October 19, 2004
MVFF at 27.Jonathan Marlow looks back on the Mill Valley Film Festival, which wrapped on Sunday. 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? Tarnation - With a meteoric rise since its premiere at Sundance earlier this year and presented at MVFF mere days before a theatrical release from Wellspring, what is to be made of this oddity? Overrated. If turning your family story into a disjointed series of music videos is a display of genius, US cinema is in a much more sorry state than I suspected. Director Jonathan Caouette and I share a similar background: born a few years apart; an entirely absent father; a younger brother; a theatrical youth; teenage years spent in the "club scene." For Caouette, these details, combined with his mother's troubled time in and out of mental institutions, is enough to base a feature film. Unfortunately, it's thirty minutes of material stretched into an 88-minute movie. It does, however, include some remarkable moments (such as role-playing footage of the director as a battered young woman or the initial photo montage of his mother and her brief modeling career). The film might also single-handedly usher in a whole new genre - the narcissistic pseudo-doc. Our Music - Unlike most Americans, I look forward to new Jean-Luc Godard films. In fact, his last theatrically released feature, In Praise of Love, marked the end of a rather productive decade of wonderful work: Germany Year 90 Nine-Zero, Hélas pour moi, JLG/JLG and the ambitious Histoire(s) du cinéma. Our Music will not likely win over any new fans. In fact, even existing enthusiasts will find little to react favourably to. Much like his earlier Keep Your Right Up!, the film fares best when Godard appears on screen as a hapless version of himself. These moments are clever and compelling, unlike the inconsequential details that surround them. Ultimately, the film could nearly be created using a template of his last few features. Add original footage and audio and, at the press of a button, out come jump cuts, overlapping dialogue, abruptly truncated music and documentary footage inserted at odd intersections.
Posted by dwhudson at October 19, 2004 9:00 AM