Since yesterday afternoon — that is, in the last 18 hours — I’ve been to see three movies. It would have been four but the morning screenings of The Last King of Scotland and 12:08 East of Bucharest were sold out.
But of course the point, at least for me, is not necessarily to see as many movies as possible. Instead, the point is to see good, unexpected movies, and be able to talk about them afterwards with friends.
Luckily, there’s been no shortage of that around here. I’m in a house with ten dedicated film fans. One runs the web site for Turner Classic Movies. Another runs the campus film series in Boulder. Some of us write for Movie Habit. And only one or two of us are here more for the mountains than for the movies.
The conversation has been great, so rather than offer my opinion on what I’ve seen, let me repeat the gossip from the house.
Consensus: Very Good
“Great Expectations” is a program of short films (in this case, two of them). The idea is to showcase directors who aren’t making feature films yet, but who show great promise. Two years ago, the director of the second film had an entry in the student program that was the best of a good lot. But the last thing the presenter said before the lights dimmed was “... and we’re sad to report that Christian Nemescu died in a car crash one week ago in Bucharest.”
Both films happened to be Romanian; and both happened to feature the same actor playing a father. The first film, The Tube with a Hat, was a charmer about a father and son traveling all day to get their television fixed in time for a Bruce Lee movie that evening. The plot is very simple, and the interactions between father and son are endearing. Although the TV plays a central role in the movie, the TV seems to be one of the least important things in their actual lives. The title refers to the vacuum tube that causes the TV not to work. That the father and son have a pet name for the parts of their TV indicates that they are interested in more things than sitting on a couch watching TV.
The second film was far from “charming,” at least for the mother and son who sat in front of us. (They left after the sex and masturbation scenes) And yet this film too had its charm. It opens on our protagonist bullying another boy, beating him, stealing his candy, and sending him off crying. Through the course of the movie, he smokes, watches prostitutes, steals money from his father, steals a bus, and witnesses a suicide. It’s a rough ride for those looking for charm, but in the tradition of Zero for Conduct and The 400 Blows, it fits right in. 400 Blows protagonist Antoine Doinel would probably have loved to see Nemescu’s career blossom, because he showed a great eye and ear for character, story, and emotional impact. Great expectations indeed.
The U.S. vs. John Lennon
The free movie in the park on Friday had four or five times the crowd as the previous night. This documentary had the cooperation of Yoko Ono; the director says it featured three new interviews with her. It also offered some never-before-seen footage of Lennon. The movie takes a look at the peace (and anti-war) movements in the United States in the early 1970s through the lens of John Lennon’s life. Who was this Englishman to get involved in American politics? Answering that question are journalists and personalities ranging from Walter Cronkite to Geraldo Rivera.
Talking about the movie afterwards, the housemates seemed to agree that, although the documentary was entertaining and well made, the inclusion of non-experts like Rivera, Gore Vidal (well-spoken, but with nothing substantive to add), and G. Gordon Liddy, made the documentary too lightweight to be really successful.
Split Consensus: Fair or Very Good
Telluride is not known for horror films, so the mere inclusion of this comedy-horror is noteworthy. Before it started, one of our number heard it described as “The Office meets Evil Dead 2.” And although one of us complained afterwards that it was neither, all but the literal-minded conceded that was a fair summary.
The movie itself starts off like a comedy, with the inter-office bickerings of six white-collar defense-industry employees. They’re off to Romania for a team-building weekend at a luxury lodge. Their bus gets stuck at a closed road, and they set off on foot through the woods (always a bad thing to do in a horror film). They stumble upon a ramshackle compound that they mistake for their luxury lodge, and settle in for the night. They scare each other with improvised horror stories while the filmmakers amuse us with selective use and abuse of horror-movie conventions.
The film got a great reaction from the audience, but afterwards, the house was split on whether it succeeded as horror, as comedy, as entertainment, or any combination thereof. There were generally two camps. One found it perfectly entertaining, if a little sloppy. The other said that, entertaining or not, it failed to succeed either as horror or comedy; that it was too much of a mess to be taken seriously.
... And these are just the movies that I saw. Others in the house reported back with enthusiasm for Little Children, moderate praise for The Italian, mild disappointment for Fur. As for me; I’m happy to see whatever I can get into and enjoy the fresh mountain air.