Monday, May 12, 2008

Festival Day 7

Sorry for the delay, since last I posted there has been a wedding, a bachelor party (different grooms) and a move. This was written over the course of the two+ week break but couldn;t finalize till today.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 6

Saturday 4/12

Violent Saturday
USA 1955, 90 min

I couldn’t very well start this final weekend of the festival with anything else but Violent Saturday. The film played as part of the Noir Series but it really was more a heist film than a noir. Directed by Richard Fleischer (20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Fantastic Voyage, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Compulsion) this forgotten film centers on a gang (including Lee Marvin) who make their way to a small mining town in order to rob the town bank. We see them plot their deeds and also are treated to seemingly meaningless slice of life segments from different people in the town including the peeping tom bank manager, a librarian purse-snatcher, a young girl who works in the pharmacy, a wealthy mine owning couple with marital difficulties and a family with father/son issues. As the plot unfolds, mainly in the light of day, they all become key parts along with an Amish family who lives out of town on a farm which will serve as the robber’s hideout and scene of the final climactic shootout. The patriarch of this family? None other than Mr. Ernest Borgnine!

(Opening totally over the top credit sequence)

This is a recently remastered print in brilliant De Luxe Color, but the real shine on this gem comes from the film’s snappy dialogue. The audience was left chuckling quite a few times as sly insults are were hurled amongst the various flawed characters – whether they be real city criminals or the strange small-town peccadilloed folk. The film in not available in any format currently (a VHS was made sometime in the 80s) but the print source is listed as Criterion so I’m eagerly awaiting a shiny DVD release from the boys over there. If this one comes by your local festival or retrospective theater though, get a ticket right quick, you won’t be disappointed.


Son of Rambo
USA 2007, 95 min

Another Sundance hit (2007 vintage though) finally makes its way to Philadelphia accompanies by 3 grey suited security guys with night vision. A semi-autobiographical story from Garth Jennings and his Hammer & Tongs team, Son tells the story of creative but gullible Will. Living in Hertfordshire, UK (‘bout an hour north of London), he has grown up in a fundamentalist family who forbid TV & film viewing. When he sees First Blood for the first time it kicks his mind into high gear and he teams up with Lee, another outcast though in a totally different way, to create their own film in which Will is the titular son and is on a quest to spring his “father” from prison. An exotic French exchange student who has the British kids wrapped around his finger gets wind of the film and wants to play a role catapulting the boys to instant popularity and straining their relationship.

This is cute, smart and has a ton of heart and should do well with audiences… IF it weren’t being released at the beginning of May. Seeing as how it garnered the highest price ever paid for a Sundance film I’m really questioning Paramount’s release strategy on this one. It screams for an August buzz garnering platform release ala Little Miss Sunshine. I do hope people will seek this one out.


aka: Su
South Korea 2007, 122 min

Wow, its been a while since I’ve written anything on this and the mediocre films have rapidly left my memory. From the festival website I am reminded that this is a revenge tale about twin brothers (orphans?). We start in their childhood when one decides to rob a mobster. In chasing him down they end up catching the twin – thus the previously good twin becomes part of the criminal element while the previously bad twin becomes a cop. When they finally meet years later the criminal is now the titular legendary assassin with a price on his head but his brother is gunned down a few feet away. The twin of course assumes his identity in order to track down his killers and struggles to make people believe that he is not Soo but his brother. Once again the fault of the film is the fact that people get shot, stabbed, beaten, and even have their throats slit and yet somehow still stay alive. This comedic superhumanism really takes you out of the film. In fact up until the final (painfully elongated) showdown it’s a decent if not overly compelling yarn with good performances but the amount of blood and hobbling in the final minutes had the audience laughing at the screen.



Nothing to Lose
aka: TBS
Netherlands 2008, 88 min

Of course films like this tend to stay with you. Nothing to Lose is a dark tale of a mentally unstable man, Johan who escapes a criminal mental institution in Holland along with a friend by kidnapping a doctor. They go on the lam and when things turn south they split up. Johan kidnaps another young girl and set out to find his mother who he hopes will prove that he did not murder his father and sister. Along the way the director’s deft hand reveals details that change your perceptions of the characters and what they may or may not have done all coming to a final chilling climax that will have you on the verge of tears.

The film won the Best Picture jury prize for the film festival though it also finished pretty far down in the audience balloting and it’s not surprising why. What is surprising is that this is based on a series of real crimes that happened in the Netherlands due to a very lenient penal system. The director Pieter Kuijpers was on hand to reveal this in his Q & A after the screening. He also revealed that the film’s star Theo Maassen is actually one of the top stand-up comics in the country but that he cast him in order to throw off expectations. For his part Maassen is brilliant as the troubled and desperate Johan, the strongest single performance of the fortnight. This is not a film I’d watch over and over but is it a strong statement and a searing indictment of the Dutch prison system. Sadly one woman at the Q & A didn’t hear what he was saying stating that they were lucky to have the system that they do in comparison to that of this country.


Well after this I was scheduled to see an animated film called Film Noir that updates the genre in a really interesting looking style. However since an old college roommate was in town for the night I ditched that and drank the night away!!! (This lead to the missing of even more films on Sunday but more of that in the next chapter) .

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