If you want to know what living in center city Philadelphia looks like, The Answer Man does a pretty good job of showing it. Oddly enough it was filming during last year's film festival and I walked by the filming outside of Book Trader a few times. The story was pretty cute. Jeff Daniels stars as a washed-up inspirational author and Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) plays the adorable chiropractor he becomes smitten with.
GS Wonderland was a Japanese comedy about a manufactured, late-60s pop band. It was fun but really needed to be either a lot more wacky or a lot less wacky, because its brand of middle-of-the-road wackiness left me underwhelmed. At least their main song was pretty catchy because you hear it about fifty times over the course of the film.
The luckiest sleepwalker in the world accidentally tumbles into the bed of a gorgeous woman eager to teach him the wonders of tantric sex in the Argentinian romance Don't Look Down. A few other things happen, but basically they spend most of the movie having sex, which was just fine by me.
The Magic Hour was a fun-filled, Japanese screwball comedy about a hotel manager who gets in trouble for messing around with a gangster's girlfriend and hatches a hilariously over-the-top scheme to keep himself out of cement shoes.
Light Bulb was a low budget indie about a down-on-his-luck inventor of novelty items and his long-suffering girlfriend whose stood by him so far. But will she finally give up on him just as he makes it big? A nice little film that feels like a true story even though it apparently isn't.
Stone of Destiny, however, really was based on a true story. It's about a group of Scottish college kids who broke into Westminster Abbey in the 1950s to steal back the Stone of Scone, a symbol of Scottish nationalism. A good story and well told.
4bia was a four vaguely linked, short horror films from Thailand. Two of them were great, two were just sort of ok.
Take a little Cruel Intentions, a pinch of Gossip Girl, a dash of Heathers, drain out the humor, add more skin, give the whole thing an Italian accent, and you get A Game For Girls. Good enough film, just nothing all that new.
The best film of the festival so far was The Hurt Locker. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days), it's the story of a bomb disposal unit serving in Iraq and their daredevil new leader whose seeming death wish could endanger them all. I wasn't expecting much going into this, but it was really amazing. Great human drama mixed with genuine pulse-pounding thrills.
Some great furniture on loan from the Musee d'Orsay stars in the French film Summer Hours, which tells the story of three siblings dealing with with the fabulous estate and accompanying memories of their dead mother.
Promoted wrongly as a documentary about Liverpool, Of Time and the City was definitely my least favorite film of the festival. It was just a hodgepodge of old footage edited together with little rhyme or reason, like five minutes of the insides of churches followed by three minutes of people washing windows, and not even particularly Liverpudlian windows, no, windows that could have been in any city or town in the world. And rather than try to give this barrage of images any sort of context, the narration was just the most pompous-sounding voice I've ever heard reading random poems and prose, most of which was obviously written about cities other than Liverpool.
DAY NINE: Met up with K. and some friends for dinner at Minar Palace and then we all went to my third film. I skipped out on my last film of the night to get some gelato with them afterwards.
Up until the last fifteen minutes, The Girl From Monaco was a great "Blame It On Rio" sort of flick about an uptight French lawyer whose life gets turned upside down by a wildly sexy weather girl in beautiful Monaco. Unfortunately, the ending is so needlessly dark that I can only assume the director was trying to make some sort of political statement.
God's Forgotten Town was fairly good Spanish horror film about a team of tv parapsychologists investigating a town where the entire population disappeared during World War II. Definitely not in the league of The Orphanage or Pan's Labyrinth, but certainly diverting.
Since I'm more or less obsessed with the ancient Hindu epic The Ramayana, I was very psyched to see the animated feature Sita Sings the Blues playing at the festival. I saw some early portions of it on the net years ago, where animator Nina Paley drew a cartoon Sita lip syncing songs by 1930s jazz vocalist Annette Hanshaw. I thought the final film was excellent, although with some reservations. It dwelled too much on Paley's own lovelife, which bothered me because that time could have been better used (in my opinion) to fill in some of the gaps in the extremely abbreviated version of Rama and Sita's story. Still, the ongoing segments where three shadow puppets argue the finer points of how the story goes were hilarious and well worth the price of admission all on their own.
DAY TEN: This is the day when my movie-going enthusiasm really started to dissipate. And my second movie of the day was enough of a drag that I skipped out on my evening films.
I caught the Brothers Quay Sampler, a mix of their macabre short films, mostly made via stop motion. I wasn't too impressed with some of their latest pieces, but they played my absolute favorite "Street of Crocodiles" so I was pleased.
The French film The Beautiful Person was a reimagining of some 17th-century novel called "La Princesse de Cleves." Unfortunately setting the story amongst teenagers in modern Paris rendered the story unintentionally ridiculous. I found it hard to believe these 21st century city kids would have been all that bothered by what passes for life-threatening problems in the story.
DAY ELEVEN: Too beautiful of a sunny day to spend at the movies. I made blueberry-strawberry waffles and then we went hiking in the Wissahickon. When we got home, we brought the fountain and the Buddha out to the garden, planted some herbs, cleaned up the patio furniture, and made some baked ziti, which we ate while watching Kill Bill II. Then I headed out to the last film of the night.
Based on a true story, Go Go 70s was about The Devils, a South Korean band struggling to introduce American soul music to the city of Seoul in the days right before the military dictatorship's crackdown on youth culture. Good stuff.