The Juice Bar

My muses, thoughts, ideas, and whatever

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My impressions of SLIFF 2005

This year's version of the St. Louis International Film Festival ran from November 10th through the 20th, and featured more than a hundred films from all over the world. This is the first year I have attended the festival. Since I was trying to do the Nanowrimo project at the same time, I didn't get a chance to see too many films, but I did see three that were quite good:

Tony Takitani - A beautifully heartbreaking elegy of loneliness. The title character is a thirty/forty-something man who works as a graphic designer. His only family is his father who is was always too busy as a jazz musician to have much involvement with his son. Tony meets an attractive young lady at his job one day. He dates and marries her, but is disturbed to find out his wife has an obsession for buying clothes. It's a small character-driven film, beautifully shot. There isn't much of a plot, but since it is only 75 minutes long, the viewer doesn't get bored with the slow pace. It also makes a powerful statement on the seduction of materialism. Both Tony and his wife try to satisfy their loneliness in different ways. But ultimately the things of this world cannot satisy the lonely heart, and I don't think I've seen a film that illustrates that fact like this film does.

Nothing Lasts Forever - This film was directed by Tom Schiller, who directed some sublime short films for Saturday Night Live in the 1970s. After leaving SNL, he filmed this full length feature in the early 1980s, but MGM studios wouldn't release it, and it hasn't been released even on video until Bill Murray screened it in New York last year. Visually the film looks like something done in the 1930s. The plot concerns a young man in New York in a world where the city is ruled by the Port Authority. The young man wants to be an artist, but under this totalitarian rule, is forced to take an art test to determine his suitability. After failing the test, he is forced to take a job in the Holland Tunnel. This sets in turn a series of adventures involving German techno dancers, a trip to the moon in a bus that doubles as a lunar cruiser, a Hawaiian dance routine on the moon, a romance with a member of said dance troupe, and a piano recital at Carnegie Hall. Imagine Jim Jarmusch directing a happier version of Terry Gilliam's Brazil and that might give you an idea of what this film is like. The film features SNL alums Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray in small roles, as well as Larry "Bud" Melman as one of the passengers on the lunar cruiser. John Belushi was also scheduled to appear, but he died a few weeks before filming started. Hopefully this film will finally get some distribution, or issued on DVD. It's worth checking out.

Cape of Good Hope - A South African film following the lives of several interrated characters ala Magnolia or Short Cuts. A lonely woman runs a shelter for abandoned dogs. A co-worker at the dog shelter is trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant with her husband. A Congan expatriate waits for clearance to emigrate to Canada while striking up a romance with a single mother whose mother is trying to set her up with the local Reverend. A rich white businessman whom the single mother works for has a secret of his own. I found this to be a well-done well-written film exploring modern life in South Africa. I don't know if it will ever get released in a theatrical run in North America, but it is worth checking out.