Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Thursday, October 26, 2006

MIFF: Best in Show short program

The selection committee of the Milwaukee International Film Festival saw 1400 short films and made a best in show program out of the ten they liked best. All were solid, some much better than others, and here are my two favorites.

My Dad is 100 Years Old (Guy Maddin, 2005)

I am a Guy Maddin devotee, I absolutely love all his work that I have seen. So I was very excited to see his latest movie, a collaboration with (and written by) Isabella Rossellini about her father, Roberto, who would have been 100 years old this year. In it, Isabella discusses the politics of her father's films, not the films themselves, but the neo-realist form that they announced to the world. She (pretty brilliantly) plays Hitchcock, Selznick, Fellini, and an angelic Chaplin, along with her mother, Ingrid Bergman, in a scene that was so incredibly moving. Rossellini talks to her mother's image, projected onto a screen 10 times as tall as Rossellini, as if talking to her mother's public persona. Roberto Rossellini is portrayed by a big belly, as Isabella said in the beginning of the film that that was the part of her father she loved most as a child. As both a love letter to her father (she describes how devastated she was when he died in 1977) and an essay on his films, it is incredibly well-written and beautiful, especially as rendered in the Maddin style. A very funny moment in the film (16 minutes long) came when Maddin pulls the camera away from Rossellini, into the sky, and Isabella commands him to pull it back, focus on her face, and stop those cinematic techniques her dad found so pretentious. All of this is lovely, but it is Isabella's last monologue, where she says, "I don't know if my dad was a genius. I do know I love him," that made me tear up. Very worth seeing.

Five Minutes, Mr. Welles (Vincent D'Onofrio, 2005)

No film has had such an immediate, visceral effect on me recently as Vincent D'Onofrio's directorial debut, Five Minutes, Mr. Welles. I remembered how much I liked D'Onofrio's brief turn as Welles in Ed Wood, and Welles is one of my top directors of all time (with The Third Man probably in my top 20 films oat), so I was very excited to see this. I was definitely not disappointed. D'Onofrio plays a frustrated Welles, rehearsing his lines as Harry Lime, even though it's a part he only took to finance his production of Othello. Janine Theriault plays Catherine, his assistant whose job it is to keep him on track, an increasingly difficult one as, in one hilarious instance, Welles attempts to jump out the window when called to the set. Catherine won't lie to the studio for him, Welles is frustrated with his lines and wants to write more/new ones, even though he can't remember the ones he already has. D'Onofrio coyly refers to Welles' future eating problems, as when he gets particularly upset, he pulls out the pistachio ice cream. But apart from being a genuinely entertaining little movie about a great artist in crisis, it really speaks to the nature of trying to be an artist in the Hollywood system and of integrity versus the need for money. After seeing this, I had a greater respect for Welles, even though his behavior is downright childish at times, and after researching him a little when getting home, found the amount of things Welles, a self-described genius, had to go through to make moves he wanted to. As Catherine tells him in the film, he started from the very top and worked his way down. Welles tries to argue that what Citizen Kane lost in revenue, it gained in something much more important, but no one in the studio system was buying this at that time. The scene where Welles has a tantrum and falls on the ground and finally remembers his line (showing how brilliant he really is when he puts his mind to it), is in my top ten film moments of all time.

After seeing this film, it made me really want to go home and write something, and also to reevaluate Welles' films in the context of a frustrated artist. A really entertaining, great portrayal of a great, great filmmaker.


Other good shorts included The Shovel (a brisk, taut thriller starring David Straitharn) and Bawke, a tragic tale of a refugee man and his young son.

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Comments on "MIFF: Best in Show short program"


Blogger Jenna said ... (6:55 AM) : 

OOOooooooh I've so wanted to see Five Minutes, Mr. Welles. Lucky lucky. Also, speaking of Maddin/Rossellini, I assume you know about this?


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