LA Film Fest 2011: Day 9 (Saturday)

Well, I was doing so well at getting these out on a fairly regular schedule, and then the festival actually ended and I lost all motivation. But I don’t want to leave the last two days hanging, so I’ll try to finish these up and get them posted rather quickly. After a week of working plus festivalling, it was wonderful to get to sleep in on Saturday morning; the first screening of the day wasn’t until 1:30, leaving a nice leisurely morning to recover a bit from the week. But then I’d gotten used to the lighter attendance during the week, and ended up further back in line for every screening on Saturday than I wanted. Ah, well. I still got into everything fine, so I can’t really complain.

First up was Disney’s new version of Winnie the Pooh, and it was only the second screening of the festival (that I went to, anyway), that was doing a bag search and checking computers/cameras. They did leave us cellphones (Drive did not), but still. I get why big studios like Disney are paranoid about their films leaking, but it was still kind of annoying. I’ve successfully managed not to pirate 24 other films at the festival, most of which will be lots harder to come by in the future and thus more ripe for pirating. Anyway. The film was delightful, an extremely faithful hand-drawn throwback to the original Winnie the Pooh shorts, even down to the live-action opening with the narrator telling us about Christopher Robin’s stuffed animals and their adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods. The story is largely a combination of finding Eeyore’s lost tail and trying to capture the monstrous Backson (which they believe has kidnapped Christopher Robin), both well-worn in the Pooh universe, but woven together really well here. The film is explicitly literary, with the characters interacting with the narrator and the very words on the book’s page as the narrator reads it – I love this sort of thing, so I was enamoured right the way through. The humor is warm and gentle, and in every way, this is a film I’d 100% rather see and take my kids to (if I had kids) than most of the animated fare out these days, Pixar notwithstanding. I do so hope Winnie the Pooh does well when it comes out in a couple of weeks, so we get more movies like it from Disney in the future.

After a refreshing iced coffee and stroll around LA Live in some rare between-screening down time, I headed in to see Miranda July’s new film The Future. July is well-known in a certain corner of the artistic community for her quirky and thoughtful, if sometimes a bit twee, outlook expressed in many art forms from feature and short films to short stories and essays to performance art and experimental albums. This is only her second feature film, following 2005’s You and Me and Everyone We Know, which I liked but wasn’t totally won over by, so I came into The Future interested but not set on loving it. I actually liked it more than You and Me and Everyone We Know, but not everyone will. First off, it’s narrated by a cat (voiced by July) that couple July and Hamish Linklater rescue and take to the vet with a broken paw. The prospect of adopting the cat in exactly 30 days (after the paw heals and before the hospital euthanizes her) sends the couple into an existential crisis, thinking about how much they wanted to accomplish by this point in their lives and haven’t. So they quit everything and try to make this 30 days count. Meanwhile, the cat pops in with narration every once in a while looking forward to the prospect of being adopted and not living on the street anymore. The voiceover will be VERY grating for many, and I found it the weakest part of the film (though I did like the content of the voiceover by and large). The fact that something so simple as adopting a cat would cause so many repercussions in these people’s lives seems a bit unbelievable, but it works in the film, and so do the faint sci-fi elements. But there were some plot elements that I didn’t quite believe, like the major conflict of July’s character’s affair with another man. By and large, I enjoyed the film and thought July’s sensibility carried it off quite well, but like You and Me and Everyone We Know, there were a few elements that just didn’t sit quite right with me.

Despite finding it really interesting, I had to leave Miranda July’s Q&A session in the middle to try to obtain a good spot in line for Mysteries of Lisbon, my marathon film of the festival. Clocking in at 4 hours and 17 minutes (thankfully they did include an intermission), the film presented a challenge to me I just couldn’t pass up. I did want a seat behind the railing, though, which allows for putting your feet up and increasing the comfort level by roughly 63%. Alas, the guy in line right in front of me snapped up the last of the railing seats. DRAT. I still managed through okay, though, and even though I will admit to drifting into a bit of a stupor a few times, the film remained intriguing throughout the epic run time. Directed by Chilean expat Raul Ruiz, now working in Europe, the film is based on an epic Portuguese novel that follows a fatherless boy in a parish school, but tangents off frequently into lengthy related stories – such as how his mother and father met and were driven apart, how the priest who cares for him came to be a priest, and even about the neighboring nobleman who intersects with his life a few times. Well, the stories seem tangential but actually intertwine quite closely and ingeniously. The fact that you’re actually watching several interrelated stories of many different characters makes the running time not quite so much of a burden, and then the ending will have you wondering about everything you just saw. It’s paced fairly slowly, but gives a languid sense of the setting and society of the 19th century – that plus the length give plenty of time to maneuver around all the different characters and their different personas throughout the multiple storylines. It’s a masterwork of narrative structure, and I definitely want to revisit it to get nuances I missed when zoning out here and there.

Nine days down, one to go. Twenty-three films down, two to go.