BIFF 2012 - Day 11

The Fast and the Furry-Ous (US)

My final compendium of Chuck Jones cartoons.  Some are repeats from elsewhere so I've left them out.

The Ducksters (7.5/10, Daffy plays radio quiz show host, repeatedly requiring contestant Porky Pig to 'pay the penalty' for not answering the stupidly difficult questions.) Mouse Wreckers (7.5/10 - where Hubie and Bertie first meet Claude the cat and wreak psychological havoc on him as he sleeps to try and get him out of the house.) Frigid Hare (7/10 sees Bugs again fail to turn left at Albuquerque and finds himself in the Antarctic instead of Miami beach just in time to save a cute penguin from an Eskimo hunter.)  There They Go-Go-Go (7/10 - another Road Runner feature well into the franchise, with the usual assortment of explosive gags.) and Rabbit Seasoning (8/10, a continuation of Rabbit Fire, where Bugs and Daffy debate which season it is, with Bugs always coming out on top thanks to some great wordplay)

Kevin Brownlow: The Birth of Widescreen

Thanks to some last minute shifting about of films I ended up with a free slot here, and since I hadn't managed to fit any in (in thanks partly to the strange decision not to allow the Cinerama features to be included in the BIFF pass).  It is by scheduling convenience rather than choice that I got to see a live talk by film historian and sometime director Kevin Brownlow on the subject of early attempts at widescreen cinema, an art form we take for granted now, but struggled with technical difficulties, viewer indifference and a massive girth of formats during the formative years in the late 19th Century.  Standard 35mm 4:3 ratio films would remain in vogue for a half century until slowly it began to pick up.  An early widescreen attempt, the Triptych, must have been particularly impressive; for the few films that supported it, the standard 4:3 central screen would be joined for the finale of the film by two more, either side to give a panoramic experience.  But the scratchy, silent examples we were treated to (on a reduced format, standard widescreen rather than via the Cinerama experience) were out of sync and did not properly match up, thanks to the odd design of the recording equipment, with three cameras mounted clumsily on top of each other.

The talk was quite interesting, although hard-going when you are unfamiliar with the names and concepts and for the most part you were hearing a talk rather than seeing actual film.  For an event that was part of the Cinerama experience, it would have been nice to actually have some examples of panoramic cinema as well but the curtains stayed closed.  I might track down some of his documentaries sometime. 6/10

One Smart Indian (US) - A simple tale set in the ether between bouts of inspiration.  An author in advancing years suffers writers block, bringing into focus the things around him that would otherwise be neglected, such as his now distant daughter. 7/10

The Color Wheel (US) (indiewire)

Brother and sister Colin and JR squabble and fight whenever they are together, and their frantic back and forth of deadpan put-downs fills the air.  So when JR calls on a favour for Colin to help her move out after breaking up with a professor she had a fling with, which involves a couple of days drive to the city and back, it's going to have plenty of banter.  Reserved younger brother Colin feigns hatred of JR's free, immature spirit and can sympathize when the rest of the family don't invite her, but deep down it's clear that he wishes he was more like her; as brother and sister they have a very close bond that allows nobody else near.

I really enjoyed the back and forth of the leading characters.  While the banter felt a little reconstituted it was nevertheless pretty sharp and often funny.  It would have been a pretty damn good black comedy from an aspiring director if it kept to that, but the rather shock ending felt completely disjointed and out of place with the rest of the film which spoilt things a bit. 7/10

Decapoda Shock (Spa) - A stupid-funny short from Spain in the style of such Japanese WTF-ery as Executive Koala.  An astronaut hurries back from Mars having turned into a crab.  With the help of some epileptic imagery and some zoomy-inny-outy tricks he needs to solve the mystery of his missing family and some satanic scientists on his tail.  Completely daft, but it's difficult not to smile. 7/10

Livid (Fra) (wiki)

I know the French can do a good thriller (Point Blank is an excellent example) but I'm not aware of their horror movie output.  In a remote French coastal town young Lucie takes an assistants role with the local care nurse as she does the rounds of the local elderly.  The nervous look in their faces and the missing children signs littering the streets bode for something bad coming, and when they finally arrive at the dilapidated mansion house of the town's scary old woman, whose life consists of an oxygen mask and a bed, she is keen to get out of there as soon as possible.  But rumours of the old lady's hidden treasure somewhere in the myriad of rooms catches her ear.

Will, her boyfriend smells a way out of his unimpressive fisherman's job and has no scruples about breaking in with his friend, which Lucie finally comes round to, so long as they are careful.  But the house is big and full of dusty, locked rooms with who knows what in them, and that old woman is more animated than she is letting on.

Starting slowly, Livid builds up the tensions until the half-way point when things quickly get violent and bloody, evoking a Hammer-style film with lots of low-budget scares and a few buckets of blood.  It could have gone all Scooby Doo with a big old mansion but it managed to keep the action lean and trim and didn't drag or become repetitive.  A good choice for a bloodthirsty horror nut. 7.5/10

Samsara (US) (site)

There is a strand of film called non-narrative; these are films with no plot as such, and are usually just the director showing you a series of scenes.  Yesterdays rubbish Voluptuous Sleep was one example, but perhaps the most well-known are the Qatsi trilogy of films, which Samsara director Ron Fricke worked on as well.  Samsara, and it's predecessor Baraka are both very similar to the Qatsi films, and this is neither a bad thing nor a coincidence.

The subject matter is similar, exploring the beautiful imagery of nature and humanity; their successes and failures, and how they behave and co-exist as seen from a high vantage point.  The major difference here is that Samsara is filmed on cutting edge high definition film, meaning it is about as crystal clear, as beautifully real as you could ever expect from flat film.

A low-res trailer just can't do it justice.  Samsara is serene, occasionally humorous, bizarre and discomforting, but always a hypnotically beautiful exploration of the world and while it weighs in at approaching 2 hours, when it's up on the screen in front of you hitting your eyes and ears with it's astonishing beauty, this will seem brief.  Despite a lack of a traditional narrative, some may criticise Fricke for some slightly heavy-handed messages about consumerism, violence and the modern disconnection but this is life, and it is presented without comment before us, and we have to recognise the problems and make the connections. 8.5/10

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