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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

IndieFest 2012 Preview

Iíll be honest, I stepped in to the press conference of last yearís IndieFest excited beyond belief at a) being somehow involved in a festival and b) ready to devour a slew of strange and wonderful films. My excitement may have been too great, or maybe I just picked the wrong films to indulge in, but my coverage of IndieFest left me rethinking the state of the Indie film. Of what I saw, nothing stuck out. Instead it was slew of low budget (in the bad way) films that seemed never to reach far enough out of the box to make any sort of impression.

With that in mind I approached this yearís IndieFest with a certain, er, reticence. Would it be another year of low-rent animation and plot-lacking art films? Iím here to tell you though, from what Iíve seen of IndieFestís offering this year and from what I know of the rest of the films, The Roxie is going to be a goddamn exciting place to be a film-lover. I donít know if there was a change in staff, or a sudden influx of cash, but the festivalís film slate is pretty spectacular.

I saw three of the films (with a hopeful fourth review coming later in the week) and though I didnít love all of them, the creativity and sheer love of film presented in each was inspiring. I wanted to give a taste of each and then offer what Iíd see if I had the choice.


What Iíve Seen:

Kill List, d. Ben Wheatley

Ben Wheatley, the director of beloved festival film Down Terrace returns with a truly difficult to watch picture about a duo of assassins pulled way deeper than they imagined. Kill List came across as one of those films that was so hard for me to watch that I think it distracted from my understanding of the film. I watched part of it on an airplane and there were so many moments when I was protecting the screen from eager lookie loos (for some reason I fear that my cinematic tastes will offend my fellow passengers) that I missed out on what exactly was happening. Regardless, the film left a cold, persistent puddle of dread in my stomach for its entire running time. At once being the story of a fucked up family (a subject Wheatley seems to enjoy plumbing) and of two hit-men just trying to figure it out. I donít know if Wheatley wanted the audience to really know what was going on, or if he just wanted to make it that much more difficult for people to sleep, but regardless Kill List is an interesting and terrifying to film to sit through. I canít say I liked it, but I donít regret seeing it.

The FP, d. Brandon & Jason Trost

The FP has been this years geek smash. Festival goers at places like SXSW and Fantastic Fest have been raving about this strange take on the post-apocalyptic landscape. In Brandon and Jason Trostís world (Jason Trost also plays lead character JTRO) the general niceties of society have broken down and in Frazier Park two gangs battle it out for control of the liquor stores using a Dance Dance Revolution knock-off as their medium for warfare. Deeply immersed in the 80s sports film genre, The FP is one part fart-and-dick joke comedy, one part crass drug trip and one part overlong sports montage. Iíll say this, the Trosts make a convincing world and it appears that a lot of thought and time went in to the creation of the film, but it just didnít work for me. Itís too much intentional stupidity and not enough drive for narrative sustenance. That said, the Trost Brothers seemingly made exactly the film they wanted to make and I think thereís an audience out there for this film (as does Drafthouse Films who purchased the movie last year), Iím just not in this audience. If you do go and see this featured film, which I recommend you do, go with friends and go drunk. Itís that kind of movie.

Bullhead, d. Michael R. Roskam

If youíve heard of any movie playing at IndieFest itís probably Bullhead. The film, about the criminal underworld that exists in the Flemish meat industry, was recently purchased by Drafthouse Films (keep an eye on those fellas) and even more recently nominated for a Best Foreign Picture Oscar. And it is worthy of both weighty kudos. Set on the language-border between French and Flemish Belgium, Bullhead follows Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts in a ferocious performance), a steroid addicted cow farmer with a dark past. Watch it once and youíll see a great crime film (something the northern climes of Europe seem to be nailing recently) made greater by a strong central performance. Watch it again and youíll see a film about division and the ties of family and the strain inherent in the language division of southern Belgium. I know, sounds like a lot to stomach, and this is not an easy film to watch, but director Michael R. Roskam is a very talented director who twists and turns and knots this story in to a detailed little heartstopper that needs to be seen. An early contender for my 2012 Best of List.

What I Would See:

Gandu, d. Q

Iíve been hearing about Gandu (Indian for loser) since last year. A super low-budget flick that director Q has openly stated is an "anti-Bollywood" picture. Anytime a director goes against the pulsing heart-blood of his countries film industry, Iím curious.

Clown, d. Mikkel Norgaard

There was an image from Clown on a website a while back and though donít remember it exactly I know it featured two naked men in a canoe. The description of the film says that the comedy comes in the form of "carnivalesque dollops of urine and sex fluids." Naked men, sex fluids, Denmark? A recipe for good times.

Beside My Brother, d. Markus Englmair

I have a weird obsession about twin movies stemming from Brian DePalmaís Sisters and David Cronenbergís Dead Ringers. I donít always need my twin movies to be horribly graphic (Twin Falls Idaho is a prime example) and Beside My Brother seems an interesting, if possibly fucked up take on the old weird-films-about-twins genre. Two twin brothers are raised as exactly the same person in Beside My Brother - same bed, same name, no school - thatís crazy! Surely it has to end at least slightly badly. I mean, do any films ever about twins ever end well? And if they did would I got watch them? No, and probably not.

Aside from a slew of great films this year, IndieFest is of course offering a handful of great parties (The Big Lebowski party a perennial favorite, but maybe one tinged with a little more sadness this year after the death of Ben Gazzara) as well as some awesome sounding short programs.

The festival takes over The Roxie in San Franciscoís Mission District February 9 - 23.

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