Day One (“Welcome to Hollywood”). Films reviewed: Secret Sunshine.
Day Two (“Cinematic Oppression”). Films reviewed: Southland Tales; Caramel; and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days.
Day Three (“A Smattering of Cinema”). Films reviewed: The Last Mistress, Honeydripper, Déficit, and Jellyfish.
Day Four (“Feel-Good with a Conscience”). Films reviewed: The Band’s Visit, Faro: Goddess of the Waters, and Juno.
Day Five (“Dysfunctional Families”). Films reviewed: Silent Light, The Savages, and The Living Wake.
Day Six (“Fatigue Sets In”). Films reviewed: Pierre Rissient: Man of Cinema, Flight of the Red Balloon, and The Counterfeiters.
Day Seven (“Finishing the Game”). Films reviewed: Smiley Face and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
To insipidly but aptly quote the old adage: All good things must come to an end. Such is the case with this year’s AFI Fest, which, for the most part, has offered me an illuminating selection of motion pictures. I only saw one film at the festival that dipped below my two-bucket rating, and only a select few that straddled that mark. The majority of what I saw represented entertaining, interesting filmmaking. Not to mention, AFI Fest 2007 provided me the ability to catch two sure-fire contenders for my Top 10 of 2008 (4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days and Silent Light) and one likely resident of this year’s list (The Savages). As I mentioned in Day Six’s column, my overwhelmingly positive first-time experience at this festival has already inspired me to commit to attend AFI Fest 2008. [Read more]
By the time a given film festival begins to come to an end, the critics covering it are bound to tire of watching movies. To spend one day attending three or four screenings every once in a while is very typical of our schedules, but to unrelentingly tackle this task for weeks on end can become rather daunting. By my sixth day at AFI Fest 2007, fatigue set in. (I can only imagine what other critics were feeling, given that I had skipped out on four days of the middle-portion of the festival and they hadn’t.) In order for me to be impressed by a movie at this point, it had to be really, really good. Whether I would have enjoyed Todd McCarthy’s Pierre Rissient: Man of Cinema, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flight of the Red Balloon, or Stefan Ruzowitzsky’s The Counterfeiters more in a less “movied-out” state of mind, I’m not sure. Still, I was able to find an ample amount of enjoyment in all three of them, even if I did come out of the Hou picture with mixed feelings. [Read more]
How refreshing it was to see three films that offered such stylistically different takes on a similar subject-matter during my fifth day attending AFI Fest! As the title of this piece suggests, all three of these pictures deal with the tormented souls living in dysfunctional families and, to a lesser extent, the healing that they discover through their kinship. Still, Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light, Tamara Jenkins’ The Savages, and Sol Tyron’s The Living Wake couldn’t be more different from one another. Not only do they all take place in radically different locations (geographically and socially) on the globe; they are also miles apart in terms of plot, circumstance, and theme. This is a testament to the versatility and openness of the medium of film as a whole. It was a joyous experience for me to be able to watch each picture on the same day as its counterparts, an opportunity that allowed me to juxtapose the works in my mind and come to better understand all of them in the process. [Read more]
My fourth day at AFI Fest 2007 brought a close to the first of the two stints in which I saw films during the festival. (I resumed attending screenings on the following Friday, during the festival’s second weekend.) For the most part, I highly enjoyed the first half of AFI Fest, only having to endure one total stinker (Déficit) during the four days. On the final day of the long festival weekend that I invented for myself (I skipped the one Monday-class that I had in favor of staying for the Centerpiece Gala), I tried to schedule light-hearted crowd-pleasers to relieve myself from some of the heavy-hitters that I had seen in screenings prior. Unfortunately, only one of the three was able to function as a work of more than just pleasant cinematic diversion. [Read more]
Yesterday, I exclaimed that I found it surprisingly easy to find a connective thematic tissue between the diverse film selections that I had seen during Day Two of AFI Fest 2007. I am not able to say the same thing about the four festival entries that I saw on Day Three, and hence do not have much of an introduction for this piece. If there is a similar trait embodied by France’s The Last Mistress, America’s Honeydripper, Mexico’s Déficit, and Israel’s Jellyfish, I haven’t the faintest idea of what it is. For this simple reason, I find myself eager to jump right into the process of reviewing the films individually. [Read more]
Looking over the screenings that I had lined up for my second day at AFI Fest 2007, I kept thinking about how impossible it would be for me to find a common theme between my selections in order to start writing about them. After all, what the hell would a post-apocalyptic American sci-fi allegory by Richard “Donnie Darko” Kelly, a Lebonese romantic comedy by first-time writer/director Nadine Labaki, and a Palme d’Or-winning Romanian abortion-drama by Cristian Mungiu all have in common? And yet, strangely, I found a very noticeable uniting theme between the three works as I watched them, a driving concept explored by each of them: government oppression. As diverse as these films are and as different as they wish to be, they are all deeply rooted in the same subject. Not surprisingly, their success as motion pictures directly corresponds with how accurately and insightfully they depict said government oppression. [Read more]
And so I make the big move to Los Angeles, the world capitol of the entertainment industry. (At least, that is, when the WGA isn’t striking.) Living on the 15th floor of a high-rise apartment complex in a downtown setting is certainly a different experience from what one is accustomed to when one has spent one’s entire life meandering around the tame territory that is North San Diego County suburbia. That being said, this experience doesn’t exactly come equipped with the intimidating sense of culture-shock that, say, living in an Indian Village might. Then again, I must remind myself that I could probably walk six blocks from my building in any given direction and find a Los Angeles-based Indian Village. [Read more]