Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dissecting SIFF 2011 - Part 2

Continuing on with reviews and thoughts about this year's SIFF:

Young Goethe In Love  Germany - I didn't know much about Goethe before seeing this film. I knew he was a writer sometime in like the 18th century? and that his name is used by super prententious people to make others feel lame. After seeing this gorgeously shot period piece about the life and times of young Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, I still can't say I know much about him, but boy did I enjoy the 2 hours of getting to know him a little. This film is so lush; a great romance told very sweetly with humor and pathos. Alexander Fehling who plays are hero Goethe is spectacular. I would consider buying this film if/when it gets released digitally.

Saigon Electric  Vietnam - This movie might be the standout of this year's festival for me. I had SO MUCH FUN watching this tale of disenfranchised youth in modern-day Saigon who are struggling to keep their dreams and hopes alive. It combines hip-hop dance battles and romance with a touching and sometimes sad story of poverty, alienation, loss, and loneliness. It was fresh and vibrant. After the screening I got to hang out with the American director Stephane Gauger (who is of Vietnamese descent) and he was great. This wonderful film is making the rounds of the festivals now, but it's scheduled for a wider release in the fall. See it if you can!!

The Names of Love   France - Gosh, French films can be wacky. But also so much fun. This comedic love story with a political bent was both. Sara Forestier plays Baya, a very promiscuous young political activist of mixed Algerian-French descent who is so far on the left she has made it her mission to seduce conservatives in order to convert them to her politics (see? French wackiness!). Her magic fails to work on our protagonist Arthur (played with great aplomb by Jacques Gamblin), a middle-aged Libertarian bird-flu expert she meets. The son of a French father and a Jewish mother, Arthur is, like Baya, an “outsider” in the increasingly intolerant France of Nicolas Sarkozy. Forestier and Gamblin are perfect in their roles in this intelligent and fun satire.

Salvation Boulevard   USA - This hilarious satire focuses on the evangelical movement in United States, and the hypocrisy and deceit that's often found in these religious cultures. Starring Pierce Brosnan as the pastoral leader of the Church of the Third Millenium, one of those new mega-churches with thousands of loyal followers including Carl (Greg Kinnear), an ex-Dead head pot dealer who "found the light" and a new wife and step-daughter through the church. Hijinks ensue when Brosnan's Pastor Dan accidentally shoots a philosophical rival of his and tries to put the blame on Carl. Good performances by all.

Amador  Spain - Amazing work by Magaly Solier as the lead character Marcela, a pregnant and panicked home care aide to the aging Amador. Really well paced and acted by everyone.

Love Crime  France - All About Eve meets Double Indemnity set in the high-powered competitive advertising world. So good. Kristin Scott Thomas kicks all sorts of ass (as usual) playing the powerful and rich advertising president Christine; I guess she's just exclusively doing French films now? It's disconcerting sometimes to not hear her speaking in English. Newcomer Ludivine Sagnier brings the main character of Isabelle to life and infuses her with so many different traits and personalities you don't know whether to love, hate, pity, or laugh at her. Excellent thriller.

Service Entrance  France - See what I mean about the amount of French films I saw this year? I LOVED this movie. A delightful upstairs/downstairs comedy of manners set in 1960s Paris. It should be rentable soon if you can't find it a your local art-house theater.

Killing Bono U.K. - Fun fun fun. A comedy based on Neil McCormick's true memoir about his time as a young man srtuggling to be a rockstar in late 70s Dublin. His band Yeah! Yeah! (later re-named Shook Up!), sadly, came to naught, while his rivals in The Hype changed their name to U2, and, well, the rest is history. Starring the immensely likeable Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian from The Chronicles of Narnia) as McCormick, the film depicts his constantly frustrated hopes while rubbing salt in their wounds by painting their bitter rival Bono as—annoyingly—a pretty decent guy.

Romeos  Germany - One of my top films from this year's festival. Set in Cologne, Germany, it tells the story of young transgendered man named Lukas, who is at a new university and reconnecting with an old friend of his from home when he was a "she". Lukas is also making new friends like Fabio, a gay lothario who seems so comfortable in his skin and his identity, that's like catnip to Lukas. Tensions arise as Lukas falls in love with Fabio and has to decide if and how much to reveal about his gender past. I can't tell you how moving this film was. I hope it can eventually get a wide enough distribution that a lot of people can see it.

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