Sunday, April 29, 2007


(link) Silly, pseudo-metaphysical "love" story about a cheating couple who flee Taipei for somewhere in South America. Poorly acted in four languages (none of which is French, oddly), this one probably isn't worth your time.

More live blogging from SFMOMA: Protagonist

Protagonist There's nothing like a good weave-it-all-together documentary. This more down-to-earth version of Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control (its subjects have distinctly normal properties, unlike Morris's film) doesn't achieve the same formal beauty as that, yet Protagonist has much more to say, I think, than that one did. Director Jessica Yu tries to tie together the stories of four men with the Greek tragedies of Euripides, yet this central theme is the only weak spot of the endeavor: the men's stories speak so strongly that the artifice seems unnecessary. These are stories of growing up with troubled father figures, and then going through much of early adult life under the shadow of those experiences: a German terrorist, whose policeman father beat him and spoke of how "Hitler was a good man"; a preacher from a deeply religious family whose confusion over homosexuality twisted back and forth over the years; a bank robber who points, again, to his father's childhood beatings of he and his brother as where this all started. And for comic relief, one story of how an adolescent's quest for kung-fu shaped his high school years. In this context, even the last story manages to take on significance. Highly recommended, if you can ignore the pretension of the connecting segments, narrated in Ancient Greek by Marina Sirtis (!).

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Live blogging from SFMOMA

Over a couple of happy-hour beers at my local cafe, I've completed another quick review. Hooray for sunny afternoon respites from the sun-starved world of a film festival. Colossal Youth Well well well, what to make of that? The programmer's introduction told us it would be difficult, and the trickle of walkouts throughout Colossal Youth's 155 minute running time attest to that. This is one of those times when I could really use talking to someone else about the film: I thought it was magnificent, and engrossing, and heart-breaking. And yet I'm still not entirely sure what it was about. Surely, it's about poverty, and the state's reaction to the same (the film follows characters in a Lisbon slum). It's also about family, or more particularly, father and mother-hood: how parents help their children, how children help their parents. And how they're connected, in good ways and bad. The use of non-professional actors is apparent, as much of the dialogue seems to be read off a page, yet this effect is often used to the advantage of the film (most poignantly as the main character, Ventura, repeats a letter to his son [or son-in-law?] over and over throughout). As for the filmic aspects, it's shot on digital, but manages to have a beautiful, if frightening, style: the 4:3 aspect ratio adds to the claustrophobia of the slum, yet as the characters move from a shanty town to bright white public housing, the effect only increases. Recommended, if you can take the length and the incomprehensibility. But don't say I didn't warn you.

SFIFF 2007 Begins: Slumming

This is the third blog upon which my film ramblings have been posted. Blogger has a broader audience than LJ, thus the choice of platform. I hope it works well enough for folks. Slumming My SFIFF kicked off on an agreeably off-beat note with this Austrian film, about a young, bored man named Sebastian who uses his copious free time (and inherited wealth) to experiment upon various members of Viennese society. His greatest pastime is internet dating: he meets 6 or 8 women a day, mainly in order to collect pictures taken from under the table. At other times, he and his roommate like to partake in what they call "slumming": visiting dive bars and Turkish dance clubs, and messing with the locals. But of course, Sebastian can't go on like this forever, and he soon pulls a prank that goes to far, while simultaneously meeting a woman who he actually seems to like (or, as he puts, it "love", though that seems a bit of a stretch). The closest comparison I can come up with is Ghost World (especially the movie adaption), and the more I think about it, the more it fits. The pranksters are older (college-age instead of high school), but the carelessness with which Sebastian carries off his pranks really harkens back to that. Of course, these are Austrian guys, not American girls, so the attitude is meaner and more juvenile. It's neither as funny nor as touching as Ghost World. And in its latter third, the movie begins to move towards some sort of metaphysical statement about the oneness of its three main characters (Sebastian, his lover, and the prank victim) that comes off as a reach. As the first film of this festival, though, it worked well for me: not too difficult, yet interesting enough to be worth my time. Not particularly recommended, but it's a fine time.