While real life (and my History Of Film Final) certainly delayed my Festival wrap-up longer than I would have ever liked, I am certainly not going to let my coverage go un-wrapped-up (goddammit). So here following is a batch of impressions, mini-reviews, and other comments on other things I saw at the 2008 Savannah Film Festival. If you’re looking for my biggest highlight however, I will confidently point you here, towards my impression of The Wrestler. You can also catch up on previous coverage with the following links:

Introductions:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three (Brett Ratner Edition)

Day One
(The Wrestler)
Day Two (Malcolm McDowell Day!)
Day Three (Short Films and More!)

The second part of this condensed finishing-up of the coverage will follow on Friday.




*********************

Synecdoche, NY (dir: Charlie Kaufman)



I’ve danced around writing something about this film for some time, and I think my waffling shall continue. I have nothing substantive to say about Synecdoche other than “see it.” Your reaction to the film may reveal a lot about your views towards art and artists, I will say that. Even further, I can vaguely say that it may manifest itself positively or negatively or somewhere in between.

If held to some sort of impression or reaction, I would say that Charlie Kaufman has crafted an enjoyably strange tale of an artist that has a lot to say about how little he has to say about life. Visually, it might be the most interesting film released this year. There is no chance however, that the film succeeds in connecting and relating to it’s audience as well as say, Eternal Sunshine (a truly sublime film if you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship). Bottom line is that you should see this film and take the time to figure out how you feel about it. It will be a rewarding experience.

*********************


I’ve Loved You So Long (dir: Philippe Claudel)



“This powerful story of familial struggles and redemption follows a
shell-shocked Juliette (Scott-Thomas), who returns to live with he
young sister Lea (Zylberstein) after being banished from the family for
15 years.
An enormous critical and box office success in France, Scott-Thomas’
phenomenal performance has already been singled out by critics for
end-of-year award consideration.”
(from IMDB.com)

I’ve heard Oscar buzz for this film from several places, typically revolving around the performance of Kristin Scott Thomas. I can certainly vouch that the acting in question is superb, as are the performances of every other cast member, without exception. Unfortunately, the movie is rather dreary as it revolves around a character that spends much of the movie working to be as stoic and emotionless as possible. In a transparent attempt to keep interest up, the film arbitrarily withholds information about the protagonist’s history and motivation, and reveals them in bits and pieces as the story goes on. Save for some revelations towards the end, none of the information is disclosed in a way that really complements the story. The impressions at this festival were mixed, though there seem to be a sharp gender divide among those who liked it and disliked it, with women tending towards a more favorable reaction.

Any acting accolades this film gets are well deserved, but a thin and plodding story make this rather dry movie difficult to recommend.

*********************


DCS RED Workshop



RED presented a panel at the fest, with two of their cameras working to impress during an overview of the company’s line-up and philosophy. While there was some good discussion of workflow and shooting processes, most of the information given out is a bit dusty, considering RED’s recent announcement. Two very large Plasma HDTVs were set up with direct feed from the two cameras, and I must say that it was pretty impressive. I’ll be producing a RED-shot thesis film early next year, and I’m looking forward to it even more now.

*********************


Recount (dir: Jay Roach)



Yep, this is the HBO made-for-(it’s not)-TV-movie written by Danny Strong, typically of acting fame.

It was a bit odd to see this special, which aired back in May, shown during the festival but I’m glad it was. A pretty thrilling and relatively balanced look at the disastrous 2000 election, it boasts superb performances from Kevin Spacy and Tom Wilkinson (who I am in old-old love with after his turn as Ben Franklin in another HBO production, John Adams). If you get a chance to check this out, get on it quick.

If I have one criticism of Recount, it that it’s format seems all wrong. Considering HBO’s pedigree in regards to mini-series, I can’t think of a better format for this story. While this film is very sharply paced and presents a pretty clean narrative, you can tell it’s bursting at the seems with more information. The most agonizing thing about the event (as far as I can remember) is how protracted the situation became. For weeks America woke up again and again, each morning wondering if they had a president yet. Had the story been formatted into a mini-series, even of only five or so episodes, that exhausting timeline could have been capitalized on. While the format feels like a missed opportunity, the film that we have is strong and entertaining.

Danny Strong did a Q&A after the showing and it was probably the best of the festival (in competition with both of McDowell’s). Strong appeared to be a pretty sharp, funny, and matter-of-fact kinda guy, and it was a blast to listen to him. His script for Recount was on the top of the Blacklist for 2007 (a good thing), so I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more from his pen in the future.

My final entry will be covering The Burning Plain, The Class, Slumdog Millionaire, The Boy in the Striped Pajams, and Bottle Shock – so stay tuned!

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