Los Angeles Film Festival – June 16-26, 2005
by Dianne Lawrence
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The Los Angeles Film Festival has become an annual destination for film buffs of every persuasion. Now in its 11th year it offers over 200 narrative features, documentaries, shorts, and music videos. There were Coffee Talks with industry luminaries, live performances (Julie Sweeney’s last live performance of her sold out show “Letting Go of God”), a low budget summit, the list goes on.
This year the audience attendance reached over 60,000, most of whom I swear tried to get into the Ford Amphitheatre to see ToonTime with THE RZA but more on that later. The generosity of the many sponsors, (the major ones being Target, In Style and PopSecret) were displayed in the comfortable between show environments, free popcorn, daily newspapers, free pillows to sit on (and take home) at the Ford Amphitheatre and other little gifties. From the website to the scheduling of the events, kudos are given to the festive and organized atmosphere that welcomed the participants and helped them move through the labyrinth of choices. It is so much fun to get out of the house and drive up to Sunset and Crescent Heights just as that famous California sun is setting on the Hollywood Hills, park the isolationmobile and join the film revelers navigating between the Laemmle Sunset Plaza, at ground zero and the Directors Guild two blocks away. Standing in line at a festival is different than standing in your average movie line. One is surrounded by enthusiastic or critical reviews of what’s been seen, gossip about some of the players or simple flirtations with people you’ve seen a few times and will probably never see again. I was able to average about a movie a day and when I left for the last time I felt a twinge. It was a lot of fun.
With over 200 choices where does one start? One chooses with a combination of instinct, luck and prayers. While standing in line I overheard some gossip claiming that the L.A. Festival documentaries tend to outshine the dramatic offerings. Just my luck I missed the docs opting for the drama and with few exceptions never left the theater with the “wow!” one hopes for.
One of my favorites moments happened during The Last Laugh with a live musical score provided by J.Rocc, world-famous turntablist and founding member of Los Angeles’s premier DJ crew the Beat Junkies. The Last Laugh, written in Germany in 1924 and directed by F.W. Mumau stars the marvelous Emil Jennings as the proud doorman of an upscale hotel. The job and his uniform give him the self-respect and admiration he thrives on in his humble community. When his age begins to show he is immediately demoted to the less demanding but humiliating job of lavatory attendant. The “last laugh” is a clue to the end of this tragic situation. When I told a friend of mine that a DJ would be providing the soundtrack he remarked, “could be great or could be really awful”. Well, it was fantastic. Truly inspired. The audience found itself laughing not only at the humor in the film but by the witty clever sounds of J.Rocc. The range of inventive musical choices fit the action like a glove and underscored the talents and deserved success of Mr. Rocc. My favorite moment? Sitting in the beautiful old outdoor amphitheatre, trees climbing the hill in front of us and silhouetted against the big moon and night sky, a German film from 1924 on the screen, the hip cool J.Rocc spinning musical magic and an audience filled with delight. Los Angeles is great!
One Out of Two is an Argentinean film written, produced and directed by Alejo Taube. In a small rural town, all TV’s are tuned to the riots erupting in Buenos Aires in December of 2001. The riots provide a Greek Chorus to the hardships of the town’s people and in particular a young drug dealer played with ease and intelligence by Jorge Sesan. “Martin” is a handsome and smart kid who has figured out how to make some good money in the city. This puts him a cut above his neighbors and friends yet he is generous, well liked and a soft touch.
It’s difficult to say what Taube wants us to walk away with. The film meanders about as we watch Martin pursue and finally catch the local beauty played by a fetching and talented Jimena Anganuzzi. We are made to understand that things aren’t going well for people and money is hard to come by. We see the neighbors hang out by a bon fire, anxiety fueling their revelry. The local store can’t afford to let people buy on credit anymore. There’s a half-hearted attempt at a strike in the local factory. Just as Martin catches the girl ,he loses her when the cops surround his car and change his life forever. Life is precarious, one step away from disaster, everything is left hanging and so are we at the end of the film. Pulling us into the mundane struggles of the townspeople as the consequence of an ineffective government begins to dismantle their lives is not enough to compel solidarity, empathy or insight.
Other films of note at this year’s fest:
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