LA Film Festival Mini Reviews

Reviewed by Richard Feilden.  Viewed at the LA Film Festival

Momma’s Man (Jacobs, 2008): USA

Momma’s Man is an odd peek into the life of a man unable to face the responsibilities that life has presented him.  He returns to the womb, seeking solace in the claustrophobic spaces in his artist parent’s apartment.  There he rediscovers letters from old lovers, his guitar and the ephemera of his childhood, all whilst his wife struggles to cope with the absence of her husband and the pressure of raising their newborn child.  Cleverly shot to take advantage of the Aladdin’s cave his parents inhabit, the film tries, and almost succeeds, in making us fall for an unlikable protagonist.

Fear(s) of the Dark (Blutch, Cailou, Sciullo, Kramski, Mattotti, McGuire, Pirus, Slocombe,

2007): France

Fear(s) of the Dark is an animated feature, consisting of short stories from different directors and illustrators, linked by fear.  Rather than allow each to run its course, they cut in and out of each other in a sometimes fluid, other times jarring fashion.  Whilst all beautiful in their own way, some seem far more complete than others, with one or two feeling either unfinished or without any point to them.  This is interesting to watch, but an uneven mix.

Big Heart City (Rodkin, 2008): USA

Big Heart City was another highlight of the festival for me.  The tale of a man so accustomed to lying that he finds it impossible to be honest with himself, creating a delusional shell to shield himself from his past and the betrayal he finds in his present.  A wonderful lead performance from Shawn Andrews and a story which refusal to give the audience an easy Hollywood ending lift this film above most others in the festival.

Medicine for Melancholy (Jenkins, 2008): USA

Medicine for Melancholy recounts a series of conversations between Micah and Jo after a drunken one night stand.  Both are African American and Micah resents the fact that Jo is involved with a white man.  Where she sees no color, he believes people should ‘stick to their own kind’.  Whilst his arguments are disturbing and often nonsensical (you wonder what his solution to his complaint that only 7% of San Francisco is black could be), it seems that he wins most of their fights with her arguments coming down to ‘You’re wrong’.  A beautiful, but disturbing, film.

Choke (Gregg, 2008): USA

Choke is adapted from a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, whose earlier novel gave us Fight Club.  Effortlessly funny, whilst also touching and revolting by turn, we follow the world of Victor (Sam Rockwell), a sex addict with a delusional mother, compulsory masturbator for a best friend and a rather unsettling object of his desires, who happens to be his mothers Doctor.  Knocking holes as it does in our gratification fuelled society, look for this film to gain the cult following that is heartily deserves.

Prince of Broadway (Baker, 2008): USA

Prince of Broadway follows street hustler and illegal immigrant Lucky as his world of knock off Gucci and Nike comes crashing down about his ears when a long missing ex-girlfriend drops an eighteen month old baby in his lap and disappears.  Improvised and shot in a tight, claustrophobic style the film is mostly effective, but some of the relationships don’t ring true, such as the one between Lucky and his girlfriend.  Not a bad film, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Mirageman (Espinoza, 2007): Chile

Mirageman is listed as a ‘guilty pleasure’ at the festival but I cannot subscribe to this label – I refuse to feel guilty! Writer/director Espinoza combines the origin story from Batman with a healthy dose of Bruce Lee martial arts and lashings of 70s kitsch straight from the TV version of Spider-Man. We get costume-creation montages, innumerable anonymous opponents and scathing attacks by the media, lovingly rolled together into a fun-filled ninety minutes. It isn’t high-brow and it won’t change the world, but if you’re feeling beaten down by serious festival fare, Mirageman might just be able to save you.

Must Read After My Death (Tews, 2008): USA

Must Read After My Death, from director Morgan Dews, is a Tarnation-esque reconstruction of a dysfunctional family, although created from found crackly audio and film created by the director’s grandparents, rather than himself.  Allis, Charlie and their children are caught in a maelstrom of modernity and classic human weakness, from their open sexual relationship and overzealous, unqualified psychoanalysis to alcoholism and marital violence.  The film feels slightly long, dragging as it charts each turn in their spiraling descent, and the subtitles need to be expanded, but the family’s candor in their recordings offers up a road-kill fascination.

HottieBoombaLottie (Packard, 2008): USA

HottieBoombaLottie, from fledgling writer, director and star Seth Packard, tells the familiar tale of a nerd student trying to get the girl.  With the protagonist carrying around a life size cardboard cut-out of his heart’s desire, the film lies somewhere between The Breakfast Club and Lars and the Real Girl, with some of the former’s charm, but none of the latter’s depth.  The storyline holds few surprises and you’ll see the ending coming a mile away, but the visuals are well constructed, with Packard’s decision to storyboard paying off.  There’s nothing new here, but what there is, is done well.

I’ll Come Running (Parsons, 2008): Denmark/USA

I’ll Come Running, is an American/Danish film from US director Spencer Parsons.  It charts the fallout from the chance meeting of a Danish tourist and an American waitress, leaving its characters flailing across continents, languages and the truth.  The story has an interesting, Hitchcockian twist and strong performances from its leads, particularly Christian Tafdrup and Melonie Diaz, but the cinematography and editing leave it with a ‘made for TV’ feel and some of the supporting performances are overwrought and unconvincing.

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