Picks, Pans, All That – Day Two: Friday, April 4

April 4, 2008 at 1:08 pm 1 comment

The first full day isn’t full, per se: there are only three time slots where the rest is either four or five. But hey, you gotta ease into these festivals, don’t ya?

Hiss!

The Good
American Teen: Premiering in Philly not a month after former filmmaking partner/boyfriend Brett Morgen’s Chicago 10 opened, this high school doc from Nanette Burstein (On the Ropes) doesn’t immediately feel special. Aesthetically it’s in the VH1/MTV vein, distinguishable from The Hills, et al. only in the way that matters: Burstein takes her subjects seriously and treats them without a trace of condescension. Trailing a group of students representing all (or most) the social classes at an Indiana high school during their senior year, it’s refreshingly egalitarian, not only extending a shoulder to the pimply nerd and the fragile artist who wants to hightail it to San Francisco come graduation, but even the petty, evil, blond-as-get-out popular girl, who at one point spray paints the word “fag” on a guy’s house just because he changed the prom theme. 7:15pm, Prince Music Theater.

Me: Basically a more down-to-earth re-envisioning of Roman Polanski’s The Tenant, Rada Cortés Kafkaesque thriller finds an exceedingly polite German man taking a position in a small island town in Spain – a position previously occupied by a man also named Hans and who left under unideal but ambiguous circumstances. Ooooh! Watching his temper gradually rise supplies some genre fun, but what transpires is more believable than absurdist. Creepily mundane, it’s a subtly disturbing portrait of what it takes to assimilate into a society. 6:45pm, Ritz East.

Baghead: I raved about this – the “mumblecore” movement’s first horror film – in the paper, so you know, go. 7:15pm, Ritz East.

Night Train: I also raved about this in the paper, though I half wish I had absorbed its impossibly wintry visuals on a big screen rather than on screener. Ah well. 9:30pm, The Bridge.

JHC, now with blond locks
 

The Not so Good
Jesus, the Spirit of God: Spurred on by The Passion of the Christ – which he liked but said was, you know, “wrong” – Iranian director Nader Talabzadeh tells the story of JC Superstar from the Koran, in which he’s far more overtly a magician and suffers a far different fate. There are easier, less corny ways to find out what this is, and at least a Wikipedia visit yields less grotesque antisemitism. 4:45pm, Ritz 5.

Pistoleros: Guy Ritchie goes to Copenhagen. In fact, Guy Ritchie might have to go to Copenhagen if he’s ever to be taken seriously again. Too bad this Shaky Gonzalez character – born in Chile, raised in Denmark – got there first. Tough break, Mr. Ciccone. 5pm, Prince Music Theater.

Mongol: Once a promising director, Sergei Bodrov (Prisoner of the Mountains) does Young Genghis Khan, concocting a film so flat, episodic and generically sweeping that star Tadanabu Asano – usually iconically laconic – looks just plain bored. Even a horror series worth of arterial spray can’t pump any blood into its veins. Unsurprisingly it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this February’s Oscars. 9:15pm, Ritz East.

And those I haven’t seen (yet) but which possess buzz and/or look promising:
California Dreamin’, from the chic Romanian New Wave, is the epic (read: 155 minutes) comedy of American marines stationed in an Eastern European town and winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes ‘06 (4pm, Ritz East). Milk in the Land, Ballad of an American Drink presumably does for the white ‘stache drink what the doc Black Gold did for coffee (4:45pm, Interational House). Dharm, one of four specially selected fest films from India, tries to knock down fundamentalist Hinduism (7pm, Ritz 5). Mirageman reveals what a lo-fi superhero movie from Chile looks like (9:30pm, I-House). And Bad Biology is the latest from gorehound Frank Henenlotter, of Frankenhooker and three Basket Cases – an auteur in his own right (9:30pm, Prince Music Theater).

Incidedentally, the very well-reviewed local doc In a Dream (7pm, I-House) is sold out, both tonight and tomorrow. Of course, if you have a pass, nothing is sold out, but hopefully it will score a Festival Favorites slot come fest’s end.

Tonight (or at least early tomorrow): Drive-by caps of the films I see today.

And by the way, have any recommendations? Disagreements? What have you? Then leave a comment. Mi blog su blog.

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Young@Heartless Bastard What I Peeped: Day Two

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