Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Vancouver International Film Festival

So I'm at the
Vancouver International Film Festival and seen a few films--can't quite say anything about the films we're judging yet--hopefully I can write something about them some time after the festival's ended. But I've seen films outside of the competition as well, and they're quite a memorable collection.

Hasn't been a pleasant trip; caught a bug on the flight over (I thought American airlines had the worst food--paid $7 for a cold, cardboard-y Quiznos roast beef sandwich at Air Canada which promptly dropped straight to the floor of my belly like a brick, and reacted I presume with the stomach acids there. The aforementioned organ started swelling--and swelling--and swelling--till I felt like John Hurt suffering indigestion in Alien (only it wasn't the chest my creature was threatening to burst out of). In-flight entertainment was Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, which as it turns out was a godsend: fifteen minutes of Michael Bay's muscular visual style and I passed out for the rest of the trip.

Ranks way up there as one of the worst flights I've ever had, while the meal is easily the worse I've ever had, period. Have been chained to my hotel room ever since--can't be more than twenty minutes away, or disaster will occur.

And the worst of it is that Vancouver's a lovely city, all tree-lined boulevards and a distinct mix of modern skyscrapers and lovely Art Deco buildings, at the moment experiencing unseasonally sunny weather--love walking the streets with a crisp breeze blowing and the sunlight turning everything bright and clear. The food--what I see of it, passing by windows--is an eclectic mix, but with the coast so near, emphasizing fresh seafood (I'd kill for sashimi right now, only I'm afraid it'll kill me first).

Of the films I'd managed to see--Eugenio Polgovsky's The Inheritors (2008), about child laborers in Mexico, reminds me of Ditsy Carolino's Children Only Once, and it's interesting to see where one is stronger than the other. Polgovsky has a pitch-perfect tone--nonjudgmental, no commentary and very little music. We develop our own attitudes towards the children, and we see not just their suffering but their ways of coping and of being despite all the work and harsh conditions, well, children.

Not that Polgovsky whitewashes conditions. We see children struggle to put together bundles of sticks tied together by crude cords made of plant fiber; we see kids with gloves whack away at sugar cane with heavy machetes (you half expect him to miss and knock his legs off their feet). What we don't get is the kind of information Carolino gives us when she talks about children carrying cement bags breathing in the dust, which forms a kind of hardening mud in their lungs (they chug gin afterwards, in an effort to clear their air tubes), or the nightmarish fairy-tale ambiance Carolino achieves by shooting in black-and-white video. The Inheritors is an impressive film, nevertheless, worth watching for the immersive verite poetry.

Hirokazu Kore-eda's Air Doll finds him in fantasy mode--basically an inflatable sex toy come to life. The ending goes on interminably and there are touches of sodden sentiment, but I do love how Kore-eda works out the details that remind us that the heroine is basically made out of air and latex (the mold lines, the translucent shadows) and how he relies on largely on-camera effects as opposed to the more popular digital. Also love Du-na Bae's performance, which is key to our believing the whole airy, delicate film. Ron Howard did something similar with Splash way back when, but I prefer Kore-eda's subtler, far lighter touch.

Bong Joon-Ho's Mother is terrific fare, possibly his best work. Where his Gwoemul worked in stops and starts, careened all over the place in terms of emotional tone and genre, in Mother Bong seems completely in control. Hard to see the comedy here, but it is dark comedy, nevertheless--Bong pokes not-too-gentle fun at the stereotype of the smothering Korean mother as he spins out for us the tale of one mother's love for her mentally challenged child, the determination and ferocity involved when said child is accused of the murder of a young woman.


Rodante Acuna said...

Welcome to Vancouver, Noel. Yes, it's been unseasonably warm lately. It should make standing in lineups slightly less unpleasant.

Air Canada used to offer a cold meal in a box for free, which included a cold cut sandwich, a tiny cup full of grapes, a two inch stick of cheddar cheese, and a tart of sorts. Not great, of course, but free.

Transformers 2 is très horrible, even by my forgiving standards. How sad is it when the best Hasbro movie of the year is G.I. Joe?

Mother is a fantastic film, and you're correct about Bong's total control of the material. The film reminds me of the work of Tolstoy, in that the narrative moves with remarkable velocity without evading any humanism.

Cde. said...

Mother is brilliant. Perfect handling of tone, brilliant manipulation of the audience's expectations.

Cde. said...
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Noel Vera said...

Yeah, but trucks that turn into robots? Toys that turn into movies? Lame beyond belief.

If I wanted inanimate objects to come to life, I'd rather go for Svankmajer.

Hey--Jan Svankmajer directing the 3rd Transformers movie might actually be interesting. Lots of robots getting it on and eating each other.