While I sit in theatre chairs waiting for films to begin, my mind wanders. At film festivals, my mind wanders farther, deeper, and, at the end of 11 solid hours of screenings, straight off the deep end. Occasionally, I think of little nuggets to post. For example:
1. A light jacket. I don’t care if it’s warm outside. There’s a good chance the theater will be COOOOOOLD. A jacket doubles as a seat saver, a snack stuffer, and a pillow. Don’t leave home without one.
2. Pocket snacks (granola bar, trail mix, etc).
3. Collapsible water bottle.
4. Chewing gum. Let’s face it, you could use a breath freshener (and a popcorn kernel dislodger).
5. A small backpack or shoulder bag. This is a must if you’re lugging around film guides, snacks, water, etc.
6. A paperback. You may have lots of downtime. Put down that cell phone and pick up a book!
7. Pills. In my case, pain pills, allergy pills, and heartburn pills.
8. An electric cattle prod. When the person in front of you starts texting or talking in the middle of the movie, do you really want to get out of your seat to tell a manager? A quick jolt is worth a thousand words.
Ok, maybe not electric cattle prod. But I can dream.
On to the reviews.
I started Monday evening with the Russian drama ELENA, the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize winner at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. I don’t want to give too much away (this is the type of film where the less you know, the better), but let’s say it explores the relationship between a late-life married couple and their non-mutual children. ELENA started off slow and methodical but quickly drew me in. What I loved most was the way it subverted my preconceptions about the characters. Some viewers may feel cheated by this. We are used to films that clearly tell us who is the hero and who is the villain. Once we make up our minds, it causes cognitive dissonance to have those conclusions questioned. ELENA is my favorite film of the fest so far. The Phillip Glass score is also a treat!
It’s not an Asian crime-noir unless the assassin dotes on a pet. In the case of Thai master Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s HEADSHOT, the pets are the aquarium fish he lovingly feeds. I’m a big fan of Ratanaruang’s other work, but the early reviews for HEADSHOT were mediocre at best. I came out very pleasantly surprised. They said the non-linear plot was convoluted. I found it unexpectedly easy to follow. They said the film was boring. I found it immensely entertaining. The film feels like Ratanaruang’s attempted break from the art house circuit to the mainstream Thai box office, and maybe that’s what bothered the critics. To summarize: an incorruptible cop is framed for murder. When released, he becomes a hitman for a secret organization that targets crime lords and corrupt officials. He’s shot in the head during a job, and when he wakes up three months later, he sees everything upside down. There were a few too many “come on!” moments for me to put it in my top films of the fest, but I enjoyed it all the same.
Tonight I’m screening LA CAMIONETA: THE JOURNEY OF ONE AMERICAN SCHOOL BUS and Joe Berlinger’s UNDER AFRICAN SKIES. I’ll tell you about them tomorrow!
<– Naff Day 4
Tony Youngblood is a film and music snob and producer of the experimental improv music blog and podcast Theatre Intangible. His favorite films include Eric Rohmer’s The Green Ray, Abbass Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us, Ingmar Bergman’s The Magician, Lee Chang Dong’s Oasis, and Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap.