Friday, April 24, 2009

SFIFF52 Day 2: Lake Tahoe

The 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival has begun and runs through May 7th. Each day during the festival I'll be posting about one film I've seen or am hotly anticipating. Starting today.

Lake Tahoe (MEXICO: Fernando Eimbcke, 2008)

playing: 9:15 PM tonight at the Kabuki, with two more showtimes later in the festival.
festival premiere: Berlinale 2008
distributor: Film Movement DVD release scheduled for November 2009.

If you liked Fernando Eimbcke's Duck Season you probably already have this one picked out on your festival menu. I was actually lukewarm to the Mexican director's feature debut, finding its humor sometimes forced and its world just a bit too closed-off to take to heart. The critical references to Jim Jarmusch's early work seemed apt, but even Stranger Than Paradise expanded its arenas for claustrophobic comedy by switching up the locations once or twice.

Anyway, I decided to give Eimbcke another chance while attending the Portland International Film Festival, where I saw Lake Tahoe. I can report that, at least for this viewer, it's better than Duck Season. Perhaps it's the searing-bright color photography, or the wider aspect ratio, or the outdoor location shooting, or the use of more "planimetric" shots, or the more unconventional pacing, but feature #2 feels more like a real "movie" to me than feature #1 did to me. The set-up, a teenager's circuitous quest to repair a car so he can get out of town, provides plenty of opportunity for off-center (sometimes forced, more often not) humor, and even pathos. The use of fade-outs and tricky sound cues make it a film worth analyzing technically in more depth than I'm able to in this capsule.

SFIFF52 Day 2
Another option: Sacred Places (CAMEROON/FRANCE: Jean-Marie Teno, 2009), which Max Goldberg makes sound good.
Non-SFIFF-option for today: the Life and Death of Col. Blimp (UK: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1943) at the Stanford, described by Brecht Andersch as "exquisite fun." I concur.


  1. Brian: Wonderful to see you posting on SFIFF52! It's intriguing that you considered Duck Season "a bit too closed-off to take to heart" when I felt the film allowed viewers into a microcosm of characters reflecting larger social currents. Most notably, his examination of adolescent homophilic loyalties--rarely represented in film (and likewise present in Lake Tahoe--announced a brave new accessible vision. I love your use of the term "planimetric", which is one of Lake Tahoe's most presiding aesthetics. I look forward to interviewing the film's cinematographer.

  2. Great comment, Michael. I don't mean to trash Duck Season, which I took as a promising but ultimately unfulfilling (for me) first feature. It led me to Lake Tahoe, which I admire much more. I certainly don't want to take anything away from Duck Season's ability to strike a powerful chord in a lot of viewers. And perhaps one day I will revisit it and recognize more of its value on a personal level.

    Simply put, though Lake Tahoe moved me emotionally and intellectually in a way that Duck Season didn't approach.

    I am no doubt eager to follow Eimbcke to his next project, whatever it may be!