Wednesday, April 30, 2008

On Foot Knots on the Theater Box

Day 4, Part 1 - International Competition 2

Day 4 got off to a slow start with the Romanian director Radu Jude's Alexandra. When you know you are looking at 11 subtitled shorts for the day, it can be tough to begin with a 26 minute drama about a squabbling couple filmed entirely with a shaking hand-held camera. It doesn't help when you are in the first few rows, but the directorial equation of handheld = real has never really done much for me. Similar to Bela Tarr's early domestic dramas, Jude certainly captures the feeling of a family in disarray, and this is probably harder to pull of than it appears (hold camera, tell actors to yell at each other), but it isn't much fun.

Yesterday I may have lied when I said that she was the cutest little girl in the world. While the pigtails are always nice, Marie-Felixe Allard is even younger, gets to wear glasses, and curses up a storm in David Uloth's La Lili à Gilles, winner of the of the Montreal World Film Festival prize for best Canadian short. Ostensibly about a son trying to cope with his ailing father (another recurring theme this week), it's really just an excuse to fill up the father's house with cool Gilliam-style oddities (come to think of it, it actually looks more like J.F. Sebastian's pad in Blade Runner). Shot with dark edges around the frame lending a touch of claustrophobia, Uloth achieves the desired effect...until he breaks the spell with an extended woe-is-me soliloquy from the son.

After this double-shot of family angst, the final three pictures were a relief, starting with a five minute quickie
A piedi nudi sul palco, which Babel Fish translates from the Italian as On foot knots on the theater box in English. Based on the French title given, I'll go with something like Naked Feet on the Stage. Consisting solely of the hardest acting audition ever (the actress must sing, play piano, make animal sounds, dance, and, this was a nice break. Thank you Andrea Rovetta.

Just when I was thinking it was going to be a slow day at the Vendome, I got La Secret de Salomon! Staring Lionel Abelanski (a regular on French television and easily the biggest "star" I've seen so far) as Adam Goldman, Salomon is a simple story of a man who begins to turn invisible. Initially, he is only unjustly marked absent for work, but soon people are slamming into him on the street and making out in elevators while he stands in the corner. Initially depressed, Adam learns from his grandfather (Salomon) that this is only a family tradition. Nicely forshadowed in an opening sequence, we learn that Salomon not only escaped death at the hands of the Nazi's, but also became a renowned spy thanks to his powers. As Abelanski learns the benefits of his gift (ladies' shower of course), he discovers that he can only return to visibility once he "finds himself." While writer/director David Charhon's short is probably the odds-on favorite to win the audience prize, it may be a bit unfair. Not only does he benefit from the considerable comedic talent of Abelanski, but he somehow was able to afford the rights to Nina Simone's "New Day," the score from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and not one, but two, Elvis songs. It was a bit of a shock to hear "Suspicious Minds" after three days of listening to soundtracks composed by the director's friends.

IC2 closed with a great claymation short by Belgium's own Vincent Bierrewaerts. You just realize how incredible the creative capacities of people are when you see shorts like Le Ponte. Bierrewaerts is just some guy in his corner of the world, and yet he has this amazing vision and talent to create an entirely believable alternate world (pictured above) and bring it to life. The world in this case being a father and son who are seemingly cut off from the rest of civilization. The father is happy to have things stay the way they are, but as the boy grows, he learns that there is an entire city just a few miles below, but inaccessible because of a broken bridge (ponte). The ending doesn't entirely make sense (the title bridge turns out to be superfluous), but I'll let it slide. This won best film (including full-length features!) from the Francophone community at the Brussels Animation Festival a few months ago, as well as best short film there, and if the FCMB has an animation award, it should win here too.

Back later with Day 4, Part 2. Now only 11 shorts behind!

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