In the Realm of PN1997

Friday, April 29, 2005

Lonesome Jim

Last but not least...

The final film I saw was Steve Buscemi's Lonesome Jim. Buscemi was at the earlier screening, but, alas, had to leave for New York prior to the screening I attended.

As a big fan of his earlier Trees Lounge, I was eager to see Lonesome Jim and was not disappointed. If felt the tone of the ending was slightly inconsistent with the tone of the rest of the film, but that's only a minor complaint of an otherwise well-acted and engaging film about a young man (Casey Affleck) who comes back to the small town in Indiana where he grew up after spending time in New York. Back home, he meets nurse Anika (Liv Tyler), casually talks his brother (Kevin Corrigan) into a failed suicide attempt, and hangs out with his drug-dealing uncle (Mark Boone, Jr).

Despite these heavy topics, film never gets self-indulgent or overly serious. Acting is superb throughout (including supporting roles for Mary Kay Place and Seymour Cassel).

Given the director and name cast, I would expect Lonesome Jim to be released theatrically. Though, given the dark tone, it may never reach the mainstream market.


Poor -- Fair -- Good -- VERY GOOD -- Excellent

Me And You And Everyone We Know

And now for the good news...

Finally saw my first "excellent" film of the festival. As I mentioned before, I originally rated The Holy Girl "very good," but afterward felt I could have given it an "excellent." But Miranda July's debut, Me And You And Everyone We Know, felt like an "excellent" right from the beginning and didn't disappoint for the duration.

Ostensibly about shoe saleman Richard Swersey (John Hawkes) trying to get his life back together after his recent separation from his wife. Opening sequence of his moving out sets the quirky tone that is both dark and laugh out loud funny. Richard meets performance artist Christine Jesperson (July) and the two begin an awkward and quirky (there's that word again) relationship.

The plot, though interesting, is not the strongest point of Me and You. The characters are so compelling, that one cannot help sympathize with them.

Miranda July was present at the screening I attended and wooed the crowd with her quirky charm. She said Me and You is scheduled for limited theatrical release in July.

Poor -- Fair -- Good -- Very Good -- EXCELLENT

Genesis

OK, so I'm way behind on my film festival films.

One of my biggest disappointments was Genesis, directed by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou, the same people who created the unique and inventive Microcosmos from 1996. Unfortunately, Genesis is neither unique or inventive. Perhaps Microcosmos set my expectations too high, but Genesis comes across as a second-rate NOVA special. The photography, which was so special in their former film, fails to deliver any surprises here.

The use of the storyteller is pretentious and exposes the shortcomings of the film. The images are not as convincing as the storyteller's mythology.

It didn't help that at the screening I was at, the final reel was inverted and the projectionist took 20 minutes getting it to face the right way.

Poor -- FAIR -- Good -- Very Good -- Excellent

Monday, April 25, 2005

Woman Is The Future of Man

For all my alleged film knowledge, I somehow missed the detail that Hong Sang-soo also directed Turning Gate, which I saw at last year's festival and didn't like much at all. I picked Woman based on a vague recollection of having read a good review in Variety.

Turning Gate had mildly interesting characters who sat around talking. Woman Is the Future of Man has not-so mildly annoying characters sitting around talking. Neither film is visually interesting. Most of Woman is medium shots of said annoying people sitting around talking.

Slow moving tale of two old friends who visit a woman with who both have a past raises a lot of questions as to why this woman ever took any interest in either of these men. Side trip of one of the men who visits with some of his students unnecessarily pads a film that feel long at 88 minutes.

Sigh.


Poor -- FAIR -- Good -- Very Good -- Excellent

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Take a Deep Breath

Saturday was by far the worst day of the festival for me. I saw more movies (3) on that day than any other, and the best of the lot, Dragan Marinkovic's Take a Deep Breath, was only average. The film is about a dysfunctional Serbian family of three, Mom (Mira Furlan), Dad (Bogdan Diklic), and daughter Sasa (Ana Franic). As the film opens, Sasa is about to run off with her boyfriend, Stefan (Branislav Tomasevic). When they run off, they get into a car wreck which leaves Sasa unscathed, but lands Stefan in the hospital for a lengthy stay. At the hospital, Sasa meets Stefan's sister, Lana (Jelena Djokic) and the two develop and intimate relationship. Meanwhile, Mom's having her own affair and Dad's trying to fix Sasa up with his young assistant.

What keeps the film afloat is the soap opera-like plot and it's occasional humor. But overall, Take A Deep Breath is rather slight, all the plot turns don't really add up to much.

The best part of the screening was that the director was there and fielded questions. He would not specifically talk about how the film was received in Serbia but did talk about how controversial having lesbian characters is.

Poor -- Fair -- GOOD -- Very Good -- Excellent

Friday, April 15, 2005

Yuva

Yuva is one of the films I was really looking forward to seeing. Two years ago, I saw Mani Ratnam's excellent A Peck on the Check, which, alas, I have never been able to find on VHS or DVD.

