Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SFIFF52 Day 7: The Lake

The 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival is approaching its halfway mark; it runs through May 7th. Each day during the festival I'll be posting about one film I've seen or am hotly anticipating.

The Lake (ISRAEL: Boaz Lavie, 2009)

playing: 12:15 PM this afternoon at the Kabuki, with no more showtimes later in the festival.
festival premiere: Ljubljana International Short Film Festival 2009 is the earliest I'm picking up.
distributor: none that I am aware of.

Some of the SFIFF's shorts programs are collected under a clear theme. Youth Bring the Truth showcases work by teenage filmmakers. No Voice Too Small compiles films made for children. A Thousand Pictures is animation not intended for kiddies. Parting Shots and Handle With Care are devoted to avant-garde films. Foreign Territories and Voices Carry are more curatorially amorphous.

I used the festival's press preview stations to take a look at films in the latter program and was unable to discern a unifying principle behind it. Voices that carry, I guess. No matter, it's an opportunity to watch a grab bag of short-form video work along with, according to the Film on Film calendar, one 35mm production entitled Next Floor, a dark, satirical, somewhat gruesome narrative piece from Canada. Other shorts in the program include the Conscience of Nhem En, an Oscar-nominated documentary short about the legacy of the Khmer Rouge, and 575 Castro St., which might find itself at home in one of the avant-garde programs, but has an emotional heft that deserves to be appreciated by viewers nervous about seeing a full program of experimental work.

I gravitate toward the documentaries, the avant-garde, and the animated shorts, but tend to be disappointed by the live-action narrative short video works, no matter what festival I see them at. It's nice to find an exception, though. I found one in The Lake, a comedy from a young Israeli writer-director named Boaz Lavie. It's a completely absurd piece about two brothers trying to make a living in Tel Aviv. A bizarre scenario is played with such straightforward deadpan earnestness that I could not help but laugh out loud in the oh-so-quiet viewing room. I suspect the Lake will appeal most to the sorts of people who have Fishing With John in their personal DVD collections, not because they're being Criterion-Collection-completist, but because they appreciate its off-beat humor. I also bet it's the only film ever made with songs recorded by Stevie Wonder, Vincent Gallo and Raffi all on the same soundtrack.

SFIFF52 Day 7
Another option: Khamsa (FRANCE: Karim Dridi, 2008) has been recommended by Carl Martin as well as other festgoers I've spoken with. Here is another review if you still need convincing to attend the film's last SFIFF screening today.
Non-SFIFF-option for today: the Clown and the Führer (SPAIN: Eduard Cortés, 2007) at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. I haven't seen it, but here is a review.

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