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Around the Clock: More from the 2004 Palm Springs Int’l Film Fest

For more info, visit http://www.psfilmfest.org/
by Greg Muskewitz

The Palm Springs International Film Festival, or at least my duration of it, is finally winding to an end. Sunday will see the official close, with screenings consisting mostly of audience favorites (determined by a pink voting card for each film, from a one to a five — though there isn’t much to distinguish between a four’s “excellent” and a five’s “superb”), although my viewing is likely to be completed Saturday night. Even with seeing up to five movies a day, there are any number of films I would have liked to see, that either screened before I arrived in town, or conflicted against other films I really wanted to see. (Of course, as was more often the case, I would have two films pitted against each other that I had a strong desire to see, but the next time slot, I would have easily given up either of the two or three on my list for one of the impossible screenings previously.) A festival like Palm Springs’ is really something of a vacation. It’s one of the few times a critic has a choice in what they are seeing, having the ability to choose what they want to see more. It isn’t like our typical duties of attending the local screenings of a new Mandy Moore movie, or Ice Cube on motorcycles, or a trio of grown kids trying to raise three of their kids, etc. And so, before I wrap up my film-viewing here, and before I actually have a chance to sit down and write about the films I saw, here is a brief schedule of the last three days …

****************************
Around the Clock: More from the 2004 Palm Springs Int’l Film Fest
It isn’t like our typical duties of attending the local screenings of a new Mandy Moore movie, or Ice Cube on motorcycles, or a trio of grown kids trying to raise three of their kids.

The Palm Springs International Film Festival, or at least my duration of it, is finally winding to an end. Sunday will see the official close, with screenings consisting mostly of audience favorites (determined by a pink voting card for each film, from a one to a five — though there isn’t much to distinguish between a four’s “excellent” and a five’s “superb”), although my viewing is likely to be completed Saturday night. Even with seeing up to five movies a day, there are any number of films I would have liked to see, that either screened before I arrived in town, or conflicted against other films I really wanted to see. (Of course, as was more often the case, I would have two films pitted against each other that I had a strong desire to see, but the next time slot, I would have easily given up either of the two or three on my list for one of the impossible screenings previously.) A festival like Palm Springs’ is really something of a vacation. It’s one of the few times a critic has a choice in what they are seeing, having the ability to choose what they want to see more. It isn’t like our typical duties of attending the local screenings of a new Mandy Moore movie, or Ice Cube on motorcycles, or a trio of grown kids trying to raise three of their kids, etc. And so, before I wrap up my film-viewing here, and before I actually have a chance to sit down and write about the films I saw, here is a brief schedule of the last three days …

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

8.00AM — Time to wake up, after so few hours of sleep. Lethargy is never fun, but there’s little for me to do to combat it. After a slow start, there’s no time for breakfast, so I grab a Pop Tart, and it’s time to rush over to the pass holders’ line at the Camelot.

9.30 — Screening of That Day (not to be confused with That Night starring Eliza Dushku), directed by Raoul Ruiz, a man who takes pleasure in the ambiguities of pretensions of cinema. Bernard Giraudeau is seemingly unrecognizable for quite some time. Absurd, it is no doubt, but funny, it takes a lot more work to achieve to.

11.25 — That Day lets out. I have less than an hour before my next movie starts, at the same theater, so I walk around the area only to discover there isn’t much to be seen. Brief boredom ensues.

12.15PM — Dekada ‘70 starts, about one family’s involvement with the changing political climate in the Philippines throughout the Seventies decade. Informative, a bit long, but well acted; apparently many of the audience members are on Filipino time, and arrive late within the first half-hour.

2.25 — After it ends, I go in and save a seat for the next film, and try to enjoy a little sun and fresh air in the meantime. And make room for a caffeine break — a Dr Pepper, which is reassurance that a lack of sleep will mean nothing.

3.15 — Goodbye Dragon Inn starts, the latest from Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang. I’m familiar with his films, so I know to expect a slow pace, very little dialogue, and action within the compositions, but apparently the auditorium of senior citizens couldn’t and didn’t know, so rather than leave in disgust, the protest verbally during the screening. A geriatric couple next to me knew the geriatric couple in front of me, and when they wouldn’t take hints to shut the fuck up with their back-and-forth conversations and complaints, I found myself a new seat near the very front. Despite the agitation, it only reinforces the subtle commentary that Ming-liang was making about movie-watching.

4.32 — The Ming-liang film ends, and after sticking around to vent with several other outraged viewers, I head over to the Signature where I will be for the next two screenings.

5.30 — Start time for Peter Greenaway’s The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1: The Moab Story. An intriguing blend of media, the experimental film meets and surpasses the quota for an average Greenaway film of frontal nudity, both of the male and female variety. It suffers the occasional break in momentum when at the change of reels every 20-minutes, the projector bumps half of the image off of the screen. I guess it was too much to have the projectionist oversee that auditorium at the reel changes since it only happened each time. (Not too bothersome — even amusing at times — were the French subtitles that ran through the course of the movie.)

