Another Absolutely Epic and Thick as a Brick Weekend Post
First off, please for the love of all that is good and decent go see the (still so far) best of the fest Sita Sings the Blues — whose awesomeness I have, like all who’ve seen it, been nearly annoying about promoting. (Fri., April 3, 7pm, Prince Music Theater and Sun., April 5, Ritz East.) Also, go see this, the second best (again, still so far) of the fest:
Almost as awesome as Sita, I’m Going to Explode is a delirious riff on Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le fou that I positively gushed about here. As far as teen reimaginations of classic material — and Plf is holy in my book — it simply decimates the film directly below. Fri., April 3, 9:30pm, Ritz 5 and Sun., April 5, 7:15pm, The Bridge.
The Beautiful Person Filmmaker Christophe Honoré continues his roll — started with Dans Paris and Love Songs — of perpetrating nifty French New Wave throwbacks, only with a polysexual twist and the presence of big-haired Louis Garrel. But he’s slipping. This time he tries to update Made de Lafayette’s 17th century novel La Princesse de Clèves to a modern day Parisian high school, which makes a weird kind of sense given the tortured sexual politics of the source. But no Cruel Intentions, 10 Things I Hate About You or O here — Honoré is after his usual whimsical-depressive vibe, with characters bursting into tears or, at one point, song. Honoré does find a new Anna Karina type in dreamy brunette Léa Seydoux, who exudes sex and speaks with an impatient, fast-paced alto reminiscent of a young Virginie Ledoyen. And while this, like most of Honoré’s work, is unwieldy but just passably solid, the director could stand to change up his shtick again. Grade: B Sat., April 4, 4:15pm, Prince Music Theater and Sun., April 5, 9:15pm, Ritz 5.
Il Divo If you’re not intimately familiar with the labyrinth that is Italian politics of the last thirty years, you might be a little lost during Il Divo, Paolo Sorrentino’s sordid biopic of crooked and much-connected seven-time Prince Minister, lifetime senator and all-around scoundrel Guilio Andreotti. But though Sorrentino hurls out names that you’ll instantly forget every couple seconds, details aren’t his goal. Instead he orchestrates a positively phantasmagoric portrait of a man so empty the actor playing him (Toni Servillo, late of another impenetrable Italian crime pic Gommorrah) barely moves a muscle. Frozen and jowly, and resembling an even more inhuman version of Alan Greenspan, he’s a symbol of privilege and rot, hollowed out through corruption and power. Sorrentino’s camera dives around him, presses into his face and performs other such gymnastic tricks, while the film increasingly becomes a subjective, lonely nightmare. Il Divo really only has that lone insight into its subject, and is thus one-note. But whatta note. Grade: B Fri., April 3, 7pm, Ritz 5 (Sold Out!) and Sun., April 5, 5pm, Prince Music Theater.
Snow Aida Begic’s drama basically relocates The Cherry Orchard to Bosnia and in the home of women widowed by the 1995 Dayton Accords’ genocide who’ve made a living making and selling jams and jellies. Will they sell their land to developers? Or realize they work best together? Almost entirely devoid of sentimentality, Begic’s film is a tough thing, the kind of film where one character exclaims, “Please don’t comfort us.” But it’s also the kind of movie where it’s called “Snow” and the metaphorical and literal precipitation doesn’t arrive till the final moments. Still, nice abrupt ending. Grade: B- Fri., April 3, 12:15pm, The Bridge and Sun., April 5, 6:15pm, Black Box at the Prince.
Surveillance In 1993, David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer directed Boxing Helena, a movie that mightily pissed off every single person who saw it and destroyed her career soon as its started. Fifteen years later she tried again and the best you can say is that at least it’s not pissing anyone off. But it’s still baby steps. Bill Pullman at his wormiest headlines a bizarre ensemble cast — including both Cheri Oteri and French Stewart in serious roles — about a small town, a couple murders, something spooky going on. Sound familiar? Surveillance is its own thing, happily, and it has a nicely sustained middle section involving a pair of evil cops fucking with the minds of two cars’ worth of travelers. But it still lacks the control over its weirdness that her father has even when he’s on autopilot. It does, however, feature a fearless, terrific performance from Pell James (Zodiac). Grade: C+ Sat., April 4, 9:30pm, Prince Music Theater and Sun., April 5, 2:30pm, Ritz 5.
Treeless Mountain One of the ever so slightly disappointing sophomore follow-ups to great debuts in the festival — Sugar, Lake Tahoe, Dioses — So Yong Kim’s second feature (after the fairly extraordinary In Between Days, which I hereby command you to Netflix) finds the South Korean-born director switching from anguished teens to anguished kids, which makes all the difference. The feelings of painfully introverted teenagers isn’t nearly so covered as wayward children, and however much Kim retains her shtick of tight close-ups and caught-on-the-fly moments, Treeless Mountain can’t help but feel like been-there-done-that, and not just because the plot is similar to Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Nobody Knows. Two cute little girls, aged seven and five, float from guardian to guardian once their single-parent mom can no longer provide for them. They, of course, stay resilient by sticking to eachother’s side, though Kim has a couple novel twists up her sleeve. Grade: B Sat., April 4, 5pm and Sun., April 5, 2:45pm, both Ritz East.
