LA Film Fest: Day Four (Monday)

And so begins five days of rushing to the festival after a full day at work. I can do without sleep for a week, right? I mean, I’ll just catch up later, right? Probably not. But whatever, I’m going all out on this. To be fair, Monday actually wasn’t a rushing day because there wasn’t anything in the 4:00 timeslot I particularly wanted to see, so I had plenty of time to grab dinner and spend some time poring over my Innkeepers review before my first screening at 7:20. Thanks to the LAFF volunteers for leaving me alone sitting by the wall and writing until the queues started forming. Seriously, though, there are like 700 volunteers for this thing, and they’re great – any time I have a question about when and where something’s going on, there’s a white or yellow volunteer shirt within five feet and so far they always know the answer.

Monday night was a foreign-only night for me, starting off with Peru’s The Bad Intentions. This film caught my eye with the festival guide describing it as a black comedy about a nine-year-old girl who’s convinced that she’ll die as soon as her baby brother is born, and the morbid ways she acts out in rebellion to the idea of no longer being an only child. Meanwhile, it’s 1982 and revolutionary groups are wreaking havoc in Lima (a background plot point that would benefit from me knowing more about Peruvian history, but the interactions with the main plot are clear enough for the most part). The film is very darkly funny, especially for the first two thirds or so, thanks to the sardonic script and solid performance from the young unknown playing Cayetana with world-weary innocence. She’s obsessed with Peruvian heroes who died in battle, and with death itself – something she’s clearly just starting to figure out, and her combination of matter-of-factness and naivete is refreshing. The last third of the movie delves a bit into surrealism, as the threat of her brother’s birth looms nearer and she dreams visions of the historical heroes. The turn didn’t totally work for me, but the film is still really solid, evoking a bit of The Spirit of the Beehive in terms of the little girl coming into contact to death, and here, birth, and working to make sense of it within her childish framework. Director Rosario Garcia-Montero mentioned Cria Cuervos, another Spanish film starring Spirit of the Beehive actress Ana Torrent, as a definite influence – it’s been on my list for a while, so I’ll probably knock it up to the top of my Netflix queue next.

Then I hopped straight into Haunters, a Korean supernatural action thriller about a man, dependent on a prosthetic leg and surviving an abusive childhood, who can control anyone within his sight and make them do what he wants. It’s Cho-in’s one source of power against a world that has cast him out. But when he robs a financier’s office, Cho-in finds himself face to face with Kyu-nam, the one man that can resist his control, setting these two into a power struggle as Kyu-nam takes it on himself to stop Cho-in. It’s a fairly modest production (the first feature for director Min-suk Kim, who co-wrote The Good, the Bad, the Weird and also worked on The Host), focusing on a few set-pieces and the psychological struggle between the two. Blending tones the way only Korean films seem to be able to do, it isn’t quite as ambitious as the films I just mentioned, but makes the most of its scale and has a pretty interesting (if a bit Unbreakable-ish) take on the situation. Plus it’s pretty much non-stop fun to watch, once it really gets going.

That’s it for Monday. The rest of this week, I should be catching three films a day and hopefully having to write full reviews of some of them! Once I write reviews of these on Row Three, as I plan to, I’ll add the links to this post. Four days down, six to go. Nine films down, sixteen to go.