For this year’s iteration of the San Francisco International Film Festival, we managed to catch a few flicks that had been on our radar for quite some time. Check out our full coverage of the fest after the jump…
Full review coming soon.
Set mainly in the 1970s and featuring lovely period piece costumes and aesthetics, Dalíland is the biopic literally no one asked for. Far be it for this film to explore a large swath of the iconic Salvador Dalí’s actual life; instead, Ben Kingsley plays an older Dalí, and randomly-interspersed flashback sequence find Ezra Miller stepping in as young Dalí. The flashbacks are so brief and inconsequential that one is left wondering what the point was of including them at all. Dalí is not even the lead of this film either; rather, Dufresne Gallery assistant James (Christopher Briney) acts as our window into Dalí’s world of decadence and curiosities. I found many things particularly odd and mishandled here, be it the humor or the questionable friendship between Dalí and James. Dalí’s sexuality, a major aspect of the actual person, barely receives mentioning. Worst of all, not a single piece of Dalí’s artwork is featured within. For a movie alleging to be depicting an aspect of the famous painter’s life, this is a major misstep. Stick with Little Ashes for a much better depiction of young-Dalí.
ERNEST & CELESTINE: A TRIP TO GIBBERITIA
Full review at the link.
(Written by Intern, Wyatt Frantz) While this Roma-esque immigrant story was beautiful from a visual standpoint, the pretentious core of Fremont fails to capture the artistic edge it aims for. Donya (Anaita Wali Zada), an Afghan immigrant, works at a fortune cookie factory with her friend, Joanna (Hilda Schmelling), but suffers from insomnia. After expressing trouble in finding a psychiatrist, one of her neighbors gives her an appointment slot with Dr. Anthony (Gregg Turkington), who agrees to see her regularly despite some push back. It turns out that not even sleeping pills help her get the sleep she needs. Donya continues to trek through her daily routine of working, watching soap operas by force, and socializing late at night with her neighbors. Suddenly, one of her coworkers dies, leaving her to write the fortunes encapsulated in the cookies. The heavy thematic focus becomes evident in the first few minutes, and continues on with its overly artsy storytelling that tries too hard to provoke its audience. Setting a philosophical bar out of reach, its symbolism feels too on-the-nose and inorganically shoehorned into the film in hopes of creating meaning where it might otherwise not be needed. The plot suffers from character inaction until a more engaging act three ensues featuring Jeremy Allen White. For a story grounded in the truthfulness of the immigrant experience, greater realism would have made for a more digestible experience. The performances and line delivery as a whole feel feigned, and could have benefited from less straight-laced performances while still capturing the melancholic mood it aimed for. On the other hand, the flowery writing accompanies astonishing cinematography, which captures urban spaces in intimate ways that feel in touch with Donya’s search for belonging. A creative use of lighting reminiscent of Bergman manages to create very compelling frames of our characters. Akin to amateur poetry, Fremont is mostly blue skies in its heavy use of theme and symbolism, but not grounded in enough realism to sell its viewer. While it is a visual pleasure with a relevant story, it struggles with its execution.
MY NAME IS ALFRED HITCHCOCK
Uniquely presented and unlike any other documentary I have seen before, My Name is Alfred Hitchcock is a puzzling but intriguing lecture on Hitchcock’s entire filmography. Documentarian Mark Cousins crafts strange dialogue that includes Hitchcock’s views on lesbianism, a “big-headed monument” made in his image twenty years after his death, and more. However, what worked best for me was mostly the stuff we already knew. He regretted the exposition dump of Norman’s state of mind explained by the psychiatrist at the tail end of Psycho, and his horrific recording of the concentration camps in World War II remain the scariest he ever put to film. The meaning and behind-the-scenes insight may be particularly delectable for new viewers of Hitchcock’s work; it certainly helped me realized how tragically few Hitchcock films I have actually seen. My Name is Alfred Hitchcock really leaves something to be desired if craving beyond the surface level— Hitchcock’s films though are certainly akin to beautiful postcards worthy of celebrating.
SNOW AND THE BEAR
(Written by Intern, Lauren Vega) Get ready for metaphorical situations and deep thinking in Snow and the Bear. Directed by Selcen Ergun, Snow and the Bear follows a woman who has transferred from her hometown to a snowy, desolate place. The isolated location is in the midst of a long winter, which subsequently makes things feel lonelier. The protagonist is determined to succeed in her new job as a nurse, however is treated as an outsider in the small town. Though she begins to make friends, a missing persons case hits the town, casting a suspicious shadow on those around her. Cinematography was spot-on, while the set building helped to create an eerie ambiance throughout the film. Additionally, the sound design made me feel alone and spooked—all the midnight howls and bumps immersed me in their world. Acting-wise, I think everyone’s blank faces threw me for a loop. I understand that the characters are in the middle of nowhere, but the only emotions appeared to be anger and depression. I felt there was a void in the acting, especially in our main hero. Overall, I felt there were some really great metaphors and lines which made me think of my own morals. However, I think this whole film could have been condensed into a half an hour short.
Keep a lookout for next year’s undoubtedly stellar lineup; for fans of animation, be sure to put Ernest & Celestine on your radar! The 67th annual San Francisco International Film Festival will be here before you know it.