Hey, wow, this is my first time being fully credentialed for a major film festival, with the lanyard and everything. I am cautiously optimistic.
My plan is to flash the lanyard often, and see lots and lots of movies. And maybe spend some evenings with Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Redford and Elijah Wood and Evan Rachel Wood (no relation), among others, because they'll all be around to receive awards. And, importantly, to absorb much wise tutelage from my colleague Michael Fox. To ask him, for instance: Hey, so, can I get in to that black-tie thingie? Should I? Do I have a journalistic responsibility to do so? How many freelance contributors of cultural commentary to public media companies do you know who own or, hell, can even afford to rent, tuxedos? Or is it all moot because I'm still not a VI enough P? Will I be shut out forever after making that crack about La Mission in a comment on your blog post?
I will also try to remember that however sceney this situation becomes, there's still no getting around the fact that most of what I'm here to do is sit in the dark for hours and not look at or talk or listen to anybody else in the room with me. This is genius. This might be what keeps civilization from completely breaking down.
Mostly I'll focus on the many virtues of the festival experience as a way of seeing movies. As a way of seeing movies, the festival experience has many virtues. Like the celebration of cinema. That's virtuous.
More specifically, it puts things in perspective. Thanks to this year's festival, I can watch Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West on the big screen, and be like, "Whoa! Everybody looks all parched and scorched and filthy and unshaven and nasty! And the landscapes! And that guy just caught a fly in the barrel of his gun! And Charles Bronson's eyes are the color of doom! And holy crap! Henry Fonda just murdered an entire family! Even the annoying little boy!" Otherwise, I could only watch it on a TV screen, and be like, "Oh yeah, I've seen this." Hell, I could even see it on my iPhone screen, and be like, "This is really boring. And I'm a tool."
Now, with this festival, as with every festival, there are logistical concerns.
First, it is spring, and some festival screenings occur during daylight hours. I know I have friends (hi Rachel) who object to seeing movies under such circumstances. It's true that you can't go sit in the park with a movie the way you would with a book -- well, you can, with your iPhone, if you want to be like that -- but such is just the glorious nature of the medium. Besides, these aren't mere movies. They're films, dammit. My having called them movies a few paragraphs ago means nothing now. What if they could change your life? OK, some of them are only mere movies and won't change your life. But as windows into and mirrors of the human condition, maybe -- for a short while, at least -- they contain all the natural light and heat you need. Just give it a try, and when the festival's over you can go right on exposing yourself to the huge carcinogenic ball of fire in the sky.
Second, even allowing for pre-sunset showtimes, the schedule can be a bear. A golden bear, perhaps, but still. I do realize that the festival's programmers have painstakingly designed its schedule to maximize flexibility. There's so much flexibility, actually, that my mind reels with all the variables.
For instance: If I want to see, say, the restored print of John Cassavetes' A Woman Under the Influence at the Castro on the evening of Sunday, April 26, I won't be able to see the latest film by the brilliantly challenging British visual theorist Peter Greenaway, Rembrandt's J'Accuse, at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive that same evening. So OK, maybe Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk in a vastly influential masterpiece of naturalistic '70s-style marital disintegration are better suited to a Sunday evening. And of course there'll be two more chances to see Greenaway's restaging of a famous painting to interrogate its characters about 17th-century Amsterdam on the following Monday and Tuesday.
Problem solved, right? Well, except that Monday's also the night for Tulpan, that intriguing multinational production about a sheep herder in Kazakhstan whose big ears make it hard for him to get a girlfriend, not to mention My Neighbor, My Killer, the documentary about Rwanda's genocide; and Tuesday is when the PFA screens a new print of Antonioni's classic 1955 desperate-housewives drama Le Amiche.
And this is all assuming I don't have anything better to do than haunt the film festival. OK, it's true, I don't.
Now, certainly, your tastes will differ from mine, but the conundrum is congruent. Maybe for you it's a toss-up between, say, California Company Town, Lee Anne Schmitt's possibly strident Didionesque documentary-essay rumination on various Golden State burgs whose founding industries have abandoned them, and 500 Days of Summer, a festival centerpiece starring the unlimitedly talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the yummy indie-pixie-du-jour Zooey Deschanel. Actually, yeah, I want to see both of those too. When are you going? Let's meet up.
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