7.36 — The movie ends; time to meet up with one of the critics to go over our gameplan for the evening and coordinate a carpool back to the hotel. Grab a seat for the next film, and take a walk around the block to get the blood circulating again. (At least, more than the Greenaway film could do for me.)

8.30 — Final show of the night, Distant Lights, from Germany. Somewhat similar to the struggles of illegal aliens in Dirty Pretty Things, this proves to be just as gritty, just as intense. The multitude of storylines work, and I come out feeling as though this was one of the better films seen so far.

10.15 — Time to head to the hotel, eat dinner, shower, yada, yada, yada. Do a little reading, do a little debriefing with my colleagues, and sit down to finalize my plans for the following day. Scheduling sleep comes somewhere between 2 and 3AM.

Thursday, January 15

9AM — Wake up call. Eat breakfast, drive over to the Camelot.

10.15 — See Forest, from Hungary. It’s a like a collection of short films, a series of conversations with each one leading to a form of revelation as the arguments or talks are removed from ambiguity. It begins with a packed house, but at about the second or third segment, the walk-outs commence and don’t end till the movie official ends.

11.50 — Hop back in the car, and drive over to the Signature for the rest of the day.

12.30PM — See Free Radicals, another film from Germany that casts a web of characters. It’s an effective film as well (though not as much as Distant Lights), about the chaos theory, and keeps me entranced for the full two hours. Can’t help but overhear audience disapproval on the way out. C’est la vie.

2.30 — Run into the next theater to save myself and one of my colleagues a seat right before the ticket-holder line is let in.

3.00 — Captive starts. A fictionalized film about a 15/16-year-old girl whose idea of her life is shattered when she discovers she was adopted and her real parents were disappeared. The main two girls are very good, but the treatment of the mystery is mishandled letting out too much steam too early. Argentina’s official Oscar submission.

4.55 — Run across the street to the Wyndam Hotel to join my friend for a quick drink. I worry if alcohol and Greenaway will mix.

5.30 — It’s on and over to The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 3: Antwerp, which, technically, is part two (of 16?!). This time, there are no projection jumps, no French subtitres, but the entire first 30-minutes are the exact final 30-minutes of the first installation. Greenaway is already running low and spreading thin this early into his obsessive multimedia project.

7.15 — Meet back up with my friend to get seats for the next and last film of the evening.

8.00 — Grimm starts, another perversion of the Hansel and Gretel tale from Holland, about an abandoned brother and sister (in their twenties) who try to find an uncle in Spain without avail, finding instead other trouble. Moderately funny, one of the few comedies I’ve seen, it’s still too lightweight and overlong to close the evening with glee.

9.52 — Back to the hotel, dinner, and the usual debriefing and next-day-planning. I begin to write the last few days up, but don’t have all of my notes and schedule info with me, so I quit early, around 1.30AM.

Friday, January 16

10.30AM — Leisurely wake up without the need to catch an early morning show. I had looked at what was screening, and without the desire to see any of the three films, decided that a four-movie-day would be sufficient enough. There’s enough time to have breakfast — no Pop Tarts — and head over to the Signature.

NOON — Sin Ton Ni Sonia shows, from Mexico, a comedy of relationships, telepathy, and stolen organs. It’s the first movie of the entire festival I’m tempted to walk out on. I don’t, only ‘cause I have nothing better to do in the meantime, but it only gets worse.

1.52 — I meet up with a friend to pass a little time before we part ways for our next screenings.

3.00 — Start time for Moi César, an adorable, delightful, uplifting comedy from France that plays like Amélie, Jr.. It’s from Richard Berry who casts his daughter as the lead girl to the two boys’ love interest, and it’s clear that he’s in love her and making the audience feel the same way. It’s my most light-hearted experience so far, and definitely one of my favorite films of the festival. I can hardly wait to see it again when/if it gets a regular theatrical distribution.

4.37 — Over to the Wyndam to the press room to check my e-mail and take advantage of a little finger food before the typical late dinner.

6.00 — Details, from Sweden, attempts to replicate the pensiveness of Ingmar Bergman. Instead, it’s terribly dull despite the strong performances of the four leads. At times, it’s a real struggle to keep awake.

7.51 — The movie ends, I take a quick walk, and grab a seat excited to see a new film from Takashi Miike …

8.30 — … Gozu begins in an appropriate perversity known to Miike, but the black comedy much too quickly drops to a lull with only the occasional perversity (the woman who squeezes milk out of her breasts, the man with a cow’s head), before returning to more boredom, and then an extravagant ending more along the lines of the Miike I expected (anal deaths, adult-births). No doubt, a disappointment. (I guess that’s what happens when you do five movies in a year.)

10.40 — Time to head back to the hotel for dinner, discussion, and the eventual wrap up of this piece. And with tomorrow being my last day of attending films, it looks no less busy than the previous few days.

2.42AM — Proof-read, then post. Need sleep.


link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=940
originally posted: 01/17/04 06:01:49
last updated: 02/02/04 00:03:21
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