The film festival is starting to get surreal. For example, yesterday I had a conversation with Harry Knowles about what it would take to shove mud up our respective asses (though, in our defense, this conversation was completely relevant to the subject of film).
But the movies keep on falling into my eyeballs!
Dir. Jeremy Saulnier
Keep an eye out for this one. Blue Ruin is an excellent vengeance thriller, centered around a homeless man whose parents were killed by an affluent family of rednecks. The performances are great, the story is engaging, and the script is tense, sprinkled with welcome moments of levity. It’s really, really good.
Dir. Bard Breien
This Norwegian film is a modern noir-comedy, starring a young man with Downs Syndrome. If that premise sets your instincts on alert, it should; however, I was impressed that Detektiv Downs threaded the needle. The film acknowledges the main character’s handicap without ever exploiting it or making fun. The result is a gently amusing — if a bit light — Sam Spade-style tale, where our titular character uses his empathy to solve cases. Worth a look.
Dir. Derek Lee and Cliff Prowse
I know found footage films get a bad rap these days, because usually the format is used as a cheap crutch. However, it’s just a tool in the cinematic toolbox. There are some recent films, like [REC] and Chronicle, that use the format to its fullest.
Afflicted is another one. This film has pretty much the same first half as Chronicle, except where it applies found footage to the horror genre instead of superhero genre. Yet after the first half’s predictability, the second half delivers genuine suspense. I was quite impressed.
Dir. Eugenio Mira
I remember reading an interview with Alfred Hitchcock, where he explained just how silly some of the premises and scenes in his films are. Yet they work because the skill of the storytelling is so strong that the audience doesn’t care.
Grand Piano is the epitome of that discussion. The core premise is silly when you think about it — a piano player forced to play a concert flawlessly at gunpoint, for reasons divulged later. Yet the film is so taut and dazzling in its execution, it works.
Elijah Wood is great as the piano player (though I was personally distracted because I see him in person 2-3 times per year, and it’s weird to see people you know in such roles). However, the real star of the film is the sound design, which, coupled with De Palma-caliber stunt shots, drives the suspense and the story forward with the precision of a Swiss watch. It’s not a terribly naturalistic film, but it’s a dazzling construction. Incredibly impressive.