Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
I haven’t been following this fest because I’ve been busy trying to get my coverage of The Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival finished and posted. What follows is a press release from the Fest, followed by the reviews of frequent contributor Otiz Von Zipper.
The Press Release first:
San Francisco, CA - The 45th San Francisco International Film Festival concludes today by celebrating local and international films at the annual Closing Awards Brunch. Over 15 days thousands of filmgoers, filmmakers and film industry representatives attended 265 Festival screenings of 185 films in San Francisco, Berkeley and Menlo Park. This year was a notable success for the Festival - box office totals are expected to exceed 87,000, up 7.4% over last year.
The SKYY Prize, which includes a $10,000 cash award, was established in 1997 by the Festival and premier sponsor SKYY Vodka to recognize a first-time feature filmmaker whose film exhibits unique artistic sensibility. This year the SKYY Prize winner is THE WILD BEES directed by Bohdan SlÃ¡ma. THE WILD BEES is a sensitive and engaging coming-of-age film about a group of young Czech villagers. The SKYY Prize jury selected the film, ³for its deft and sensitive storytelling and character portrayals.² Honorable Mention was awarded to KARMEN GEI, directed by GaÃ¯ Ramaka, ³for its ambition and originality in creating a new and exciting form of musical.² The jury consisted of three internationally known film professionals. Finn Taylor, director of DREAM WITH THE FISHES and CHERISH; Alberto Barbera, former Director of the Venice Film Festival and member of the International Advisory Board to the San Francisco Film Society; and Scarlet Cheng, a Los Angeles based film journalist who has written for Premiere, Vogue, Los Angeles Times and the Far East Economic Review.
Also announced today were the VIRGINMEGA Audience Awards for Best Narrative Feature and Best Documentary Feature. The Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature went to SPIRITED AWAY, the animated feature by Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki. SPIRITED AWAY tells the story of a young girl who enters a world of ghosts, goblins and gods. Suspenseful and witty, the film marks another milestone in Miyazaki¹s work, which has included PRINCESS MONONOKE and MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO. Disney will release SPIRITED AWAY in the fall of 2002. Runner-up in the Narrative Feature category is Oscar nominated ELLING by Norwegian filmmaker Petter Naess. ELLING is a dark comedy about two men trying to live in the real world after being discharged from mental institutions. The Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature went to PHOTOS TO SEND by San Francisco based filmmaker Dierdre Lynch. PHOTOS TO SEND explores the stories of residents of County Clare in Ireland who were photographed by Dorothy Lange in the 1950s. It is a lyrical and moving tribute to the great artistry of Lange and the inspiring lives of her subjects. Runner-up in the Documentary Feature category went to UNCLE FRANK, a delightful account of filmmaker Matthew Ginsburg¹s octogenarian uncle who performs for his fans in retirement homes. UNCLE FRANK is the first documentary produced by Kevin Spacey¹s production company Trigger Street.
Golden Gate Awards Grand Prizes were presented today for Best Documentary, Best Short, Best Bay Area Documentary and Best Bay Area Short. Each Grand Prize winner received a $1,000 cash award. The jurors for the Golden Gate Awards Grand Prizes were Claudia Landsberger, President and Founding Member of the European Film Promotion and President of Holland Film; Bill Krohn co-director/writer/producer of IT¹S ALL TRUE based on an unfinished film by Orson Welles; and Frederick Marx, Oscar nominated producer, director and editor of HOOP DREAMS. The jury selected RIVERS AND TIDES, directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer for Best Documentary because ³it exemplifies form designed to reveal and explicate content. We recognize this film for its overall excellence.² The award for Best Short went to THE SUBCONSCIOUS ART OF GRAFFITI REMOVAL, Matt McCormick¹s film about graffiti removers who ³collaborate² with graffiti artists to create unconsciously motivated ³collaborative works of art.² The jury awarded this film because it ³makes an ironic and witty case for the defense. Socially engaging, brilliantly original, and given its low budget origination, this film is much deserving of support and recognition.² Best Bay Area Documentary was awarded to DAUGHTER FROM DANANG, directed by Gail Dolgin and Vicente Franco, because ³this extraordinary metaphor for US involvement in Vietnam shows us what happens between even loving individuals who don¹t understand one another¹s cultures² and to DEAR JUDGE, directed by Laleh Soomekh, because ³if this film is as widely seen as it deserves, perhaps juries in the criminal justice system will do the same thing we have done and refuse to enforce bad laws, beginning with the mandatory minimum sentencing law which is the very subject of this heart-breaking film.² Best Bay Area Short was awarded to HYPOCRITE, directed by David Chalker because ³it embodies the important principle of stylistic innovation and is a bracing call to civil disobedience of the mass media spectacle.²
The Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award was presented to pioneering documentary and experimental filmmaker and father of New Latin American Cinema Fernando Birri for his achievements in filmmaking and film education as well as his lasting contribution to world cinema. A screening of Birri¹s films, TIRE DIÃ‰ and LOS INUNDADOS, followed the tribute.