Tulpan Proof that Borat’s not the only funny Kazakh, Sergey Dvortsevoy’s middle-of-nowhere comedy is an irresistible mix of ethnography porn and deadpan silliness. A naive young man returns from the navy to the arid wasteland in which he grew up, improbably wishing to settle down in the land he should have left forever. His attempts are threatened when his arranged bride doesn’t care for his funny-shaped ears nor him, resulting in many feeble attempts to win her over. The highlight is a real-time goat birth sequence and there’s plenty of scenes of life just happening. But there’s also equal amounts of near-screwball comedy, plus some crazed homelife reminiscent of Frank Capra at his silliest. Grade: B+ Fri., April 3, 7:15pm, The Bridge and Sun., April 5, 12pm, Ritz East.
- Before the Fall C- Sat., April 4, 12:30pm, Ritz 5.
- The Burning Plain C- Sat., April 4, 2:30pm, Ritz 5.
- Cuttin’ Da Mustard C+ Fri., April 3, 7:45pm, Ritz East.
- Girl From Monaco B- Fri., April 3, 12:15pm, Ritz 5.
- God’s Forgotten Town C- Fri., April 3, 2:45pm, Ritz East and Sun., April 5, 9:15pm, Ritz East.
- I Sell the Dead B Sun., April 5, 9:30pm, I-House.
- Julia B Sat., April 4, 9:15pm and Sun., April 5, 2:15pm, both Ritz East.
- Kassim the Dream C Fri., April 3, 4:45pm, Prince Music Theater.
- King of Ping Pong B- Fri., April 3, 7:15pm, Ritz East.
- 9 to 5: Days in Porn B- Sun., April 5, 9:30pm, The Bridge.
- Of Time and the City B Sun., April 5, 5pm, The Bridge.
- Plague Town C+ Fri., April 3, 4:45pm, I-House.
- The Way We Get By (above) B Fri., April 3, 3pm, Ritz East and Sat., April 4, 4:30pm, Black Box at the Prince.
- Zift C+ Sat., April 4, 5:30pm, The Bridge.
Unseen So Far But Looks Notable (Possibly)
- Despite screaming oh so Eastern European, stop motion kings the Quay Brothers — that’s Stephen and Timothy to you — are in fact totally Philly. Well, almost. Born in Norristown, they attended UArts, flew to Europe and eventually cranked out a respectably unique body of work (including contributions to this). Back in town briefly, they will introduce both their first of two long players, 1995’s perversely live-action Institute Benjamenta (Fri., April 3, 9:15pm, Prince Music Theater), as well as a smattering of their shorts, including the classic Street of Crocodiles (above) and their most recent Eurydice – She, So Beloved (Sat., April 4, 2pm, Prince Music Theater).
- From The Syrian Bride’s Eran Riklis comes Lemon Tree, another look at Israeli-Palestinian relations, this one starring The Visitor’s great Hiam Abbass. Fri., April 3, 12:15pm, Ritz East.
- More Eastern European miserablism! The Tour brings a darkly comic look at an acting troupe who wind up on the front lines of Bosnia’s civil war. Whoops! Fri., April 3, 2:30pm, Ritz 5.
- Starring An Affair of Love’s Nathalie Baye, A French Gigolo — from France — concerns a middle-aged woman (Baye) who has forsaken romance and emotion and whatnot in favor of shtupping male escorts. Sat., April 4, 7:15pm, Ritz East.
- The Danish Worlds Apart is the gazillionth riff on Romeo and Juliet, with a Jehovah’s Witness falling for a non-Jehovah’s Witness, resulting in much tut-tutting. Fri., April 3, 5pm.
- Singing, spying and capering inexplicably come together in the French Joy of Singing, featuring such sights/sounds as Jacques Rivette regular Jeanne Balibar singing the Pretenders. Sat., April 4, 12pm, Prince Music Theater and Sun., April 5, 8:30pm, Black Box at the Prince.
- There are already three films in the fest about kids abandoned by their mother (It’s Not Me I Swear!, Mommy is at the Hairdressers and Treeless Mountain), so why not a fourth? Hailing from China America, Children of Invention, Tze Chun’s debut, has the mom go missing, and soon after the whole family is evicted. Fun. Sat., April 4, 12:30pm, The Bridge and Sun., April 5, 4pm, Black Box at the Prince.
- Alfre Woodard will, alas, not be able receive the Fade to Black Quest Award in person prior to the Saturday screening of American Violet, a drama from Tim Disney (yes, relation) about a woman railroaded by the system, or at least a sniveling D.A. Michael O’Keefe. Tim Blake Nelson, who ought to act a lot more, also features. Sat., April 4, 6:30pm and Sun., April 5, 2:30pm, both at Prince Music Theater.
- Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna reunite, and for Y Tu Mama Tambien director Alfonso Cuarón’s brother Carlos no less, in Rudo y Cursi, about two soccer players stumbling as they hit the big time. Luna has a mustache. Sat., April 4, 9:30pm, Ritz East.
- Colorado resident Danny Ledonne’s infamous game Super Columbine Massacre RPG! is the subject of the doc Playing Columbine … which was directed by Ledonne himself. How about that. Sat., April 4:45pm, Ritz East and Sun., April 5, 9:30pm, Ritz East.
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