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Thread: Sfiff Reviews By Travis Kirby

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  1. #1

    Sfiff '06 Reviews By Travis Kirby

    YING LIANG: TAKING FATHER HOME (2005)



    REVIEW BY TRAVIS KIRBY

    Taking Father Home is the story of Xu Yun, a poor country boy whose father left six years ago for a job in the city. Now Xu Yun is sick of not having his father around and he decides to go to the city and find his father and bring him back home. When he gets to the city it seems incredibly massive and Xu Yun asks a man known as “Scar” for help. This starts a long chain of coincidences that lead Xu Yun to his father, and he finds something other than what he expected.

    Taking Father Home is a rough-edged, low budget film. When I say low budget I mean that the film was made using one borrowed Mini-DV camera and nearly the entire cast and crew were composed of volunteers or family members. The film had a total cost of approximately $3,000. And it shows.

    The film has the same picture quality anybody could achieve by turning on their at home video-camera and saying to their best friend, “Hey, let’s make a movie!” The quality becomes distracting and you cannot ignore the fact that none of the actors have experience acting. The performances are incredibly stunted and it is almost painful to watch any of the conversations in the film. Almost all of the attempts at comedy are not in the least bit funny, and maybe some are lost in translation, or perhaps in the absolutely horrible subtitles, but I didn’t laugh once.

    We have to give Ying Liang, the director of the film, credit for trying. He used what little money he could to make a film in a communist country that is in a calamity of poverty. Now he is traveling around the world to showcase his film, no matter how mediocre, to audiences of reasonable sizes.
    Last edited by Travis Kirby; 05-18-2006 at 10:29 PM.

  2. #2
    PASCALE BRETON: ILLUMINATION (2005)



    REVIEW BY TRAVIS KIRBY

    Ildut Le Du (Clet Beyer) is an estranged young man who seems ill at ease in his environment. He used to be a fisherman on a small boat, but is not suited for the job. At the end of one journey Ildut and finally loses it and gives in to the voices he hears in his head. An unknown amount of time later Ildut is now back home and seems removed from the world, but he is still alive. One day he is repairing the water heater at the home of his grandmother, Anna (Albertine Dagand) and he spots her beautiful nurse Christina (Mélanie Le Ray). Ildut becomes obsessed with this woman he has never even spoken to and he now has a reason to live and try and get better. He sets off on a strange journey that leads him to a spiritual guru who gives a list of incredibly strange and perverse tasks to complete. Partway through his tasks, Ildut runs into Christina, his grandmother’s nurse. Ildut seems to wake from a dream. From there Ildut’s journey is still not complete, but it will end in an almost surreal manner.

    This debut film from writer/director Pascale Breton is a very strong effort in every aspect. To me the only major flaw is the fact that the film seems to be split into to distinct portions. These portions are like small episodes within the movie that give it a very formulaic feel. Despite this formulaic feeling the film rolls along and provides a very interesting study of Ildut as he seems to drift back and forth from insane to almost normal. Throughout the entire film an excellent soundtrack by Eric Duchamp and Nori of simplistic, melodic guitar accompanies Ildut as if it is a part of his persona. Music plays an important role for Ildut at many different points in the film although we are never quite sure why this is. This is another flaw in the film; the back-stories are not as strong as they could be. Ildut’s parents remain in the shadows for almost all of the film but have a strong confrontation with him in their single scene. Even Christina remains an almost unknown character throughout the film. We never really learn about her past, or even her present for that matter. Despite these small flaws the film is compelling and well worth a viewing if it receives distribution.

  3. #3
    EXPERIMENTAL SHORTS: FUGITIVE PRAYERS

    REVIEW BY TRAVIS KIRBY


    Fugitive Prayers, a selection of 9 experimental shorts seeking "the spiritual in the material, the abstract in the concrete.," included films such as How To Pra (Bill Morrison), fugitive l(i)ght (Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof) and Naked (Pawel Wojtasik), that were all ten minutes of pure imagery. It also included such bizarre shorts as Phantom Canyon (Stacey Steers) and The Haunted Camera (Nancy Andrews), which appeared to have a vague storyline, but they were impossible storylines to follow. The only decent films of the nine were Market Street (Tomonari Nishikawa), a single-frame study of Market Street in San Francisco through the past 100 years, and Passers-By (Jos de Putter), a film from the Netherlands that captures snippets of bus-stop conversations. The rest of the films were pure torture.

  4. #4
    ALAN BERLINER: WIDE AWAKE (2005)



    REVIEW BY TRAVIS KIRBY


    Wide Awake chronicles documentary filmmaker Alan Berliner’s struggle with insomnia throughout his life. His battle is one of exhaustion, even to watch. Watching Berliner film himself trying to sleep is a struggle within itself, but at times he can be quite humorous. One of the funniest parts of the film is when Alan is telling us about his experience with coffee and then goes on to demonstrate it in the film. These scenes of what he does in his everyday life are the most revealing of his true nature. In one scene we see exactly how obsessive insomnia can make you. Alan has collected photo clippings and arranged them by category, photos of other people, pieces of watches, many different varieties of film clips and he even has collected sounds. The extent to which these things are organized is mind-boggling just to think about. Imagine the things you could do if you got six less hours of sleep a night…

    The film gravitates back and forth between scenes of Alan’s life and arranged scenes he filmed at various different doctors’ offices or with his wife, sister and mother. Anytime Alan’s wife appears on screen I am left wondering why he is married to her. She is completely unsympathetic with Alan’s sleeping problems and pretends they don’t exist when their baby wakes up in the middle of the night. She seems to believe there is no such thing as sleep deprivation, and when she is with Alan’s mother and sister they all team up on him and tell him, in essence, “Just go to sleep!”

    If you have suffered from insomnia, as many of us have at some point, you will feel at least some sympathy for Alan’s sleeping troubles and laugh along with him at the extensive list of things he has tried. This movie won’t leave you wanting to count sheep, it will give you a simple, quick, comedic film to enjoy at your own leisure.

    But remember, sometimes counting several hundred sheep is a bad thing…

  5. #5
    MARCELO PINEYRO: THE GRÖNHOLM METHOD (2005)



    REVIEW BY TRAVIS KIRBY


    For a film that feels quite promising The Grönholm Method starts off well but turns a bit smutty towards the end. The film is the story of a large company in Madrid selecting a new employee for an executive position. The applicants have to sign papers agreeing to be subjected to the “Grönholm method” during the selection for the position. The process begins with the applicants being locked in the office as they are forced to complete tasks in order to help along in the hiring process. The tasks begin light-heartedly: select a leader, identify “The Mole"; but quickly take a direction that leads to dirty insults, sexism and smut. These dirty qualities are tolerable to a point, but when the film takes an almost pornographic turn, the enjoyable, comedic qualities that the film had are lost.

    Adapted from a stage play, the film takes place almost entirely within the single office where all of the selection process takes place. It is not necessarily a bad thing but at some points becomes exasperating and trips outside of the room become almost like freedom. This is definitely a quality that Argentine director Marcelo Pineyro wanted to convey, through his repeated use of extreme close-ups, but when he backs off to a medium or long shot the sense of claustrophobia remains. We’ve seen that room, and that doesn’t change no matter how many different angles are used.

    As we travel along through the narrowing process the tasks become more and more ludicrous. At one point a soccer ball is being tossed back and forth, and for no apparent reason other than to move the plot along. Would Apple Computers make an applicant throw a soccer ball back and forth? I doubt it, and yet it fits into the script, which borders on insane. Attending this film can make you feel dirty, underneath your skin. That is not a pleasant feeling to receive from a film.

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