Last night I had the opportunity to see Tabloid, which is currently in limited release in the US. Primarily an interview of Joyce McKinney after the fact, the film shows what can be accomplished if one completely disregards the thoughts and opinions of others and acts accordingly. Ms. McKinney almost literally goes by the beat of her own drummer and got into a bit of trouble because of that, back in the 1970s. She followed her one true love to England where she ultimately was to stand trial for kidnapping said true love. Much happened – or didn’t happen, depending on who’s telling – before and after the alleged kidnapping, which is revealed bit by bit as the film goes on. Delusional or completely truthful, McKinney is a unique individual who managed to give a small group of people quite a wild ride. A bit odd at times, there were moments which caused me to laugh out loud. The story is ridiculous in the best sense of the word.
My final day at SIFF was one of annoyance and melancholy.
After a morning of Vampire Diaries on DVD, I headed over to SIFF Cinema (conveniently located!) for Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians. I watched this film mainly because a friend of mine would be referenced in it. As it turns out, Benjamin had quite a bit more screen time than I had anticipated, and I was surprised and delighted to see his wife, also my friend, Megan on-screen as well. (It really should not be a surprise to see Megan on the silver screen, and if you have spent ten minutes with her, you’d know why.) It is really difficult for me to write objectively about this film for the very fact that it’s about self-proclaimed Christians. The film follows a team of blackjack players made up of primarily pastors and other “devout” Christians. I use the capital C to emphasize that the appellate is more name than description. The only player that seemed a true christian to me was Mark, the pastor who quit because he could no longer correlate his spiritual life with his casino life. The filmmaker of Holy Rollers was on hand for a Q&A but I felt my mind would burst if I had to listen to more of the claptrap. So I left during the credits and headed to Pacific Place for my final film.
The evening ended with a sorrowful Belgium film called Illégal. A single mother of one has made her way in Belgium as a cleaner for nearly ten years when she is randomly spotted by police and detained for lack of papers. Not wanting to be deported back to Russia, she hides her identity from authorities while waiting out her time at a detention center. She suffers while also bonding with fellow detainees. A guard at the center empathizes with the foreigners although she needs the job to support her own family. Events reach a cresendo at the center, bringing the guard to a turning point and bringing a sincere tear to my eye. Illégal is available on DVD and will be on Netflix Instant Watching in July.
Friday night found me again at the Harvard Exit for All Your Dead Ones (Todos Tus Muertos), a sort of social commentary out of Colombia. A farmer finds a pile of dead bodies in his corn field on election day. The tempo was a little off in my opinion (surprising, then, that action junkie Toni liked it), but there were some nice, comic moments. I expected more activity from the dead – I know, that’s a peculiar thing to say, but I think you’ll get what I’m saying if you read any reviews. One of the actors was in the house for the screening and was able to shed some light on the political landscape of Colombia which made the film, for me, much more understandable and enjoyable. (I was also impressed with myself for how much of his spoken Spanish I was able to understand.) I didn’t really understand the reason for bookending the film with scenes of the farmer having sex with his wife, but I suppose in retrospect it was a way of “grounding” the story in the reality of the day which was, in it’s own weird way, supernatural. I don’t expect All Your Dead Ones to have a US theatrical release, so look for it on DVD.
One of the highlights of this festival for me was seeing Sound of Noise, a Swedish film about music appreciation, if you will. Written around a group of renegade musicians, it is a presentation of a work for “one city and six drummers” in four movements. The musicians’ comic foil is a tone-deaf policeman from a family of accomplished musicians. There was very little in the way of plot, but who cares when you can watch the masterpiece unfold in Malmö? Instruments were front-end loaders, jack hammers, electrical cables, respirators, and even a human body. For someone like me who responds to percussion, it is a sonic delight. Hopefully Sound of Noise will see at least a limited run in theatres outside the festival circuit. If not, look out for it on Netflix.
Sunday I got up early for the Complete Amateur Filmmaking Workshop. In 420 minutes, myself and four strangers “wrote”, storyboarded, filmed, and edited a short film we called “The Bench.” We had two mentors who were invaluable in giving pointers on all aspects of our project and instructing us on editing methods. All groups were tasked with making a film showcasing Seattle Center, and all groups came up with original and interesting projects. It was an awesome and inspiring experience.Later that evening I drove myself to Capitol Hill to see Finisterrae at the Harvard Exit. The film consists of two ghosts wandering the countryside with a windsock and a horse, which sometimes was an actual horse and other times was not, on a quest to the end of the earth in hopes of rejoining the living. From what I’ve read, the film was shot without a script and the dialogue was added later. Sometimes this is evident by the incoherence of one shot to the next, but at the same time it seems the filmmaker may have had an underlying vision from the start. The visuals are brilliant, and if one can open one’s mind and accept that this film may not make sense shot-by-shot, I think the overall experience can be a good one. Well, I liked it anyway. Finisterrae is definitely an “art film.”
Aside: I parked north of the Harvard Exit in an area that I haven’t been in since last year’s film festival, and I’d just like to say that if I ever lived in Capitol Hill, this is the part I’d want to live in. It would require a good deal of money though, so don’t expect me to be living there anytime soon.
The Clink of Ice (Le bruit de glaçons) is a delicious tale of a broken man forced to share his domicile with his own cancer. Set in the French countryside, all the action takes place in a labyrinthine house and the surrounding grounds. The setting lends itself well to the stage-play like deliveries and Marx Brothers’ physicality amongst the actors. Man is chased by cancer is chased by housemaid is chased by man, and back around the other way. The title refers to the man’s constant companion – an ice bucket holding a bottle of wine. The man is a sad sack, played by favorite French spy Jean Dujardin, a writer with nothing to write, an estranged father, and an ex-husband. When the embodiment of his consumption comes calling – literally ringing his doorbell – he is set in a motion of action and discovery, joined by his love struck maid and her own meddlesome cancer. Delightfully dark, and yet pleasantly light.
The French farce was followed up by the American Terri. Another coming of age story of an outcast at an Anytown, USA high school, this one starred Jacob Wysocki as an overweight orphan living with a near-senile uncle (Creed Bratton), and John C. Reilly as his vice principal and mentor. It was a bit slow and a lot quiet, but it had enough stuff going on to keep one’s interest. The main performances were held up well by Olivia Crocicchia (Tommy’s younger daughter on “Rescue Me”) and Bridger Zadina as fellow outcasts. It was nothing earth shattering, but it was an entertaining film. Terri opens in the U.S. July 1, but you can probably wait for the DVD.