Kate: Our SIFF experience begins with the so-called "gala" screening of The Anniversary Party. Feeling like a couple of pre-teens sneaking into the prom, we bedeck ourselves in our most glamorous outfits and follow the crowds to the 5th Avenue Theatre, where we learn the truth: The prom really does suck, from the Eastside's DKNY-bag-clutching refugees to the sugar-water punch. I should've stayed home and watched Carrie.
Annie: First thing we do after finding a parking space for Kate's pumpkin--an '86 Subaru wagon in an enticing shade of maroon--is nearly trip over Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh as they prance into the 5th Avenue Theatre, entourage in tow. Who's looking down at red carpet when scouting for a path through the milling crowds? "Well, that went bloody awful," one SIFF staffer whispers seconds later. Our glamour shatters like so many glass slippers.
Kate: Annie and I spend the weekend buried in various theaters. Annie, who's been losing some hair lately, claims that the time spent in dark, stuffy interiors is slowly changing her into a naked mole rat. I reassure her that she is as hirsute as ever, but cannot help pinching my arm during Diary of a Chambermaid to make sure all my little flagella are intact. However, I could have been just trying to stay awake during this snoozer. I should've known from the blurb, which contained the words "fascism," "French," and "bourgeoisie"--three of my least favorite words, at least when not immediately preceded by the phrase "having nothing to do with" or "the fast and painful elimination of."
Annie: Kate and I discuss Sky Hook, which she enjoyed and I detested. I mean, it had a welding montage. So damning! Kate counters with Flashdance. I critique the soundtrack, bad even by '80s standards. Hybrid, a 16mm biopic about kooky kernel enthusiast Milford Beeghly, is so good it makes me want to kick the next Frankenfoods protester in the head. If all mad agricultural scientists were this fascinating, we wouldn't need artists. Props to the director, though; the stop-action anthropomorphic corn porn is super sexy.
Kate: Sexier than Ken Schram in a Target nightie.
Annie: Much. Monday, we forfeit our final chance to scope toe rings in the midst of a frenzied bongo circle at Folklife. Kate and I try to soldier on somehow.
Kate: I'm hungry, having consumed nothing for the past week but Dick's fries and Dragon Ball Z fruit snacks swiped from my sister. This situation is exacerbated by our next selection, the French film A Matter of Taste, in which the hero proclaims to his gal, "I'm your walking Prozac!" I decide this line is irresistible and implement it wherever possible, but so far no takers. I suppose the French are just more sophisticated than we clodhopping Americans in matters d'amour.
Annie: I wish Teeth weren't quite so shamelessly Freudian, but it is visceral. Watching this movie is like having the protagonist's theory of somatic memories drilled into you.
Annie: "Coded Language," a music video lecture/showcase with critic Armond White, is attended by a scattering of portly, middle-aged men, like everything else at this festival. Don't kids like music videos? White seems like an intelligent guy, but this presentation demands that the audience slobber over the selection of obscure titles rather than think about what makes the art form unique. Smells like a display of cultural capital to me. I am interested in the features of "MTV style" that are scorned by critics. Could we read rapid editing, for example, as signifying an affinity for juxtaposition and associative thinking, instead of evidence of short attention spans? I enjoy the escape from relentless narrative that these videos provide.
Kate: As a fiction writer, I should stand up for "relentless narrative," but really I just like sitting back and letting the pretty pictures wash over me. Definitely not impressed by the Q&A session following White's presentation, during which said WASPs attempt to prove they're hip by talking about the cinematic aspects of the ODB video. Rock on, you investment bankers.
Annie: L'Amour, L'Argent, L'Amour is actually not in French, which is a relief. I did learn how to say, "You are a squirt" to a superior (thanks, A Matter of Taste), but enough is enough. It's obvious that the French government pours wads of cash into the pockets of its filmmakers, and really, it makes the rest of the world feel bad. The movie is amazing, and I gloat about the streams of people who left because it was an eentsy bit longer than they expected.
Kate: And by eentsy, let me clarify: This movie is two hours and some change, contenting itself with long takes of the European countryside accompanied by soft strains of Yo La Tengo... not that I object, because surprisingly I really dig L'Amour, aside from its pretentious title. But I can see how those audience members who aren't late-night-friendly collegiate brats home for the summer might have found it easier to sneak out during these paeans to the director's music collection. Still, after some of the abysmal soundtracks we've encountered--such as the 14 different versions of the song "Lola" in 101 Reykjavík--finding this feels like that first pee in the morning.
Annie: Lukas Moodysson's Together is not quite as effective as Show Me Love, and Moodysson is still fixated upon his zoom lens, but the film definitely deserves American distribution.
Kate: I go into My First Mister expecting--well, not what I get. Lured by the eternally adorable Leelee Sobieski playing a real honest-to-goodness goth, I am horrified to find myself dissolved into tears by this relentlessly lugubrious film. I then must leave the theater with red-rimmed eyes and stand in line behind a passel of impeccably dressed gay men waiting for Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Annie: Who evidently have no sense of humor. It's like we're the only ones laughing in the whole theater--a tragic reception for such inspired sequences as the Gummi Bear orgy. I sing, "Come on, sugar daddy, take me home" all the way to the car. Kate obliges.