It ain't easy being Siamese twins, as you can see in two films this year (the perfect "double" double feature?): Twin Falls Idaho concerns Blake and Francis Falls, celebrating their eventual death with cake and a prostitute, but when the prostitute begins to care not only for them but about them, love, longing, and separation anxiety emerges. Of Freaks and Men is a brilliant Russian film featuring Siamese twins in a supporting role, and their fate is equally clouded. The film establishes its setting (the late '20s/early '30s) by imitating the film style of the era, with sepia tones and plenty of inter-titles. The story itself is kind of nasty, about abusive pornographers who invade two solid, upper-middle-class homes, but I must say the style is electrifying.
Speaking of nasty stories with electrifying styles, I Stand Alone was hands-down my favorite film of the Toronto International Film Festival, and now it arrives here to entertain and offend polite Seattle audiences. Basically, a misanthropic butcher goes insane, and we're put inside his head as it happens. Speaking of insanity and violence, the new Emir Kustirica film, Black Cat, White Cat, is showing this week (not to be confused with The Powder Keg, also from "the former Yugoslavia"). And seeing how the Russian films have been outstanding this year, I'll recommend The Iron Heel of the Oligarchy knowing precious little about it, but trusting in the former U.S.S.R.'s filmmakers.
This week boasts two superb documentaries: Living Museum and Hitchcock, Selznick and the End of Hollywood. The title of the Hitchcock and Selznick documentary, however, is a bit misleading. It's not at all about the "end of Hollywood" (that can only happen if the "big one" sinks L.A. into the Pacific), but about the transition of one mode of producing films (producer-centered), to another (director-centered).
A quick point: Josef Rusnak, the director of The Thirteenth Floor, says he believes that the director era which climaxed with "American New Cinema" in the '70s is now over; Hollywood has returned to the producer-king mode. While L.A. is preoccupied with the next "order of things," New York City has produced a documentary about "madness and civilization." The Living Museum is about art produced by people who are classified as insane by the U.S. government. And, well, what can I say? The government is right this time: these people are insane, but they do produce decent art.
If you want to see some more insanity this week, then you must watch François Ozon's See the Sea. Ozon also has a new film called Sitcom, which I'm sure will be great. Other films of note are Tokyo Eyes, which features a cameo by the great Beat Takeshi, and the stylishly Russian Of Freaks and Men.
One of the film festival's programming stunts this year is a salute to "Emerging Masters." Their list isn't bad, despite the incomprehensible inclusion of hack auteur Michael Winterbottom, but the only director they selected that I could actually see earning the praise by the end of his career is François Ozon, whose short films are as brilliantly made as anybody else's right now. His first feature, Sitcom, sounds like another triumph.
Since some of the Festival's choices have been making movies for a decade, why not include Alexei Balabanov, whose Brother (SIFF '98) was the only non-Asian gangster film worth a damn in the past decade? Of Freaks and Men would sound great even without Balabanov's impressive pedigree: Door-to-door pornographers in turn-of-the-century St. Petersburg? I'm there. Or how about Julio Medem, whose early masterpiece Vacas is being screened as a "Flashback" feature?
Hell, John Sayles hasn't fully "emerged" for me yet, though of late he does seem to finally be interested in filmmaking--as opposed to storytelling--after only a dozen or so movies. Perhaps Limbo will actually be as good as everyone tells me it is.
Gillian G. Gaar
All you regular SIFFties should feel like you're hitting your stride right about now. What catches the eye this week: John Sayles' appearance at Limbo, and it's too late if you don't already have tix (there is a second screening, sans Sayles). Two boffo docs: Hitchcock, Selznick and the End of Hollywood (self-explanatory), and a trip 'round the world in Amerikan Passport. Two pseudo-docs: Rabbit in the Moon, about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, and Beefcake, a fond look at men's "physique" mags, that mix together fact, fiction, "reflections," and "impressions" about their respective subjects. I'll give 'em a chance anyway.
The key words "junkie," "lesbian," and "boxer" are as good a reason as any to see Portland Street Blues. Chutney Popcorn's getting a lot of what's called "buzz," so that's worth checking out. And then there's The Living Museum, another doc; this one's about a gallery of art by the mentally ill. I wonder if they'd take my collages....