Good Morning to the World (2010)
The young age of this first time director (23-years-old) is just one thing that makes Good Morning to the World impressive. Although Hirohara Saturo is obviously using a level of production available to him, he is nonetheless able to tap out a unique form to a familiar story. Takahashi is a teenager who is at the age where he would be rebelling against his parents. That is, if his parents were around. Takahashi lives with his mother, but her presence is minimal. He seem not only apathetic about the situation, but also quite comfortable. His curiosity about the world, however, is a task that he takes on himself with a naive voyeurism. When he finds some clues about a dead homeless man, he decides to blindly investigate. What he discovers on his journey is his own limitations and failings, both mentally and emotionally. Takahashi is played by actor Koizumi Yoichiro and portrayed by director Hirohara with nary a sign of self-consciousness or ironic cynicism. The honesty and confidence of this first feature caught the eye of the Dragons & Tigers jury and was given the Award for Young Cinema for this year's festival. Good Morning to the World has technical limitations but is an incredible creative achievement for the young crew.
Surviving Life (2010)
I've been a Svankmajer fan since I saw Alice in 1989 at the Tivoli Theater in Kansas City. My dedication was sealed with Little Otik, but recent years with Svankmajer have been rough going. His 2005 Lunacy was a painful study in cynicism and misanthropy that couldn't even be saved by his imaginative animation. Surviving Life doesn't fair too much better. Full of academic nods and winks, the film follows Eugene down an Oedopal spiral of addictive dreams and suppressed memories. It is tedious, to say the least. Unfortunately, it is made worse by Svankmajer's own preamble in the film: an apology (also full of nods and winks) that the lack of a budget requires animating photographs rather than hiring actors. I love the look of the film, full of Svankmajer's trademark weirdness and animation, and regret that the filmmaker finds it necessary to make excuses for it.
The Strange Case of Angelica (2010)
Manoel de Oliveira
It feels unfair to write about a filmmaker with such a wide oeuvre without having much grounding in it, but that's the way it goes.The first thing to reconcile with the fastidiously shot The Strange Case of Angelica is that director, Manoel de Oliveira, will soon turn 102. The second is the film's unnerving and timeless beauty that feels almost fragile. Isaac (played by de Oliveira's grandson Ricardo Trepa) is a young photographer who is urgently called to a wealthy estate to take one last photograph of the recently passed young Angelica. Angelica and the image she renders in the camera haunt Isaac into insomnia and obsession. The Strange Case of Angelica is an homage to the art of the photograph. Entirely made up of still camera work, it explores classic composition with unsettling elegance. A touch of the supernatural comes off a little sophomoric, but it is minor compared to the exquisite bulk of this film.
L.A. Zombie (2010)
Let me just say it: L.A. Zombie, infamously banned and ostracized, is getting way too much attention. Without a doubt, it has been the worst 63 minutes of the Festival and I really can't imagine why this is getting programmed around the globe. It's only as subversive or interesting as seeing a porn at a major film festival. We watch a hulked up zombie man walk around L.A. sticking his Zombie stuff into dead people's newly formed holes. This magical experience resurrects the corpse every time and then zombie man moves on and does it again. Overly conscious of its poor craft, L.A. Zombie is a ridiculous exercise of genre bending and an even more ridiculous exercise for the audience. Midnight movie experience over.