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April 1, 2008 at 9:12 pm 2 comments

Self-portrait taken with my camera phone. The movie was Funny Games, I believe.

Welcome to PW’s online coverage of the Philadelphia Film Festival, which is heretofore to be referred to solely in acronym form, i.e., the PFF. (Try saying it. Sounds derisive, no? Surely this will be my vocal reaction to certain fest movies, particularly as my tolerance is slowly worn down.) As you may know, this sucker lasts nearly two weeks, with screenings at upwards of seven venues at a time and usually between four and five different time slots per day. I haven’t done the math but that’s an assload of movies, many of which we’ll never hear from again.

The plan is twofold. One, I’ll be guiding y’all through each day, offering up picks, shortish reviews and Danger-Will-Robinson warnings of anything truly dire. (There may also be reports on ambiance or whatev, depending on whether anything particularly blogworthy occurs.) Two, I’ll be seeing as many of them as I can while trying — trying, trying, trying — not to lose a grip on my sanity.

As I type, the festival is still two days from kickoff, though it doesn’t begin in earnest till late Friday afternoon. (Thursday is solely devoted to two screenings of the opening night pic, the geriatric crooners doc Young @ Heart.) Alas, my sanity is already in peril. See, I’ve spent the last fortnight-plus essentially throwing one screener in the DVD player, watching it, ejecting it, replacing it with another, wash, rinse, repeat. I’ve already been eschewing much-needed sleep, bike riding and social interaction and it looks like I’ll be doing more of it. I’d much rather not reveal the grotesque number of PFF titles I’ve already seen. Let’s just say I’m eagerly looking forward to a refreshing (though likely short) break from cinema come (ye gods) April 17.

Till then, all hail cinema! Despite the obscenely large but forever unrevealed number of films I’ve already seen in the PFF, a lot of the choicer nabs were unavailable for preview. That means, dear festgoers, we’ll discover certain highly-buzzed films together!

Me, I’m most stoked for You the Living, from Swedish deadpan master Roy Andersson. Songs From the Second Floor (2000), Andersson’s previous feature, is nothing short of an eyesore, even when viewed on a non-HD, non-flat screen TV from a slightly above par VHS dupe. An absurdist, quasi-apocalyptic rhapsody on the disconnect of modern times shot in some of the widest-angled lenses this side of John Frankenheimer’s Seconds, the film is told entirely in immaculately composed static tableaux featuring immaculately timed comic business by a troupe of depressive-funny actors. Songs took four years to make and looks like it, so there was reason to expect more of the same from You the Living, particularly given the seven year gap. Reaction wasn’t quite that ecstatic (though ecstatic still) when it premiered at Cannes last year, but it’s been getting better and better notices as it’s ridden the festival train, with some saying it’s even better than Songs. Fingers totally crossed.

The trailer for You the Living is unsubtitled and, frankly, not so well assembled, so here’s a clip from Songs, just to give an idea and to give you something for your Netflix Queue:

And I can’t wait to finally get my peepers on: Alexandra, the latest from serial experimenter Alexander Sokurov (Russian Ark, The Sun); Confession of Pain, from Andrew Lau and Alan Mak of Infernal Affairs (i.e., The Departed); Chop Shop, Ramin Bahrani’s follow-up to Man Push Cart; California Dreamin’, yet another award-gobbler from the currently chic Romanian New Wave; the well-received Japanese court saga I Just Didn’t Do It; Jiang Wen’s way bizarre-sounding Chinese polyptych The Sun Also Rises, which has nothing much to do with Ernest Hemingway; plus a slate of old film noirs, including Richard Fleischer’s recently reevaluated 1955 heist pic Violent Saturday. And who can resist catching the better-late-than-never Jackie Chan-Jet Li team-up The Forbidden Kingdom a mere handful of days before it opens in 3,000 theaters?

(I’ll resist moaning on and on about all the films the PFF missed, as I’m not entirely hip to the elaborate innnerworkings of the international festival circuit and am sure in a lot of cases that, hey, at least someone tried. Still, can’t help but be a little saddened that the fest coordinators didn’t get their mitts on such circuit faves as Carlos Reygadas’ literally jaw-dropping Silent Light; François Ozon’s Angel; Peter Greenaway’s alleged comeback film Nightwatching, with Martin Freeman as Rembrandt; Béla Tarr’s flawed but goddamned beautiful The Man From London; The Romance of Astrea and Celadon, the latest (last?) from 87 year old Eric Rohmer; In the City of Sylvia; Import/Export; Jia Zhang-ke’s Useless; Lee Chang-don’s Secret Sunshine; the all-star directorial omnibus film To Each His Own Cinema; or any of the four (4) films Takashi Miike popped out last year. Not bitchin’. Just sayin’.)

But again, the light doesn’t turn green till Thursday night. Till then, I’m grabbing some advance sleep. C-ya!

P.S. Now that intros are out of the way, future posts won’t be so epic. You’re welcome.

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Entry filed under: Salutations. Tags: , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. geolopos  |  April 3, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    While I’ve come to expect that the PFF will miss the boat on a number of fest favorites from the previous year, the amount of stuff missing this time around is kind of irksome, esp. ’cause so many of the films actually screening seem so mediocre. I mean, the programmers did go to Toronto, right? But yeah, You the Living and The Sun Also Rises, good moves dudes.

    Reply
  • […] for whatever reason, snatched up and brought to our city (you can see a no doubt incomplete list here), my main complaint, as I’ve carped previously, is the rise of video presentation. I understand […]

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