the 15th Annual San Jose International Film Festival (known
to most as Cinequest) has gotten underway, and, after a
few days of schmoozing, partying, and promoting our film
The Chick Magnet — for which I wrote a brilliant,
heartfelt script that Chris Garcia reduced to a collection
of boob jokes (cuz boob jokes play well in the stix!)…
well, we finally got around to WATCHING some films, getting
you the scoop on this year’s indie film scene.
a tradition of premiering self-reflective stories, the fest
opened with Brazillian comedy Manual for Love Stories.
As the title suggests, the movie’s a manifesto on
how to make a romantic film. More to the point, it’s
a treatise on how to come up with the most standard, trite,
stereotypical example of the genre possible. From beginning
to end, an unseen narrator nudges the film back towards
romance movie conventions whenever it veers into other territory.
this is all played for comedic effect, and there are some
chuckles at the reality-bending antics, but this sucker’s
dead on arrival. The cinematography, while competent, suffers
under some of the worst staging since the silent era, smothering
every scene in a theatricality that’ll cure even the
most severe cases of insomnia.
we can give it some lenience for being a Portugese language
film made to appeal more to its native audience than an
American one, there’s no ignoring the fact that A
Manual for Love Stories would have been far more entertaining
as a stage play or short film. As a comedy, it’s too
desperate to be funny. As a romance, it’s a bad mockery
of fairy tales. As a movie, its 84 minute runtime is completely
unjustified. As an opening night film, it was a dismal failure.
already called dibs on the one science fiction film we’ve
had the pleasure of seeing, but, since I’m a disloyal,
lying bastard, I might as well give you a heads up on Able
Edwards. Following in the footsteps of Sky
Captain and the World of Tomorrow, this low budget
feature uses an entirely greenscreened setting (meaning
all the backgrounds are fake) to take the audience into
a spacebound futuristic story of identity and the human
to imprecisely sum up, it’s Citizen Kane
meets A.I.. I’ll
leave the details to my esteemed colleague, but, while this
hasn’t been the greatest film at the fest, the ambition
and adventurous storytelling at work are impressive examples
of the strides digital effects have allowed indie filmmakers
to take. It may also be a great example of the chaos that
ensues when special effects and story have to vie for screentime.
In any case, it’ll give hope to fledgling filmmakers
and open new doors for low budget Sci Fi (Carnosaur
a break from modern films, our crew hobbled down to the
recently renovated California Theater to check out a brand
spanking new print of Harold Lloyd’s 1922 silent comedy
Safety Last. Accompanied by a top notch Wurlitzer
organ, the simple story of a boy trying to win the hand
of the girl he loves by making it in the big city won the
hearts of the entire audience and inspired peals of laughter
and numerous rounds of applause.
perfect sense of comic timing and staging of physical humor
translates flawlessly into this century, and, thanks to
what must have been a massive restoration effort, the film
looked clean enough to have been shot yesterday. While Safety
Last and the newly cut version of Movie Crazy easily
inspired a whole new generation of Lloyd fans, the California
Theater and it’s massive organ surely reawakened the
spirit of silent cinema for everyone in attendance. Far
from being a mere novelty, this new venue is sure to become
one of the most beloved cinematic altars in the entire Bay
weekend went on, we had our feelers out for the buzz, but
very few recommendations were coming our way. For every
bit of praise, there was another person offering heavy derision.
For every packed house, there were numerous walkouts.
of the few mentions we took note of was the Canadian The
Love Crimes of Gillian Guess, based on the true story
of a single mother from Vancouver who was selected for jury
duty in a high profile murder trial— and then had
an affair with the accused. But the director (well known
in Canada, natch), chose to focus more on the innerworkings
of Gillian’s mind than the actual details of the trial,
and what results is a less balanced but still compelling
narrative reminiscent of Mulholland
movie has a significant flaw, it’s that the first
half goes far into absurd fantasy, but not far enough to
make us search for meaning. The events that occur are shocking,
offensive, repugnant, and caused many people to leave the
theater, but too few hints were dropped and too “clever”
visual tricks were played. For a long time, there was no
hint of a sense of direction and our group was very close
to ditching the film.
with a good half hour left, the twist came and drove the
movie in a completely different direction. What was once
meaningless and crass now highlights the painful and endearing
story. The viewer’s mind becomes completely engaged
by the revelations of the last act, and, though it drags,
the ending is quite satisfying.
we have to be completely fair, here, and, despite ultimately
coming together in the end, the first two acts are so scatterbrained,
overbearing, and unsympathetic that just watching them is
a chore. It pays off in the end, but most people would give
up long before then. While the reward is certainly worth
the journey, it’s unfortunately beyond the limits
of the casual filmgoer.
all for now, but we’ll be coming to you later with
reviews of Villa Paranoia, Set Point, Trench Road,
and a tribute to Sam Peckinpah.