Thursday, April 27, 2006

Aarhus Film Festival (part 4)


The cinema is on the east end of Paradise St and is named East Of Paradise in Danish, which is basically EAST OF EDEN - a great Steinbeck book turned into a movie with James Dean. And it’s funky. Basically some old industrial building turned into a 5 plex by gutting each room and adding cinema seats. There was this great old arthouse in Berkeley called the Rialto that was an industrial building converted into a cinema - saw hundreds of films there. Major difference was - the Rialto was a single storey building and each room was decorated with beautiful murals, and the East Of Eden is a four storey building without much in the way of decoration. But they serve hard liquor in the lobby.

It’s afer 4pm, and I’m a little worried that there won’t be room for me. Marina warned me to get my ticket early, but I forgot. It’s opening night at the festival, and I’m hoping there’s an empty seat available at the last minute. I climb the stairs to the third storey lobby and nod at one of the male festival volunteers I have met earlier. I am the first one here. I order a coffee and take a seat in the lobby bar. Eventually a few more people show up, a grand total of maybe ten. That’s it for the opening night movie!

I take my seat in the beat up old cinema seat in the converted warehouse.


The kick off film, MUTUAL APPRECIATION, is this NY indie that was crudely made... on purpose. This sort of thing kind of confuses me. Much of the film is in soft focus. The camera is hand held or on sticks - but no dolly work. No lighting, either - flat and bland lighting. Really long takes of a conversation where one of the participants is off screen. It seems faux indie. The film was almost 2 hours long, B&W (more expensive to shoot than color), and for the first 4/5ths of the film I had no idea what it was about or where it was going. Story of a young musician slacker who moves to NYC and has one lucky break after another. No sooner does he show up in town than he gets a gig at a night club! Oh, and he’s house sitting in this massive apartment!

But he's strange - and we don't understand him. When a hot DJ girl wants to sleep with him, he makes up a bunch of excuses not to. I couldn't figure out why. And I couldn't figure out why she keeps throwing herself at him after he keeps coming up with lame excuses. He's got a best friend who works as a Teaching Assistant at a college. The best friend has a girlfriend, and much of the movie is them hanging out at the apartment just talking endlessly about trivial stuff - some of which is funny in kind of a Seinfeld rip-off way (why do they make backpacks with 2 straps if everyone just uses one shoulder?). But most of the talk is just boring - about the musician needing to find a drummer for that gig that fell from the sky onto his lap. We also have his dad (on the phone) who wants him to get a real job, even though *everyone* calls him a musical genius. And some dude who grows plants - I still can't figure out what that character was doing in the movie. Eventually he finds a drummer - the hot DJ's brother. The brother plays in, like, 17 bands, but thinks the protag is a genius so he drums for him at the gig... and dad (on the phone) sends out his pal who is a groovy music mogul... and there are a bunch of girls who wear wigs at a party the protag crashes - I still don't know what hat was all about.

After everyone calls him a musical genius, we hear him play... and it’s not that good. The songs are kind of lame and don’t really have a hook. Plus, this big gig they’ve been talking about endlessly throughout the film ends up being a handful of people at a warehouse or something. Zero production value. You wonder why the groovy music mogul would show up, let lone come up to our hero after the show and confirm that he is a musical genius.... and invite our hero and the hot DJ girl and her brother back to his luxurious condo for drinks. And to offer him some sort of record deal that will make him a star overnight. So, we get maybe a half hour of endless dull conversation at the condo, including the hot DJ girl trying yet again to get our musician hero into bed... and again he says no. He’s so boring, I have no idea why she’s want him. Plus, he’s just odd. Not much of a catch for a hot DJ girl.