Festival highlights include the Opening Night film, THIRTEEN CONVERSATIONS ABOUT ONE THING, with director Jill Sprecher in attendance. Also at the screening were actors Joan Chen and Delroy Lindo and former Rolling Stone news editor Ben Fong-Torres. The ZOOM! After Hours Gala presented THE TRIUMPH OF LOVE with actor Mira Sorvino in attendance. The Festival presented the North American premiere of Hayao Miyazaki¹s animated masterpiece, SPIRITED AWAY, in the original Japanese-language version. The sold-out screening featured a special appearance by Pixar¹s John Lasseter who will act as creative consultant for Disney¹s newly dubbed version of the film. A performance at the Castro Theatre of SUPERCHUNK AND KINUGASA: A PAGE OF MADNESS teamed an original score by the popular and critically acclaimed indie rock band with the rarely seen 1926 masterpiece of Japanese silent film. THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT, a new series for lovers of extreme cinema,
sponsored by Guinness, provided cutting-edge entertainment for the
after-hours crowd and presented high-octane selections ICHI THE KILLER,
DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS, MAY and PRINCESS BLADE.
And now here’s Otis...
Harry and Mori,
The San Francisco Film Fest isn't over yet, but I think I may have seen my favorite film of the festival last night; a documentary called Tribute. Along with a review of this great little film is a look at the debut film by Roman Coppola called CQ. I truly hope Tribute makes it into the theatres someday, but should the chance to see it come along, take it, because who knows if it ever will.
Sitting near the man who made The Godfather and Apocalypse Now (not to mention The Conversation) has a certain thrill all its own, but once the theatre went dark and Roman Coppola's debut film CQ started, I forgot all about who was sitting 20 feet away and was transported to Paris 1969 and the giddy world of kitchy sci-fi. CQ is not a satire of campy 60's sci-fi, it is an homage, and it's also a very thoughtful film on the balance between art and entertainment. The movie stars Jeremy Davies (Saving Private Ryan and Spanking the Monkey) as Paul, an American filmmaker working in Paris on the B picture Codename: Dragonfly and his own personal project about his life in Paris with his French girlfriend Marlene (Elodie Bouchez).
The film within the film, Codename: Dragonfly, is a hoot. It's a Barbarella style film taking place in the exciting future of the year 2001 about a sexy secret agent (Dragonfly) who has been asked to infiltrate a group of rebels camped out on the moon. Coppola gets the look and style down perfectly, from the bad mattes all the way to the groovy music. I loved the fact that he includes a scene where it's snowing on the moon. The cast working on the film is a great collection of showbiz vets and some newcomers. Gerard Depardieu plays the temperamental director who is kicked off the project. Giancarlo Giannini plays the producer who wants nothing more than to finish the picture, and decides to hire Felix DeMarco, a young hotshot director. DeMarco is played by Jason Shwartzman and he really brings the screen to life every second he's on. Also working on the film is Billy Zane playing the Che Guevara-like rebel leader, John Phillip Law as the Corporation Chairman, and Angela Lindvall as Dragonfly. Lindvall does an amazing job with her role. As the actress Valentine, she displays a sweetness that is effortless. As the character of sex-kitten secret agent Dragonfly she exhibits great comic timing and understatement.
