05 April 2009

more film festival reviews

Dioses - Thoughtful examination of the extreme class differences in Peru. I had been urged to see it; it was sold to me as one of the most devastating films of the festival. I won't go that far -- it's hard to draw believable and sympathetic characters in "poor little rich kids" stories, and this film doesn't always succeed. Also it's problematic that the protagonist's emotional growth was handled almost completely off-screen. But while there are some storytelling flaws here, it's nice that it's not a hands-off, "blameless" narrator, like in The Great Gatsby. Also: excellently photographed. Worthwhile.

You know, I don't think I've ever seen a film from Peru (that is, primarily or exclusively from Peru) before. If you can name one for me, please add a comment.

White Night Wedding - A bit of an odd duck, but one I really liked, maybe because it's (very, very loosely) based on Chekov's Ivanov, and I've had a fascination with Russian literature and cinema for several years now. Summary: On the midsummer Icelandic night before his wedding to a much younger woman, university professor has crisis of conscience, recalling the tumultuous end of his previous marriage. There are comic moments, which may detract from the film's mood, to some people; but I like a serious story that's cut up, even if a little jarringly, with lightheartedness: it seems much more true to life that way. Offhand I can think of 2 other things I enjoyed. First, the opening credits sequence featured white, serif text on blown-out images of the sky, sea, and buildings. I think that nicely set the stage for action occurring on a night with no actual night. Second, I never asked myself this question, but now I know the answer. In a culture where your last name is completely patronymic, how do you list people alphabetically? By first names. The end credits included a long list of people thanked for their help, and they were listed alphabetically by first name. Now I know.

This makes 3 films, now, during the festival that I've seen projected digitally. White Night Wedding looked great; it was at the Ritz East and they've clearly spent what they had to to get the right equipment. But the projectionist at Dioses, at the Bridge, was less prepared. The aspect ratio was wrong for the first 10 minutes or so, and the subtitles were cut off on the bottom of the screen. This is the "CinemaScope flatted to fit TV screens" of the 21st century, I guess. Testing the equipment and running a few minutes of the movie before the house opened would have avoided it. (The other digital film was Saving Grace B. Jones, at the Prince. It was clearly just a DVD of a movie that hadn't been filmed in HD in the first place. At least I used a friend's free pass to see it. And anyway, the less said about that movie the better. Ugh.)

You know what I find most disconcerting about digitally projected films? Actually, there are 2 things. I mean, sure, it's great not to have the little black flecks every 1/24th of a second and all, and there's no chance of the projectionist falling asleep at the reel and not having the next reel ready after one runs out. The first disconcerting thing is the white. It's not . . . white. It's all colors, it's too white. It's not the color of the projector's lightbulb; it's the color of titanium white paint, brilliant white copy paper, the white coming out of a computer screen. The second disconcerting thing is that the flicker is wrong. The refresh rate is too fast; it's faster than 24p. I might as well be watching TV.

I acknowledge that the second issue there is a "get offa my lawn" issue.

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