Wednesday, October 14, 2009

CIFF 2009 Diary, Days 6-8

Day 6: Wednesday, Sept 30

The 10 film Maverick competition kicked off on September 30 with 4 screenings, followed by a further 4 on Thursday and the final two on Friday night.

Schedule for the 10 Maverick films:

Wednesday -- Juntos, Everyone Else, Unmade Beds and Karaoke.
Thursday -- Be Good, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Wrong Rosary and Fish Eyes.
Friday -- My Suicide and Be Calm and Count to Seven.

I had seen four stellar films prior to the festival (Be Calm and Count to Seven, Everyone Else, Fish Eyes and Karaoke) and I was looking forward to seeing a few more.

Juntos (2009, Canada/Mexico, Nicolás Pereda)

Before the screening, Nicolás Pereda mentioned that he felt strange talking about Juntos as a movie because originally it was intended to be an art gallery project. He then asked the audience to watch the film with an open mind.

It is easy to see why this work could have been an art gallery project. One can imagine seeing the footage beamed on walls as audiences walk by a particular moment and then return later on to see what the three characters are up to. The film contains long static takes and gives a glimpse into the relationship between three people living in an apartment -- Gabino, his girlfriend Luisa and his friend Paco. Gabino finds himself in the middle of this awkward dynamic as Luisa's dislike at Paco's presence means that Gabino's relationship with Luisa is put under stress. The stress is conveyed early on and reaches breaking point in a stellar 10 minute long dialogue less scene with Gabino and Luisa sitting quietly at the kitchen table. With each passing second in this scene, one can feel the tension rise between the two and had Gabino dared to speak a word, then the relationship would surely have been over then and there.

The title Juntos refers to Gabino's dog that goes missing at the film's start. The dog's disappearance also signals the degradation of the relationship Gabino has with Luisa and Paco, although Gabino's easy going manner with Paco suggests that he will eventually forgive any of Paco's mistakes (a beautiful dialogue exchange between the two when Gabino is working on the sink pipes is another strong highlight of the film). There is also a scene that will inspire walkouts or discontent from the audience. In this particular scene, the camera does not shy away from watching Gabino take a bath in the nude. The scene starts off with Gabino's member slightly covered but slowly, everything is out in the open. This long sequence, which features Gabino lathering himself with soap, brought laughter from some of the women in the crowd and caused one man to loudly blame another woman for bringing him to see this movie. The man walked out a few minutes after the scene was over. But the scene does bring up the question that if it was a woman shown bathing instead of a man, would there have been any walkouts or even any laughter?

There are also some precious moments of humour derived from watching the characters and their crumbling household appliances. The film certainly requires an investment from the audience and does reward those who are patient enough.

note: Robert Koehler's review is worth reading.


After Juntos I headed down to the Plaza to meet up with Chris Chong Chan Fui and introduce his film. As it turned out, Karaoke proved to a frustrating challenge for quite a few of the audience members, including some good friends.

Day 7: Thursday, Oct 1

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009, USA, Damien Chazelle)

This black and white free flowing jazzy film is a breath of fresh air and has shades of John Cassavetes. The story is simple enough -- Boy Meets Girl, Boy dumps Girl, Boy meets another Girl and eventually Boy realizes he made a mistake. But the film has such a beautiful free style to it, like a jazz piece, that one can forget about the story and enjoy the images that are musically conveyed on the screen. There are also a few musical numbers, especially the cute restaurant tap dance sequence, that are integrated nicely in the film's framework.

Note: originally I had intended on seeing Be Good but then I changed my mind because I figured that I might have better chance of catching Be Good on DVD than Damien Chazelle's film. As good as Guy and Madeline.. is, I do wonder what future the film might have outside of the film festival circuit.

Wrong Rosary (2009, Turkey, Mahmut Fazil Coskun)

There is a famous Indian song from the film Padosan: "Mere samne wali khidki mein ek chand ka tukda rahta hai..". which roughly translates to "a beautiful girl lives next door" (I think an exact translation for this song would lessen the impact). The words for that song perfectly describe the story in Wrong Rosary as Musa, a muezzin, is smitten by his neighbour Clara. While the two belong to different religions, it is not religion that forms a barrier in their relationship but instead Musa's shyness gets in the way. Gradually, as he takes takes baby steps to edge towards Clara, we see his confidence grow. And just when things look like heading towards a happy sunset over the Bosphorus, a heart breaking conflict is thrown in the mix, ensuring some tears will take place.

Overall, Wrong Rosary is a wonderful crowd pleasing film. At times, the two characters of Musa and Clara look straight out of a Chaplin movie as both are outcasts in the beautiful city of Istanbul.

Note: Wrong Rosary continues the trend of fine Turkish films I have seen this year. And like most of those Turkish films, Wrong Rosary is expertly shot and allows one to completely soak in the atmosphere. The previous Turkish films that I saw this year will be outlined in a “Spotlight on Turkey” post shortly.

Day 8: Friday, Oct 2

Zero films seen!!

Despite my best intention of seeing a film on friday, a bizarre sequence of events (rain + car troubles) ensured that I once again failed to see a film on each of the 10 festival days.

Still, the rest was welcome as I was able to take in a record 7 films on saturday.

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