Where CQ didn't work as well for me were the sequences where Paul is struggling to come to terms with his personal film. Marlene asks him why he wants to make a film about himself, and he states that it's because he wants to make something honest. She responds, "But what if it's boring?" I found myself feeling the same way towards parts of CQ. But my guess is that Coppola is exploring the question of art vs. entertainment not only through the story but through the film itself. Copploa is like Paul, trying to create something honest and possibly boring while also trying to create an entertaining story. Where Paul and Coppola succeed in bringing art and entertainment together is through a very nice scene between Paul and his father (the wonderful and underused Dean Stockwell). Through their conversation Paul gets the germ for his idea on how to end Codename: Dragonfly. The notion here is that even in the silliest of pop entertainment it is possible to inject a personal vision. After all, despite its campiness, Barbarella is a great reflection of the era in which it was produced. In essence, it is art. I would recommend seeing CQ for the Codename: Dragonfly scenes alone, but Coppola's debut feature is a solid film with solid performances throughout. CQ may be making its way into
theatres next month, but the wonderful soundtrack by Mellow should be in stores already.
Tribute may end up being my favorite film of the festival. The documentary follows the ups and downs of several rock tribute bands as they try to carve out their own moment in the spotlight while imitating their heroes. Filmmakers Rich Fox and Kris Curry spent 5 years working with a half dozen bands on this project, and they have ended up with a completely entertaining and insightful look at a unique fringe area of the music world.
The great irony going on is that the tribute groups experience the same pitfalls as the real bands. You want bad blood between band members? Take a look at The Missing Links, a Monkees tribute group that falls apart amidst arguing and splits into 2 competing Monkees tribute groups. Substance abuse? Check out Bloodstone who do a Judas Priest act and lose a band member when he drops out to become clean and sober. Lead singer leaving to start a solo career? Sheer Heart Attack (Queen) loses their Freddie Mercury to a German production of Cats and flounders when they're unable to find a replacement. But the most drama surrounds the group Larger Than Life, who do a full on tribute to KISS. After losing their Gene Simmons to a possible nervous breakdown, they also have trouble finding a credible replacement. With a high paying gig just 2 days away, the band finds its Gene, but questions of pyrotechnics, clashing egos, bad sound, and ill-fitting costumes stand in their way of success. By the time Larger Than Life take the stage, a genuine feeling of tension can be felt.
Adding to this mix of imitators is a sampling of tribute band fans, and an entire movie could be done on the guy called Superfan alone. Superfan (I can't remember his real name) is the ultimate Queen fan, and eagerly anticipates any opportunity to see Sheer Heart Attack. The troubles the band goes through when losing their lead singer is shown through the anxiety Superfan experiences having to go from seeing Sheer Heart Attack 5 or 6 times a year, down to once a year, all the way to possibly never. On a positive note, Sheer Heart Attack will be having a reunion show this summer. It is the moments like the ones with Superfan, the clean and sober Bloodstone member, the Larger Than Life gig with the new Gene, and the competing Monkees bands where Tribute really reaches its peaks.
As to when Tribute will ever see the light of day, the answer is unclear. The problem at this point is the money needed to acquire the licensing rights for the music, but Fox and Curry have found a guardian angel in the guise of Executive Producer Steven Soderbergh. He is lending his name and support in hopes of getting the film finished and out there. It may take some time, but hopefully Tribute will be finding its way into theatres, and when it does by all means, do not hesitate to see this truly engaging film. You may end up wanting to start your own tribute band.
Just two more days to go, and then another festival will be over and done with.
Otis Von Zipper
Thanks, man. I know I’ve got a few other SFIFF reviews bouncing around my inbox. I’ll see what I can come up with...