The following group of micro-mini-reviews of films appeared Sep 28 and October 5 in The Union newspaper. On Sep 21, 2006, my review of the near feature length Rural Rock and Roll appeared.
Checking out some highlights of 2006 Nevada City Film Festival
"Smitten" - great title for a movie. I was not the least bit bothered that this short film was quite different from any expectation suggested in the title. "Love-Love" turned out to be more of a gimmicky title, but well suited to this clever short film. There's more to the sixth Nevada City Film Festival (Oct. 5-8 at the Magic Theatre) than titles. It's a neat opportunity for movie goers to see short films, wholly in the spirit of independent filmmaking.
"Smitten" is about a man struck by a passion but there's no angst, no romantic stewing, no violent howlings. He's an old man who made some money in his life, and in the senior decades of that life, he couldn't help himself. He had to buy art, hundreds and hundreds of pieces of art from his home region near San Francisco. The art was often, one might say, alternative. It was often an artist's first substantive sale. He felt compelled to display them and share them in the large spaces indoors and outdoors on his property in Napa.
This man, Rene di Rosa, is the kind of eccentric who is a perfect match for small, independent documentary storytelling. This film is also refreshing as an odd museum tour, but it's 85-year-old Rene di Rosa himself who delivers the signature tone.
"Love-Love" is also a film about art. The single work of art that this film constructs might have been better as a displayed work in Rene di Rosa's collection, and yet the concept and the playfulness are worth the small fun of its own film. The creator takes you to the street, handing a tennis racquet to all kinds of people: young/old, rich/poor, black/white, male/female ... He throws each of them balls to hit. He shows the editing of the clips and the eventual mounting of the results on two opposing museum walls. It is something like an ethereal game of tennis - nothing really, nothing really. Love, love. The film includes a couple of street rants that don't quite fit. So what. Fun, fun.
Check out the film festival. It's a four-day museum. Take a tour. See how many of these small pieces of celluloid art you like.
Short-film fun comes in many forms, and it's nice to get a shot at finding them at bold, independent film venues like the Magic Theatre. Look for their 6th Nevada County Film Festival at the Magic Oct. 5-8.
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You want fantasy fun from a male perspective? Try "A Cigar at the Beach." For fantasy fun from a female -- and Asian -- perspective, try "10,000 Apologies (to my Ancestors)." You like it in classic stop-motion animation, go gothic with Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum." Maybe you want dramatic tension that almost manages to keep its constant smirk in check? Try "Perils in Nude Modeling."
"Perils in Nude Modeling," by the way, offers no perils really and don't get your hopes up on the nudity either. But it's creative and it's fun.
There's serious, too, in this year's festival line-up. A dark cloud hangs over "The Utopian" as the lead character carries the consequences of a mind-impairing past to a fated present. Too calm is the storm that hangs over "The Father, Unblinking." How could the death of one's child have such a matter-of-fact tension? Coming of age can come none too smoothly as it does in "Half-Term." Serious can also mix good heartedness and progressive mindedness into a global-sized perspective because of "Binta and the Grand Idea."
The point is not the type of movie or whether any particular movie leans light or heavy. The point is the opportunity. So-called independent filmmaking is big-time corporate nowadays. To travel the starving artist spectrum of independent filmmaking, festivals of short films provide a special opportunity for movie goers to explore, to stretch, to dare to like half of what they see - maybe a different half than the person sitting next to you.
It's a refreshing challenge to see well crafted films whose combined budgets cost less than a single commercial for a Hollywood blockbuster.