a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

PFF Day Eleven: Where's Day Ten?

A. There was no Day Ten. I took the day off and stayed as far away from movies as posisble...until 10:30pm, when I busted out that copy of Cold Water that was taped for me off of its freak Sundance appearance last month (thanks, Jeremy). Gosh, that was a good film. I'll probably write that up. No, really.

Anyway, I think I might be totally done with the PFF. Tomorrow night is nothing but Festival Favorites (most of which I've already seen/am not interested in) and Friends With Money, which I might see out of some vague sense of duty. (Update, 24 hours later: just not on Tues., the 11th.) On the other hand, I have the likes of The President's Last Bang, Keane, and Good Morning, Night being shipped to me, so I might prefer those to dragging my sorry ass on a train into town. (Update, 24 hours later: I sure did prefer those to the dragging my ass option. Also, nice evening, took a protracted bike ride for the first time in ages. Bliss.)

Sorry for the bloggishness.

Anyway, here's the last of it. Blurbs (for the rest of the fest) en route.

House of Sand (Andrucha Waddington, Brazil) [B]
True, my memory of Me You Them is fuzzy, but nothing in that Sony Pictures Classics pick-up suggested that Waddington could lens deserts so strikingly -- or, for that matter, that he could slip into total abstraction, as he occasionally but intriguingly does here. In fact, some of the time it seems Waddington's far less interested in the standard issue feminine-takedown-of-an-outdated-patriarchial-system than in making a Brazilian Gus Van Sant picture; what's the second shot but the one where two heads bob up and down in close-up from Gerry? (Er, sorry: from Werckmeister Harmonies, I mean.) The lack of a musical score is nifty enough, but the almost total refrain from narrative signposts is even better. Basically, this is one of the weirdest ellipsis movies I've ever seen, occasionally dropping lines like "In the decade we've been here..." when you (or maybe just I) thought that no more than a couple months had passed. And that's not even counting in the jarring and quasi-eloquent way in which the two actress' suddenly switch roles, Fernando Montenegro going from mother to daughter in a single edit. (Fernanda Torres is fine as the daughter and eventually the granddaughter.) I'm not too hot about the repressive take on women -- guess what happens to the daughter, born and bred in the desert, as she grows older? -- and Waddington still needs to shed some of his other pesky traits, like furiously underlining the themes. (Assuming he wants to -- this could turn out to be a editing suite save à la Taxi Driver.) But his real concerns do eventually reveal themselves, thanks to an almost verbatum copy of a shot from the ending of 2001: this film is meant as a trip, and as very little else. On that level, it works. Keep goin', Waddington.

Isolation (Billy O'Brien, UK) [B]
Homicidal cow fetuses! Actually, this Irish creature feature (if you can call it that) is quite atmospheric -- all long lens and a memorably unnerving score that is literally comprised of two notes. Not to mention how knotty it is: even an hour in, it's still hard to figure out where it's going, let alone how our puny beasties are even going to gradually off the five characters (among them John Lynch and Sean Harris*) running about the remote farm setting, if that's what they'll be doing. In fact, O'Brien takes so long to put the film in any kind of definite path that it should incite claims to sloppy writing. Luckily, the film's moody enough to pull us through, building through a series of ideas that become increasingly unsettling as they become increasingly clear. Ever so gradually, the film works it way through a series of unnerving, if sometimes aborted (heh) ideas. In the first half, we get ideas on birth: Manly Men forcing a birth with tools; a fetus appearing to either crawl into the womb or simply scrape the legs along the way into it (!!). But the second half turns into an unnerving meditation on accountability, with the people who are in charge of handling the soon-parasitic situation -- and keeping the rest of the world safe from it -- either unfit for the task or unable to cope with the idea of essentially killing themselves to save everyone else. Saying that a horror film is about "the fear of death" is obviously idiotic, but more than most others it is here: [Less Vague Spoiler Alert] it eventually comes down to one character who is probably definitely infected and can either kill herself now or risk infecting the rest of the world by not killing herself. With some more focus -- or deeper exploration of its themes, especially in the first half -- this could be better still. But mark my words: I think this O'Brien fella's onto something.

* Thaaaaat's right! A movie called "Isolation" starring the guy who played Ian Curtis (in 24 Hour Party People).


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