Bradford Film Festival 2010 - Day 9

Very Heaven (UK) - A young girl becomes complicit in the cruel bullying meted out on a boy from class. Not actively taking part but too scared to intervene, she stands there as the ringleader eggs his gang on. The first feelings of love are beginning to surface, which is only adding to her confusion. The dialogue was clunky and unnatural, but it was a good attempt at showing the cruelty of children left to work out their natural pecking order. 6.5/10

Fish Eyes (Chi/S. Kor) - Somewhere on the outskirts of a dusty, hot city in Inner Mongolia, a young man named Deshui lives with his father. With no job, he has little to do all day except eat and kick the dust about as his father works as a sunflower farmer and as a gate man for the dusty track road nearby. Naturally after some years of this, Deshui is on the lookout for ways to make a bit of cash, and his morals are slipping.

Falling in with the wrong crowd, he begins to spend less and less time at home, just as a mysterious woman appears in a medical gown. Taken in by the father and treated as the daughter he never had, she quickly becomes part of the family, although Deshui sees a more lucrative use for her feminine charms. Once he has rationalised that in his mind, it's a downhill path that will surely end up causing a lot of pain for the family.

Fish eyes is a minimalist film made on a near-zero budget. Very sparse dialogue is used to put across what cannot be described through pregnant stares and subtle gestures. What little action there is occurs out of sight of the camera, behind a closed door or reflected through a mirror. For this reason, it is easy to become frustrated with the film, although for those wishing to persevere with it, a plot is definitely present. 6/10

It Was Great, But I Was Ready to Come Home (US) (interview)

A pair of teenage girls are on a backpacking holiday through Costa Rica. Cam is confident and brash, au fait with the lingo and a keen surfer. This may however be Annie's first trip abroad, the film hinting that Cam quickly arranged this trip to get Annie away from her familiar surroundings after being dumped by her boyfriend, Matt. Things start in high spirits, with both girls talking girly things and exploring the local area (although mostly staying away from conversing with the locals unless they have to), but it's soon clear that Annie's thoughts are still back home, especially when Cam manages to pull.

There was no revelation or resolution to this film; it was instead a re-telling of a diary of a holiday in real terms. In some respects this is a good thing as it wasn't sugar coated for the viewer, but at the same time it removed some of the point of telling the story. It is a film that will resonate most with those who have been on a similar holiday of their own (I personally felt a connection to events on my Japan trip); if you have never been on one, I would suggest you will get little out of this film. 6.5/10

Freezer Fright (US) (article)

Director Nancy Silver becomes her own self-appointed Freezer Police inspector, in this massively-WTF, ultra-low-budget film shown only once elsewhere in the world. Split into chunks by neighbour, she visits them in a faux-spontaneous manner and gets them to open their freezer cabinets and show us their contents.

The first 5-10 minutes were terrible. Really bad. Chunk one was her own freezer, which instead of food contained.. ventriloquists dummies wrapped in sheets, and a paper-mache face mask. 5-10 minutes of wobblycam closeups, lifting portions of the bags for us to see a face peeking out underneath and an arm moving AS IF IT IS ALIVE, to the repetitive tones of the woman strumming her gui-tar in semi-sequence to a damned annoying bird in the trees outside.

As she went around her neighbours, who often had face masks on to protect their identity (going at odds a bit with the supposed surprise inspections), the film did improve slightly, and for a short while became a comment on the hoarding of food that is never used, and what else freezers can be used to store. But it should never have been anything more than a short film, as the concept quickly runs out of gas. Mercifully, the disc that was sent to the venue was a bit worn, and about halfway through became unwatchable because it was skipping too much, so the screening was abandoned. I will survive the loss. 4/10

Blue Bus
(US) (site)

Deep in a quiet suburb in LA, long-since retired Augie receives a present in his driveway one morning. A battered old mini VW camper, containing a note and a wooden box. The note details the death of his old friend Oliver, who left the van in his will with the express wish Augie drive it to their old city of New Orleans and open the box there. Always lamenting he and Oliver wanting to do a road trip but never getting round to it, Augie turns to neighbour and tired but comfortable businessman Joey to come with him on the journey. Eyeing the heap in his drive, he reluctantly accepts, assuming they will make it as far as the city limits before it packs out and Augie can just fly there.

So it's a buddy road movie. And actually quite a good one. Anyone who really enjoyed Sideways for its character interaction (as opposed to its flowing fallover juice) will definitely love this one. The editing and camerawork, while choppy at the beginning, improves dramatically as the film goes on (as if the director is learning as they go) and at all times the dialogue and interaction between the principal characters remains natural, as if they were given a general direction to steer the conversation in and were left to freely ad-lib however they wanted to get there. It is lifted a notch higher by some beautiful songs (some sung by Augie himself) that capture the spirit of the states they drive through and ultimately, their destination. By the end of the film we have been a part of their arguments and philosophies, their past and their hopes for the future. Surprisingly for this sort of 'what's in the box we'll find out at the end' movie it doesn't feel cheap, but actually quite memorable and touching in the way it concludes and I would happily join them on another road-trip should they make one. Plus: parrots! 7.5/10

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