By Hannah Eaves and Jonathan Marlow
The 27th edition of the Mill Valley Film Festival, as we covered it at GreenCine Daily.
Hannah Eaves: MVFF Mid-Way Report.
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge represents a psychological challenge for many San Franciscans, likely because they don't want to be reminded of how sunny it always is over there. For those who are usually unwilling to venture into the hills of Marin on a weeknight, the Mill Valley Film Festival should act as an admirable motivator. For those already on that side of the Bay, there is absolutely no excuse to miss out on seeing at least one film in the beautiful Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center. The theater benefits from being in the residential radius of several cinematic giants, including aficionados Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. High level industry support bleeds into the sponsorship of the festival which, in turn, feeds an impressive cinematic program at this and other MVFF venues.
Coming up this week are four of this year's most intriguing Cannes entries: Jean-Luc Godard's Our Music, Hirokazu Kore-eda's Nobody Knows, Abbas Kiarostami's Five and Ousame Sembene's Moolaadé. Our Music looks at war, cinema and the intimate relationship between the two. Coming at a time when the role of war is particularly under examination, this is certain to be a moving and well-crafted film; it is also rumored to be, by Godardian standards, quite accessible. The audience's patience might be tested more by Five, which is subtitled "Five Long Takes Dedicated to Yasujiro Ozu" and is just that - 74 minutes divided into five long takes set on the Caspian Sea. Ozu has been used as inspiration on several occasions this year, including The Magnetic Fields' latest album and Hou Hsiao-hsien's latest, Café Lumière; I'm guessing that Five will be as much visual meditation as film viewing.
Managing genuinely comedic moments in a film about female castration is a unique achievement. Many consider director Ousame Sembene to be one of the world?s greatest living directors and, like Sembene's other films, Moolaadé invites us very convincingly into a world in which we would not usually participate - the day-to-day life of a small African village. The naturalism and infectious good nature of this film make it both moving and engrossing, and the strong woman at its center offers an inspiring example of how to remain morally firm under extreme duress. Similarly based on actual events, Nobody Knows follows the abandonment of four children by their mother in Japan. Writer/director Kore-eda, best known in this country for his remarkable films Maborosi and After Life, once again takes simple circumstances and fills them with inspired possibilities.
In a year ridiculously full of accomplished documentaries, the acclaimed Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids arrives at MVFF this weekend, following award- winning appearances at other festivals. Also heartily recommended, Robina Marchesi's Gumby Dharma looks at the exceptional life of claymation genius Art Clokey, creator of Gumby, Pokey, Davey and Goliath. The doc includes interviews with directors Henry Selick and Ray Harryhausen and promises to offer inspiration on a lighter note.
Some people may have followed the comedic world of Stella Street, the British cult TV favorite that screened in 1997-8. They will be happy to note that a feature film now exists to bring the world of brilliant celebrity impersonation to the big screen and, thankfully, to the rest of us. Writer-actors Phil Cornwell and John Sessions draw us into the fictional lives of the rich and famous, including Michael Caine, Jack Nicholson, David Bowie and several notable Rolling Stones.
Jonathan Marlow: MVFF at 27.
The younger, smarter sibling of the San Francisco International Film Festival, Mill Valley was a distinguished affair in its latest installment. Excellent films and high-profile guests have continued to raise the respect of the annual event. Even unexpected acts of nature (which forced the exchange of the out-of-commission CinéArts Sequoia for the middle-of-nowhere Century Regency) failed to produce a noticeable set-back for the fest and its able staff.
Admittedly, regular evening trips to Mill Valley are less than ideal,l but with a program that included the latest from Kiarostami, Kore-eda, Godard and Sembene, along with tributes to Gena Rowlands, Albert Maysles and Mike Leigh, skipping the festival wasn't really an option. That stated, let's presume for a moment that you didn't attend MVFF. Given that the Daily's readership is worldwide, this is a distinct possibility. Which films should you see or skip when they find their way to your neighborhood?
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