The textures of a film festival like AFI reflects in its ability to retain the aspect of specific films specific of its film school prestige. With David Lynch acting in version of Creative Chairman, his opening structure of “I Love AFI” became a mantra in pre-show viewing. The balance more in recent years of distinctive American programming versus overseas textures allows for a more paradoxical vision.
In “Submarino“, the intonation of an addict that can never reach above water waxes claustrophobic within the central theme. While the character structure never reaches quite beyond the belief of a life that can never be reclaimed, the aspect of an older brother, wiser in his ways but still a prisoner to his own demons, never quite gets off the ground despite some subtle performances. For the past part, the conception is overwrought and the prediction dire. Without the use of cinematic presence, merely letting the lives of the characters unravel tends to become monochromatic.
“Myth Of The American Sleepover”, unlike the Greek based countenance of “Submarino”, examines the burgeoning structure of the undeniable American pastime which is more indicative of the Midwest in texture than the coasts. Invariably, the film is set in Michigan, burgeoning of tax credits (which does not seem applicable here) in a roaming tale of teenage angst set mostly over one night. The most intriguing tale is one of a young girl roaming on her path between sexuality and self awareness in her freshman status trying to build possibilities with the local juniors. Parties on the lake, rainstorms, ghost in the basements and an interesting but odd make-out warehouse sequence shows some dexterity on the part of the filmmakers despite less-than-believable performances permeated by impressionable performers.
“Nothing’s All Bad“, as the most intrinsic film witnessed at the festival, owes its viscosity to its consistent ability of story structure. Despite its intention to shock, audiences, especially in LA, tend to look beyond sex and degradation to the actual psychology behind the build. That, and for this viewer (after “Serbian Film” at SxSW) everything else seems pale. The book structure inherent here brings to mind Von Trier’s films which interrelates as Zentropa actually produced the film. The interweaving story lines, jaggedly close up and mirrored in the shadowed construction of the visuals, paints the film with a distinction of intention while also offering humor and tragedy interrelated in a human story despite its more than dexterious bounds highlighted with regimented gusto.
“Hamill” is reflected more in its coming-of-age motifs balanced with the influx of innocence lost where none fear to tread. This real story of a deaf wrestler whose persistent vigor and temper caused more than his share of disappointment works with a certain virility because of the relationship between Russell Harvard’s Hamill and the always intense Raymond J. Barry who plays his father Stanley. Overall the picture conforms to normal biopic bounds (including the resolute love interest and the comeback third act) while maintaining its own sense of self without overcoming the audience with either glee nor emotion.
“Littlerock” trades the trevails of All-American vigor for a tale of life misdirected with the story of a Japanese brother and sister who become lost in the backwoods of California while on their way to San Francisco. The persistence of cultural clash remains prevalent though the subject matter is handled with more verite wrangling than is necessary especially with the use of an annoying local friend who is beat on constantly but understands his true flaw in existing. As the outsider who stays behind, the female protagonist seems blissfully aware of the conundrum around her but seems simply attuned to the inevitability of her escape despite the community’s obvious nihilism functioning around her.
The brief respite of the festival reflected in the closing night of the highly anticipated “Black Swan”. Luminous with an almost porcelain make-up, Natalie Portman made her way through the carpet into the towering Chinese theater.
The film itself, though darker and more allegorical in shape than director Darren Aronofsky’s most recent film “The Wrestler”, uses the abilities of Portman beyond her normal comfort zone which is essential in her evolution as an actress. The spiral of would-be mental unravel is balanced with notions of self-esteem and perfection debative of which reality truly exists. While operatic in tone and just as evenly plotted, “Black Swan” is still is unable to touch the perils of Aronofsky’s masterpiece “Requiem For A Dream” simply because the notions of its reality, though untapered by drugs, seem a little less poignant or, more honestly, achievable in the sense of their dread despite an inherently similar outcome.
Swirling in its Hollywood visions, the after party continued in gestation at the Roosevelt Ballroom with undeniable mazelike transquility while paying tribute to indie icons like Robert Forster, relevant of “Medium Cool” as the Stella swirls and visions of chocolate sworls as white angels flitter through as quickly as they are seen.
The AFI Los Angeles Film Festival, resolute in its ability to examine notions of what society dictates through the visions of a multi-lateral collection of artists, continues (though in brief) with a cross-section of films exploring textures of loss of family to examinations of manipulation within the group dynamic, holding bare the intention of language barriers slowly falling away.