July 25, 2006

Film Festival

My best effort yet... six movies at this year's 38th International Film Festival.

A stunningly beautiful film centred on seven year old Chuyia, who in spite of not remembering getting married, is now a widow. This means she must live in a house with other widows for the rest of her life, living off the charity of others. Strict caste and religious dogma dictates that remarriage is not allowed, nor any normal life experiences, because when the husband dies, part of the wife dies too. There's a bit of a love story (not for Chuyia, but another inmate) and Ghandi makes an appearance - the film is set in 1938. This was my aunt's recommendation, and it's the third in a series from Deepa Meehta, following Earth and Fire.

Dave Chappelle's Block Party
Comedian Chappelle throws a block party in Brooklyn, New York featuring performances from lots of excellent hip hop outfits including The Roots, Dead Prez, Erykah Badu, the Fugees, and Kanye West. Besides footage of the performances and on-stage stand-up by Chappelle, we meet people from Chappelle's hometown of Dayton, Ohio as he drums up attendees for the party, and also folks from the neighbourhood where the party is held. The performers are jaw-droppingly impressive and the vibe is positive.

The Science of Sleep
I had big expectations, and this film was certainly worthwhile, but the lack of resolution rankles somewhat. The characters are tormented, and they remain so, with no obvious development other than Stephane drifting further into the world of his dreams. Still, it had the White Stripes' 'Instinct Blues' on the soundtrack, and showcased Gondry's delightful trademark arts'n'crafty feel within Stephane's dream world.

Homegrown: Works on Video
This was a spur of the moment decision. Sunshine Man was first: an uncomfortable but impressive short about a salesman looking to change lives with his product. Thriller The Knock is a clever story about a young man haunted by the memory of a woman knocking on his door late at night. Ninety Percent follows three sets of people, who don't seem to be connected at all. Maybe I missed the point with this one.. I liked it, though. Life After Death was superb - Guy Capper and Jemaine Clement improvised their roles as sheep discussing the afterlife, subsequently animated (claymation?) by Capper. Hilarious. The Customer Is Always Trite is from the perspective of a check-out operator, and the absurdity of encounters with customers - really good. Frames was a grim look at family ties featuring Jeremy Elwood. The Paselode Story was really funny - a sort of animated doco examining the relationships between the band members of the now disbanded Wellington rockers. Oh Deer is described as a "gorgeous digital fairytale" but I think I missed the point, or was possibly slipping back into bung mode... the same goes for Reset, which I found to be excruciating.

American Hardcore
Full on carnage, stripped to the bone raw angst and frustration, hatred and purity.. based on the book American Hardcore: A Tribal History, this film traces the uprising of hardcore punk and subsequent straight edge bands between 1980 and 1984. There were loads of interviews with musicians from the scene - so interesting to see punk rockers all growned up - and a lot of footage from gigs. This was mostly pretty dark and grainy and all kind of blurred into a scene of exuberant violence that had me resolved to never again approach a moshpit, even though those taking place at the shows I attend would never approach the levels of physicality displayed in American Hardcore. The film examined the way the music was a mostly positive reaction to the excesses of the 70s, the disillusion in the politics of the day, with a general anti-authority, anti-establishment sentiment.

Mutual Appreciation
This film followed the friendship of three people in their twenties living in New York. It was quite simple, shot in black and white with little or no soundtrack, and I found it strangely relaxing to sit back and observe the intricacies of the characters interactions. We follow the experiences of Alan, fresh from Boston, looking to get something going on as a musician. His friends Ellie and Lawrence are completely supportive, and there's a focus on the relationship between these two, and the impact of Ellie's interest in Alan. Nothing much happens, yet the awkward exchanges are somehow refreshing.


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