Thursday, November 26, 2009

SLIFF 2009 Coverage Part 2

Title: My Time Will Come
Director: Víctor Arregui
Country: Ecuador
Score: 5.0
“My Time Will Come” is a sprawling and somewhat meditative study of Quito, Ecuador where family and friendship tries to hold together amidst both domestic and gang violence. Dr. Arturo, a philosophical mortician, struggles to understand his brother, his separated parents, a budding romantic interest, his troubled city and even the dead. It is the latter which he relates to with the greatest ease, finding satisfaction with his evident forensic skill (practiced in a comically cavalier manner that involves heavy drinking) and the silent rest of corpses.

I found myself hoping, and perhaps even assuming, that Arturo would unravel the network of interlocking deaths that come streaming into his morgue. However, the type of clever cathartic conclusion that ties up the loose ends in many similarly structured films about disparate characters connected through a web of subtle links, doesn’t actually seem to be the point. Dr. Arturo’s bemused, deadpan resignation is the best that Arregui offers his audience, and while I can’t help being a bit disappointed, there is certainly an honesty and depth to his screenplay. The photography is pretty, if not quite beautiful. The editing is inefficient, but gives a fair-handed attention to even its peripheral characters.

Title: Animated Shorts
Director: various
Country: various
Score: various
It’s both unfair and irrational to try and review a compilation of shorts together, but it’s a little tedious to try and discuss each one individually, so I’ll try and just single out highlights. Overall, I thought this shorts program was better than any of the last few years, presumably because Cinema St. Louis is now able to be even choosier due to the huge number of submissions. Of the 13 shorts in this batch, about half were essentially music videos, which tended to make them quite watchable, but not very deep.

My favorite was “Checkoo,” by Erik Rosenlund of Sweden, about an office drone who doesn’t quite fit with the fast-pace tempo of modern life and resorts to a speed-enhancing drug to keep up. Smooth, sly and charming, Checkoo is a confident exercise in simplicity and style awash in orange colors and pop geometry. It has a lot to say, but knows how to do so in very few words. Other standouts include the ambitious dictatorship comedy “Only Love” by Lev Polyakov, the rough and jazzy “You’re Outa Here” by George Griffin and “Santa: The Fascist Years” by the always reliable Bill Plympton. The only short that really grated on me was “Articles of War,” a blunt, preachy and visually unremarkable treatise against the horror of wars presented as a letter from a WWII pilot to his WWI vet father.

Title: North Face
Director: Philipp Stoltz
Country: Germany
Score: 7.0
Based on a true story, “North Face” follows the ascent of two German mountain climbers scaling Mt. Eiger’s north face in 1936. Promoted by the Nazi’s as a race to “solve the last problem of the Alps,” the climb was regarded by many as impossible and even suicidal given the slope’s reputation as a “Murder Wall” prone to freak snow storms and avalanches. The pair of unpretentious country-bred climbers matches wits against an Austrian team, but quickly come to see the mountain as the only real foe when bad weather, frostbite and major injuries pin all four men against the unforgiving north face.

A gripping and evocative adventure, “North Face” easily carves a place for itself in the mountain movie genre. The acting is rather period-piece standard (which is to say, generically good), but the focus is really on Eigar and the gorgeious photography that puts us right in the midst of stone and snow. The viewer can feel the biting cold, the jagged crags and the constant vertigo. The film’s only serious flaw is in trying to tell the story from the perspective of one climber’s ex-girlfriend, a neophyte reporter with a callous Nazi boss. Her character just isn’t particularly interesting, nor do the Nazi subplots go anywhere, and the indirection distracts from the main action, especially when we are subjected to constant updates on her unchanged status waiting around at the base camp hotel.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I liked the short "Coffee and Chicory," much more than You're Outta Here, which I found repetitive and not interesting to watch.