Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mind Wanders, Eyes Close, Feet Walk

I've been posting like crazy for a week now and I've cut my backlog to single digits. 

Sometimes I see a film I don't like.  It happens less frequently than one would think given how many films I see.  When this happens, my mind usually wanders.  Sometimes I'll go to sleep.  On rare occasions, I walk out.  Since I paid admission, I usually feel I that I should stay for the entire screening.

Strange Illusions starring James Lydon; directed by Edgar G. Ulmer; (1945)
The Day He Arrives; directed by  Hong Sang-soo; Korean with subtitles; (2011) - Official Website
Khrustalyov, My Car!; directed by Aleksei Guerman; Russian with subtitles; (1998)

Strange Illusions was part of PFA series called Dark Past: Film Noir by German Emigrés which was an eight films series in March & April.  Cinequest and the SF Asian American Film Festival conflicted with several of the films.  I only saw one film in the series.  I had previously seen three of the other films in the series including one of my favorites noirs - Criss Cross with Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo. 

The film I most regret missing from the PFA series is Dark City which was Charlton Heston's debut film.  I chose to see the Mark of Zorro at the Stanford Theater that evening.  Dennis James (who is to the Stanford Wurlitzer what Judith Rosenberg is to the PFA piano) accompanied the film.  Although I don't regret seeing Mr. James accompaniment nor the film, if I had known James and Mark of Zorro would team up again at the 2012 San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I would have skipped the April screening at the Stanford.  Mark of Zorro screens at 10 AM on Sunday, July 15 at the Castro Theater.

The Day He Arrives played at the 2012 San Francisco International Film Festival and then opened for a one week run at the Viz/FSC.

Khrustalyov, My Car! played at the YBCA as part of a series of Aleksei Guerman films in May.  The PFA is hosting its own series of Guerman films from July 29 to August 23 and they're spelling his name Alexei (IMDB spells it Alexsey German).  Khrustalyov, My Car! screens at the PFA on August 18.


Strange Illusions is about Paul, a young man who comes home from college (or maybe prep school).  He finds his widowed mother has taken up with a debonair man and is hinting about marriage.  Paul is an amateur sleuth, picking up his late father's hobby.  Speaking of which, Paul's father died under suspicious circumstances.  For some reason I cannot recall, Paul suspects his mother's fiancé is involved in his father's death (i.e. murder).  Paul follows the trail to a charlatan psychiatrist and voluntarily commits himself to his mental asylum to solve the crime.  Too much plot by a half and actors not up to the task left me struggling to maintain interest and follow the story.  I stayed awake for the entire film but wasn't too impressed.

If Strange Illusions had too much plot by a half then The Day He Arrives had too much plot by 150%.  I'm not sure how much of my confusion was due to the plot, how much was lost in translation and how much was a result of my dozing off.  Director Hong Sang-soo repeats scenes with variations so that the story is not only non-linear but more of a decision tree.  The plot features a film director who is creatively blocked.  He returns to his university town and encounters various people from his past.  Beyond that, I cannot recall.  I think I slept through about 15% of the film; I don't know if that enhanced or detracted from the experience.

Khrustalyov, My Car! was indecipherable.  Nominally about the "Doctor's Plot" or a Soviet plan to persecute Jewish doctors, the film was beyond my comprehension.  It was like a Tolstoy novel - exceedingly long, full of details and characters that were hard to keep track of, difficult to understand what was taking place but lacking a CliffsNotes guide and without an instructor forcing me to finish it.  Running nearly 150 minutes, I bailed out after 80 to see a noir double feature at the Roxie.  I can't recall the last time I walked out of a film.  I'm not sure I would have if the I Wake Up Dreaming series wasn't running at the Roxie.

No comments: