Wednesday, June 13, 2007

SIFF #10 - The mysterious case of FPE

One thing that I can say for sure about The Man of My Life (L'homme de sa vie) (5/8) is that it sure it pretty. If this film doesn't make you want to pick up and move to the south of France for a lifelong holiday, I don't know what will. You know, where the wheat ripples in the wind, where there are fields of sunflowers, where you eat dinner outside every night at a table with a dozen people, where a swimming pool's water is dark blue and inviting. Unfortunately, the film itself is both intriguing and baffling. Frédéric (the handsomely bald Bernard Campan) has a beautiful wife, cute son, and rambunctious extended family. Hugo (Charles Berling), a sort of vaguely creepy love-'em and leave-'em gay, lives next door to the brood. Frédéric and Hugo form a friendship based around jogging, sharing occasional group meals, and one long night of conversation (which is returned to again and again in flashback through the film). It seems that as their friendship develops, Frédéric becomes more and more unhappy with his supposed perfect life. His wife starts to freak out, and Hugo seems to... wait. Unfortunately we wait as well, then the movie ends. What? I felt that their should have been another half hour of resolution, but we are just left hanging. Is about male friendship? Is it about homosexual repression? Is it about not realizing your dreams? All or none of the above?

My next film had some buzz... but maybe I should have listened more carefully to what the buzz was buzzing about. I had assumed the early murmurs were good, but to see the audience squirming throughout the film, maybe people were talking simply because The Art of Crying (Kunsten at græde i kor) (4/8) was controversial. Taking place in early 1970s rural South Jutland in Denmark, the film follows a highly dysfunctional family. Dad (Jesper Asholt), the town milkman, cries himself to sleep, constantly threatening to kill himself. Mom is basically unconscious from sleeping pills. And it is the teen daughter's job to "comfort" dad on the couch (ewwwww). But the star of the show is young Allen (Jannik Lorenzen), who looks just like Peter Billingsley from A Christmas Story, but is strangely sinister. For fun, he prays for the death of people he doesn't like (sometimes getting his wish), and is so devoted to his dad, that he orders his sister to do her part to stop him from crying (even though Allen doesn't quite understand the implications of the deed). The first half of the film went well, and I found myself actually enjoying the really really dark humor. But then any lightness in the film just left, and it was a really grim, ick-worthy family drama. I suppose if you get off on squirm-inducing movies like Todd Solondz's Happiness, this would be the film for you. For me, I just wanted to go home and scrub myself clean. [AFTERTHOUGHT: Later, I went online to read early reviews, and found two, count 'em TWO reputable sites refer to this as a "Dutch" film. IDIOTS! Danes live in Denmark, not freakin' DUTCH! This never fails to get the Viking in me all riled up. Arrrgghh!]

At this point I must tell about a strange ailment that hit me towards the end of The Art of Crying. When there was about 15 minutes of the film left, I found myself rubbing my eye. No, I wasn't practicing the art of crying, but I found that it was a little irritated, and just needed a good rub. Mmmmmm. Still kinda itchy... rub again. Rub harder. Ahhhh. Temporary relief. Leave the theater, walk to the car. Eye is kinda weepy. Rub again. Feels good, but starting to get uncomfortable. In the car, I pull down the mirror and see that eyelid has gotten weird and puffy, as well as glands in corner of eye. Blinky all the way home. By the time I got through my front door, I felt like I had a Mask of Zorro of Puffy across the top half of my face. Disappointingly, it didn't look TOO bad, but I was wondering if I had a mild allergic reaction to something at the theater. I've decided to call this mysterious new disease Festival Puffy Eye (FPE). After lying in bed with a cold, wet watchcloth across my eyes, it felt a little better, but a milder case of FPE continued to the next day...

I was looking forward to Delirious (5/8) because it was directed by Tom DiCillo, who has made movies like Living in Oblivion and Box of Moonlight, which I enjoyed very much. But I was also a little apprehensive, because those movies were from 10 years ago, and I haven't seen anything since. Delirious stars Steve Buscemi in the Steve Buscemi role of Les, a weaselly paparazzi in NYC. He has oily dyed-black hair and his only friends are other lowly photographers whom he doesn't really like. One day, he crosses paths with a homeless kid named Toby (Michael Pitt), whom he ends up taking under his wing as an assistant. The early parts of the movie work best, as Les and Toby negotiate their living arrangements as well as stalk famous people, including pop diva K'Harma (Alison Lohman). The film plays on the nature of celebrity from both the inside and the outside, as Toby gets a love connection with K'Harma and ends up in her inner circle, almost by accident. But by this time, I couldn't help but feel that I'd seen it all before, in films ranging from the recent Music and Lyrics, American Dreamz, the indie Surviving Eden, and even DiCillo's own earlier films. Unsurprisingly, the best scene-stealer in the film is the always luscious Gina Gershon, who rips into her scenes hilariously as a talent agent who is after Toby. If only the other actors tore into their scenes as much as Gershon, perhaps the film would have been funnier.


Jennifer said...

Wow, Hugo "a sort of vaguely creepy love-'em and leave-'em gay" sounds hot. You are too funny!

I'm a little worried about PFE, as it comes on the heels of Vickie's PFS, and my own Bucket Headache. Are these precusors to the sort of medical calamities Siskel and Ebert have faced? Is something in the theaters taking out the critics?

Not paranoid at all,

Linda said...

"PFE" would make it Post-Festival Eye, not to be confused with "PFS" (Post-Festival Sickness). The correct term is actually "FPE" aka Festival Puffy-Eye... just for clarification! "Bucket Headache", however, is too good to abbreviate! ;)

Jennifer said...

A few hours after I wrote that I realized I'd totally transposed the letters, making FPE into PFE. Now there's a fourth thing to add to the list of ailments picked up at theaters - Dyslexia!

Vickie said...

I actually prefer PFE, myself.