable to speak or understand any language other than Gaelic. Normally I’m not a big fan of “heartwarming,” but this quickie does it with panache.

“Adventures of Big Handsome Guy and His Little Friend”: The title pretty much says it; director/actor Jason Winer brings equal parts hot chicks, cool cinematography and Woody Allen-style neuroticism to his comic short. If this developed into a feature or TV series, I would not be bummed.

“Stranger: Bernie Worrell on Earth”: My biggest regret at this festival: not seeing Phil Di Fiore’s short doc about piano genius Bernie Worrell that’s got everybody’s tongues wagging. With appearances by Mos Def, George Clinton, Prince Paul, Bootsy Collins and Warren Haynes, “Stranger” has already picked up a trophy at the SF Indie Fest.

Despite the bleeding feet and under-eye bags, this festivalgoer’s got no complaints. Scratch that: two complaints. One: please, please, please: no more movies about movies! I never want to see another ironically visible boom in the frame. Two: everyone, and I mean freaking everyone, is married. What happened to the good old days when film festivals were guaranteed to be a veritable smorgasbord of hook-up potential?

Well, maybe there’ll be some of that good old hook-up potential in part five of CINEQUEST 15 WRAP-UP>>>

Posted on March 25, 2005 in Festivals by

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