While Ratnam's new film, Yuva, is not quite as emotionally engaging as A Peck, it is an energetic and entertaining film. Nearly three hours long (but not feeling it), Yuva tells the intertwining stories of 3 men who have a fateful encounter on a bridge. The film begins with the shooting at the bridge and then flashes back to tell the story how each man wound up at that place at that time. Blending the personal with the political, Yuva mixes drama, romance, comedy, and musical numbers in a way only possible in a Bollywood film.

Print at the film festival had spotty English subtitles, but the film was easy enough to follow.

Poor - Fair -- Good -- VERY GOOD -- Excellent

Brothers

Brothers is an emotionally draining Danish film from director Susanne Bier about two brothers, one, Jannick (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), just getting out of prison and one, Michael (Ulrich Thomsen), being shipped out to serve in Afghanistan. When Michael's helicopter is shot down, his family believes he is dead. Jannick, mercilessly derided by his father, assists in caring for Michael's wife, Sarah (Connie Nielsen) and children. While they continue to grieve and slowly recover, Michael is found by the enemy and tortured. But the real tragedy occurs when Michael is rescued and returns home psychologically damaged.

Well-written script and excellent performances are completely convincing in a story which could easily have devolved into cheap melodrama.

Poor -- Fair -- Good -- VERY GOOD -- Excellent

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Lakeside Murder Case

I have to say I was somewhat disappointed with Lakeside Murder Case, directed by Shinji Aoyama (Eureka). The first half is a very tense story about the murder of a man's mistress. Mr. Namiki (Kôji Yakusho) meets his wife at a prestigious school where their daughter, Minako (Hiroko Yakushimaru), is applying. Two other couples and their children are also staying the weekend at the isolated school. When Namiki's mistress shows up and winds up murdered, the three couples frantically try and hide the dead body before the school's instructor can find out.

Unfortunatly, in the second half, the plot's twists are strained and predictable. But the main problem is that this film is clearly an indictment of Japan's overly competitive education system. Toward the end, the film becomes very heavy-handed and didactic, and, in effect, rather insulting toward it's audience.

Poor -- Fair -- GOOD-- Very Good -- Excellent

The Holy Girl

The Holy Girl is a disturbing film set in Argentina about a teenage girl, Amalia (Maria Alche), caught between her spirituality and budding sexuality. Director Lucrecia Martel (La Cienaga)uses close-ups to convey an intimacy not often seen in film. Often, the close-ups cut off the focal character's face to haunting effect.

What is particularly unsettling about this film is that the religion being taught to the teenagers is one based more or superstition than on scripture. The students share stories about the miraculous ways people are given their vocations. They are taught they need to "save and be saved."

Amalia finds her vocation in trying to save the soul of the man who frotteurizes her. This Dr. Jano (Carlos Belloso) is staying in the same hotel where Amalia and her mother, Helena (Mercedes Moran) are living. Helena meets and falls for Dr. Jano. The film creates a great deal of tension with effective use of dramatic irony. The viewer knows that Amalia's attacker and Dr. Jano are the same man, but neither Amalia nor her mother realize the connection.

Many aspects of the film are unsettling: from the frequent use of Theremin music to the phone call that Helena refuses to take. Many of the questions the film raises remain unanswered by film's end, but not necessarily in a bad way. The disturbing tone is consistent throughout and the lack of solid answers leaves the viewer intellectually curious and emotionally satisfied.

My initial reaction was to rate this film "very good," but the more I think about it, the more I like it. Given another chance, I most likely would have rated it "excellent."


Poor -- Fair -- Good -- VERY GOOD-- Excellent

Film Ratings

At the Philly Film Festival, you can rate each movie you see. The staff at the theater hand out ballots and you rip the ballot in the spot where you rate the movie. They use a simple Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, and Excellent scale, so that's the scale I'm going to use when I rate the films here.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Philly Film Festival

One of the reasons I am starting this blog when I am is because I will be going to a number of screenings for the 14th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival. I have gone each of the past two years and have had a wonderful time.

I will be going to two screenings tomrorrow: The Holy Girl and Lakeside Murder Case. I have read excellent reviews of The Holy Girl in Variety and in The Philadelphia Inquirer, so I'm really looking forward to that. Don't know as much about Lakeside Murder Case.

The official site (in Spanish or English) for the The Holy Girl can be found here.

The offical site for Lakerside Murder Case can be found here. This is the Japanese site, so the monolingual of us are at a loss, but the trailer makes sense even without subtitles: people die, someone's scared, everyone's yelling.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Introduction

I have be toying with the idea of starting a blog to promote the films and services offered here at Connelly Library at La Salle University in Philadelphia. It wasn't until I found myself hanging out with some serious bloggers at the March 2005 Computers in Libraries Conference that I was newly inspired to give it a serious try. If you don't know who you are, check out the list of other blogs at the right. And if I have forgotten anyone, let me know and I'll add you.

I've decided to focus on three areas:

1) promoting the services offered in the Media Services Department at Connelly Library

2) discussing films, film history or any other cinematic topics my heart desires

3) promoting and discussing aspects of Media Librarianship.

In my previous musings about starting a blog, I always felt I was going into it a bit haphazard. No more. Thanks to Michael Stephens' excellent list of the 10 things he learned as a Blogging Librarian, I feel like I now have an approach.