Wednesday, May 8, 2013

CXL (2012)

WHO: Sean Gillane directed this, and is also credited as cinematographer, editor & co-writer. Full disclosure: I've known Sean personally for a few years now, mostly through his twitter persona and his annual coverage of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

WHAT: CXL is an unusual movie with an equally unusual title- it's a bookselling industry term indicating indicating a cancelled order, which somehow seems quite appropriate for a work that forces the audience to scrap all its expectations about where the plot is going. Fine performances, a strong music soundtrack, exquisite digital photography of familiar (and unfamiliar) Frisco Bay locations, and some impressively seamless low-budget visual effects work make this worthwhile viewing for anyone willing to follow a narrative down unusual paths.

What CXL ultimately amounts to is harder to say, at least after only a single viewing. On the occasion of its single local screening last November, Michael Fox put it well:
CXL [...] is a puzzle movie that I haven't cracked. A second viewing would certainly help, and that's anything but a dig: I happily left Antonioni and Bergman films with swarms of unanswered questions. I'll advance the proposition that CXL is a kind of urban coming-of-age story about a protagonist who isn't as certain in his identity as he'd like others -- or himself -- to think. He's a good guy, and he's trying to do his best, but life is more of a conundrum than he can perhaps handle.
WHERE/WHEN: Tonight only at the Roxie at 7:15.

WHY: Yes, the San Francisco International Film Festival is still running for another two days, and there are certainly some worthwhile screenings happening at SFIFF venues today (I can particularly recommend The Strange Little Cat, which I wrote about here.) But it's time to start thinking about other local cinemas we may have been ignoring during the festival, perhaps foremost among them the Roxie, to my knowledge the longest-running cinema in the area- perhaps the entire country (an abbreviated history going back to 1909 can be read here).

The Roxie has been running the excellent feature Upstream Color and the intriguing documentary The Source Family for a little while now, and will continue to screen both for at least another week. But starting tonight with the much-welcomed second chance to see CXL on the big screen, the venue will be changing programming every day. Tomorrow is a Detroit firefighting doc called Burn. And Friday marks the beginning of the popular, annual I Wake Up Dreaming series of films noir programmed by the brilliant Elliot Lavine. This year's set starts with the noir that some scholars consider the first in the entire cycle of fatalistic crime films that became a major cultural staple in the 1940s and 50s, the 1941 Betty Grable(!) vehicle I Wake Up Screaming. Of course it's also the inspiration for the name of the series, and extremely rare to see on the big screen (I think it's been about ten years since it last played Frisco Bay.) I'll be writing more on the series soon, but would initially point to Shakedown and Autumn Leaves as particularly uncommonly-seen must-sees.

HOW: CXL will be a digital presentation of a digital feature.

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