Aside from all of the obvious technical issues, some of which may actually be on purpose to make it seem more edgy and indie, two big problem I had with the film were the lack of establishing shots and that the characters were often hard to tell apart. There would be a scene in one typical NY apartment where the hot DJ girl is putting the moves on our hero, then cut to the Teaching Assistant best friend’s girl friend standing in the doorway talking... and talking... and talking. You wonder what she’s doing in the hot DJ girls’ apartment - do they even know each other? This film is filled with so many pointless characters and odd coincidences that maybe the girl friend *does* know the hot DJ girl. But is that person offscreen talking to the girlfriend our musician hero? After maybe 4 minutes of static-shot conversation we cut to the reverse shot... and it’s the TA best friend. Oh, this whole scene has taken place in the typical NY apartment of the TA best friend and his girl friend. No establishing shot, no way to tell where the hell you are.

A similar problem is that the TA best friend and the DJ girl’s drummer brother look exactly alike *and* wear the exact same style of glasses *and* have the exact same hair style! The only difference is that the drummer has some facial hair. So you spend part of the film wondering why the drummer is making out with the best friend’s girlfriend or why the best friend is hanging out at the groovy music mogul’s apartment. You’re always confused. Who is this guy? Where are we? Why is this shot out of focus?

Anyway, after all of these random events and confusing scenes, the musician screws his best friend's girlfriend and we have a story for about 15 minutes as they try to hide it, then sort it all out. Then the film just ends and we get a long end credit roll with *total silence* - even though the film is filled with songs that have zilch to do with the story and they could have just tossed one onto the credits. And that was another issue I had with the film - songs that mean nothing. Keith Carradine won an Oscar for "I'm Easy" from NASHVILLE, which was all about his character - a way of slyly giving us a character confession. The music could have been *used* to tell the story, but wasn't.

The remainder of the audience gets up to leave... and we’re heading to the big opening night party at this bar - about a 20-25 minute walk away.


I recognize the bar from my wandering around yesterday - it’s at the two-level section of town over the river. The handful of people from the screening are soon joined by a bunch of other folks - hey, it’s a party. Also, it starts at 7pm, after most people have gotten off work. The bar ends up kind of crowded (a good thing - maybe these people will be coming to other screenings at the festival). The party begins with a free drink (always a good thing) then there’s an opening speech... then about a dozen more speeches including one from the cultural minister - who was kind of a hippy type. He talked about Aarhus reaching out to the rest of the world in a time when Denmark is best known for offensive political cartoons. For a government guy, he was pretty anti- government. Then more speeches. Then an award for teen journalism (huh?). Then some more speeches. Do you see a problem, here?

After the speeches, I have a minute to talk to a couple of the jury members - both have heavy New York accents. One is actually from New York - he moved to Denmark many years ago and teaches short film making at the local university. The other guy is from Denmark, but learned how to speak English from watching movies - and he sounds like Woody Allen crossed with Al Pacino. No sooner do we begin our conversation that...

They show us 2 short films and 3 different trailers for the festival... with no breaks to go back to the bar in any of this. If I'm going to have to listen to speeches and watch trailers, I want to be plowed. After all of this, they bring up a "musician" - this girl with a laptop. She "plays" loud techno crap on the laptop. So loud you can not hear yourself think. I wanted to talk to some of the other people at the festival, but couldn't. So I left the party, walked 20-25 minutes across town to my hotel and did some work on the computer before falling asleep.

Tomorrow my consults begin at noon and run until 6pm! Guess I’ll be missing the afternoon screenings!

- Bill


pwstrain said...

I'm glad you're finding time to blog, with your no time to blog. Fascinating stuff, please keep it up!
Movies like the one you described infuriate me. Cinema should entertain, enlighten, educate, maybe all at once. Films that strive to do none of the above are nothing more than vanity.
Note I said try. I don't care if they try and fail, as long as they try.

Fun Joel said...

Hey Bill! Welcome to the Scribosphere! Good to see you starting the blog. I'll def give you a shout out over at my place and try to get lots more readers over here. :-)

aggiebrett said...



Man. Sometimes there just ain't enough alcohol in the world to do the job what needs doing.

Meanwhile, how many people came up to you wanting your autograph, Werner?

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