Diary of an Ass Monkey (assmonkeydiary) wrote,
Diary of an Ass Monkey

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Festival Films 1-9

My first film Friday was The Sea Within, a very non-Bollywood Indian film about poverty, class and obsessive love. A bit dreary, but still watchable.

After that, I saw The Red Elvis German biopic about the American singer Dean Read. In the late 50s - early 60s, Reed was a mildly popular, good looking Elvis Presley clone here in the states, but he became a real superstar in South America, where he also developed a far left wing ideology, speaking out enthusiastically against oppression and US foreign policy. A committed Marxist, he defected to East Germany in 1973, where he continued to make records and movies and became one of the country's favorite celebrities. I had never heard of Reed, so it was very interesting to me, but unfortunately the filmmakers assumed their audiences would already know the basics of the Dean Reed story, so they skipped over important moments.

Closing out the first night was the world premiere of Bad Biology, the comeback film from the director of Basket Case and Frankenhooker. It was a gross out horror sex comedy about a girl with seven clitori and the boy she meets with far more bizarre genital issues. It was definitely amusing--especially as my friend and I were sitting right next to the cast--but even at a running time of 85 minutes it was about twenty minutes longer than it needed to be.

Saturday got off to a great start with Beloved, a dreamlike, Bollywood musical retelling of Dostoyevsky's "White Nights" that was very, very influenced in look and style by Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge. Set in a fairy tale city that combines aspects of Paris and India, it tells the story of a down-on-his-luck musician who falls in love with a mysterious woman who waits each night at a particular bridge.

Unfortunately, after that I had to go to a wedding out in the deep suburbs, so missed two films I really wanted to see (Storm and Like a Shooting Star), but I made it back into the city in time for Stuck, the new film from Stuart "Re-Animator" Gordon. Based loosely on a true story, it's about a woman who strikes a homeless man with her car, but instead of taking him to the hospital, decides to leave him lodged in the windshield of her car until he dies in her garage. Stephen Rea and Mena Suvari starred.

Sunday was pretty much a perfect film day. First, I saw Mongol, a big sprawling Russian epic about Genghis Khan's calamity-ridden rise to power. It was ultra-compelling and beautifully-rendered. My only real problem was a repeated tendency to build up conflicts and then resolve them off-screen, which may--at least partially--be because it's just the first part of a trilogy. Still, even with that weakness, it's a great story.

Next up was a great documentary called American Teen about a handful seniors at a high school in Warsaw, Indiana. More than just a classier version of reality television, the film really seemed to capture the experience of kids on the verge of discovering and inventing what their adult lives would be.

Medicine For Melancholy was a great low-budget film about two characters spending the day together after a drunken one-night stand, getting to know each other and discussing their experiences of being black in San Francisco, a city getting dramatically whiter and more gentrified every day. Hmmm... that makes it sound a bit more political than it actually is. It's also sweet, funny and really affecting. And it's a fantastic loveletter to San Francisco.

Finishing off the day was Mirageman, a amusingly realistic Chilean superhero movie that was far better than the silly shlock I expected it to be.

In a few hours, it's off to day four!

Tags: best of 2008, film, film festival

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