Monday, April 20, 2009


Sunday is no day of rest for me. My work week starts one day earlier than most which means that I miss the early Sunday offerings at the Festival. But that doesn't mean I am not willing to ride directly from work to the theater to see the latest from the mumblecore king:

Beeswax (2009) directed by Andrew Bujalski
First let's just do a mumblecore definition: Mumblecore, coined by Bujalski's sound editor, refers to films that are generally low budget and focus on personal relationships between twenty-somethings, improvised scripts, and non-professional actors. If you want a couple other cool terms to throw around, it has also been referred to as "bedhead cinema" and "Slackavetes." Examples are Bujalski's Funny Ha Ha, Jay Dupless' Puffy Chair and Joe Swanberg's LOL. Now that you have had the primer, I will admit that mumblecore is not my favorite a long shot. With all odds stacked against it, Beeswax actually won me over. Sometimes up-talking Austin hipsters that say "you know" more than me can be quite charming. The film is centered on twin sisters at different places, but very much connected. Some things happen, some things are resolved and some other things are unresolved. More than anything, these characters convinced me and I didn't spend the entire movie being painfully aware that they were non-professional. There are no more screenings of Beeswax at MSPIFF, but it will surely make it back to town. Recommended.

Letters to the President (2009) directed by Petr Lom
My first documentary of the Fest! I'm interested in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Much like Kim Jong Il, most of the information about Ahmadinejad is propaganda—either self-propelled or generated by the western media. But what is missing from most of these dialogs about countries and governments is the voice and opinions of the people. Letters to the President gives voice to the people of Iran. Just like the US, the views and politics across the nation represent a very diverse mix. Every year 10 million people write a letter to President Ahmadinejad, mostly asking for help. These letters represent an unbelievable faith in their President, but there are, of course, many who see no point. It's a fascinating snapshot with some pretty brilliant observations. I couldn't help but think about Roxana Saberi, and wonder how Lom didn't meet the same fate. Letters to the President screens again Friday, April 24 at 5:10pm. Recommended.

Helen (2008) directed by Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy
Seeing a film like Helen is what the Film Festival is all about. Uniquely structured and emotionally taut, Helen left me pleasantly stunned. The point of departure is a tragedy we never see. Joy, a teenage girl, goes missing. In hopes of finding some clues from people who might have seen Joy, the police reconstruct her last day and film it. Helen, a reserved girl from Joy's school, volunteers to be Joys stand in. Both Joy and Helen are equally important to this film, but we know nothing about either one of them. In many ways we are discovering Helen at the same time that she is discovering herself. Some of the things Helen admits to are so painfully personal, that it invoked awkward laughs from the audience. The final scene offered a resonating punch to the gut. Tonight was the only screening of Helen. If this film comes back to town, do not miss it. Highly Recommended.


Daniel Getahun said... about Letters to the President...I'm planning to see it on Friday but that might mess with our little plan. Maybe we should go late night - we'll talk.

And I still don't know what to think about mumblecore. I don't think I've officially seen any of those, but even your description here doesn't get me too jazzed. I'll probably see it if it comes back around, though, especially since it seems to be a breakout year for the genre.

jeannette said...

I actually thought this was an extremely boring movie. Almost like water torture. It had a theme but did it have to drip into our heads in multiple ways so slowly?

Kathie Smith said...

I'm a sucker for boring. Assuming you talking about Helen, I thought there was a fare amount of tension due to where the film was going. Because we are left in the dark as far as details about Helen, there were points in the film where her motives were really unclear, and it could have easily taken the turn of over the top drama or violence. Instead she is just a teenager trying to figure things out.