Initial Thoughts on the Fest
I said this last year and I say it every year: the Philadelphia Film Festival is all I got. Usually strapped for cash, far too busy, and still stuck with that irrational fear of travelling alone, I must sit and wait for April every year, biding my time poring over Film Comment round-ups, studying and memorizing titles in other people's journals and then hoping that the right films will be chosen. And that few of them will coincide with one another.
Because it's getting better and better, PFF 14 has a good deal of these. And yet, whether it be because of scheduling problems or something deeper within the organization, it's not enough. Page after page of the new brochure boasts strangers, with the occasional landmine littered here and there (but not everywhere). Shouldn't grumble, I suppose. (There are a ton of goodies.) But how come Tropical Malady is nowhere to be found and yet there's something called Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World?
Or, for that matter, how come Artistic Achievement Award Winner Malcolm McDowell (!!) is being honored with A Clockwork Orange rather than something not everyone can recite from memory? (O Lucky Man!? Brittania Hospital? Maybe Royal Flash?) The answer appears to revolve around finances. Every year, the PFF both grows and becomes more pandering. Two years ago there was an avant-garde group. But the films played low and tested even lower. And yet aren't those exactly the kind of films a film festival should be highlighting, even if only a few attend and even fewer appreciate it? Chances are de Oliveira won't be asked back again after the putrid scores for last year's A Talking Picture (the ending of which caused audiences to cackle uproariously, then complain loudly). On the flip side, the absolutely vacuous, tediously dull Norweigan comedy ranked up near the rafters, so this year's undoubtedly features more of the same. So much for garnering international prestige.
At least a quick glance suggests the curators haven't been studying Chris Gore's insidious tome. This year's opening film looks more promising than last year's dopey Sly-card-shark pic Shade (though the same can't be said of the title: Ferpect Crime, by Spanish nutball Alex de la Iglesias). And the closer, the Philadelphia Orchestra doc Music From the Inside Out, ties in with the city without seeming desperate, as does the presence of West Philly's Scribe Video Center, lugging out their excellent "Precious Places" project. Also, need I salivate any more about the redux of The Big Red One finally making it here?
So, to end on a positive note, here's what's going on:
Choice snags 5X2; The World; Clean; Kings and Queen; Mysterious Skin; Bear Club; The Holy Girl; Woman is the Future of Man; McDull, prince de la bun; Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinématheque; The 10th District Court, Moments of Truth; Oldboy; Izo (plus One Missed Call, too -- Miike always plays better in pairs)
Less excitable ones Me and You and Everyone We Know; Land of Plenty; Palindromes; A tout de suite; Cool!; The Promise; House of D; The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things
Haven't heard, but sound nifty Genesis; The Return of Cagliostro; The Car; R-Point; Marebito; Rittenhouse Square
Solid retro I Know Where I'm Going!; The Big Red One; Putney Swope; Clarence Brown and Maurice Tourneur's 1920 The Last of the Mohicans