Sunday, April 24, 2011

SFIFF54 Day 4: A Useful Life

The 54nd San Francisco International Film Festival is going strong; it runs through May 5th. Each day during the festival I'll be posting a recommendation and capsule review of a film in the festival.

A Useful Life (URUGUAY: Federico Veiroj, 2010)

playing: 12:00 Noon at VIZ/New People, with two more SFIFF screenings later in the week.
distribution: The Global Film Institute has picked this up for distribution in the United States, but historically very few of the films in its roster have been gotten a true (week-long) commercial theatrical release in San Francisco. So while a DVD may eventually be forthcoming, these three SFIFF screenings could be the most significant in-cinema exposure this film will have for Frisco Bay audiences.

In The Woman Chaser Richard Hudson (played by Patrick Warburton in the 1999 film version of Charles Willeford's novel) can't believe the studio that hired him won't allow him to release his newly-minted action-thriller about the human condition, The Man Who Got Away, simply because of its length: 63 minutes, too short for to sell to drive-in owners and too long to sell to television. Both Hudson and everyone he shows the workprint to agree it's a kind of masterpiece in its current form, and can't imagine what cutting or padding could be done without destroying its potential impact.

Whatever has this to do with A Useful Life, a film very different from the Woman Chaser (although both are monochromatic films made in a multicolored age) or the fictional film within it? A Useful Life is sixty-seven minutes long, and I wouldn't have wanted it to be a minute longer or shorter. Though its story of a Montevideo cinematheque facing a funding crisis that might force it to close, and of the stalwart projectionist/programmer/archivist who must suddenly contemplate an existence outside of the cinema, may seem small, it's a start-to-finish parade of moments of veracity. As well as humor, depth, and even a tingle of romance. The subject of a threatened movie screen should attract cinephiliac viewers, and if they're like me they won't be in the least disappointed.

SFIFF54 Day 4
Another option: Tokyo - Ebisu (JAPAN: Tominari Nishikawa, 2010) Some may remember Nishikawa from the film he made while studying here at the S.F. Art Institute, Market Street. Interestingly, Callum Cooper's Victoria, George, Edward and Thatcher shares a few cursory similarities to Market Street. Both of these works play on the experimental shorts program The Deep End co-presented by SF Cinematheque, which has just announced its own film festival for mid-May.

Non-SFIFF-option for today: Hairspray and Serial Mom make up the final double-bill of the Castro Theatre's John Waters Birthday weekend. Neither screens very frequently in 35mm prints.

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