Thursday, October 13, 2005
Near Misses

I am officially sick of rain. As of this moment, it has been raining here for a week straight -- does anyone else remember that 70s-vintage science fiction short film (taken, I'm sure from some science fiction short story) about a bunch of kids living on Venus where it rains constantly except for ten minutes every X years? (Y'know the one, where they lock some other little girl in a closet as a prank and then the sun comes out and they all go out and play, forgetting the girl in the closet, until the rain starts again and they go back inside and remember where they left her, but it's too late because she's missed it now, and I always wondered why kids who'd never seen sunshine and only knew rain wouldn't be scared shitless of the giant fireball in the sky, but I guess that's just me being difficult and missing the point.)

Anyway, Vermont's been just like Venus lately. It's faintly tragic, since the rain has pretty much nixed the best part of the New England foliage season -- not that there was much of a foliage season this year. It should be just about peaking right now, but it's not -- oh, yes, it's very pretty apart from the constant cold, nasty drizzle, but it's not that exuberant explosion of autumnal color that one hopes to see. Of course, the foliage really needs some sunshine to come off (a yellow leaf is a yellow leaf, but a yellow leaf with some sunshine is luminous, and a billion of them are staggering), and that's been in very short supply. It also doesn't help that the wind and rain has been busily knocking every possible leaf out of the trees -- autumn foliage really only works still attached to a limb, not so well half-buried in mud.

Last night my main professor, who was away last term shooting his third(?) feature film, did a little feedback screening at the college, which I attended. His film is damn good, but confusing. And probably confusing in a good way -- there was much discussion of intentional ambiguity -- but also probably confusing in an audience-limiting way. It's also structured in a very unusual way -- the climax of the film is something of a red herring, and not really the climax, which gives it a peculiar feel it terms of rhythm. It was already a bit like that -- it seems to both begin and end several times -- and that takes a little effort to get your head around, but having only seen it once (and then not in its final form), I can't say for sure whether I liked it or disliked it.

In its favor, it was for the most part perfectly cast -- lots of people everyone would recognize (but no major stars), and all of them fine actors. One combination in particular -- an older actress and a teenage boy -- were each profoundly charismatic alone, and together it was hard to get enough of them. There was one mis-step, I think in casting Luis Guzman as a monk -- he was comical, yes, but he also stuck out like a proverbial sore thumb. It was only a bit part, though, so not too obtrusive. I'm also very uncertain about the costume design for the main villain, obstentably a French-Canadian mountain-man type, who resembled a Kevin MacDonald French-Canadian character on The Kids in the Hall a little too closely for me to take him seriously.

The thing that struck me the most, though, was the similarity to the early New Zealand-based films of Vincent Ward -- Ward's one of my favorite NZ directors (whom I now officially like better than Peter Jackson, and maybe even better than Jane Campion taken on the whole. His one American-based venture was a stunningly-beautiful failure, and from what I understand his current NZ-based production has been rocky, but he's capable of amazing work.) It had that same lush, detached-from-reality kind of realism, a similar kind of storyline, even similar design -- if you took Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, crossed it with Ward's Vigil, threw in a little of Ward's The Navigator, and a little of something else -- I can't quite put my finger on what yet -- you'd have something quite close to this film. It is, with luck, going to Sundance this year -- maybe, maybe not, we'll see. Regardless, I think it'll definitely be worth seeing, even if it's not an overwhelming cinematic success. Regardless of what happens with it, I'm hoping I'll be able to get him to pass through Memphis with it at some point in the future. Obviously, when the time comes, I'll also be divulging the title of the film. Be patient.
2:22 PM ::
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