Wednesday, September 12


The Mill Valley Film Festival is turning 30

Yesterday morning I attended a screening of Tamara Jenkins' the Savages following a press conference announcing the full program of films, parties, and other events for the Mill Valley Film Festival, which celebrates its 30th year of existence this year. The Savages, which includes few human characters under 30, is one of the festival's two opening night films on October 4th. It kicks things off at the Sequoia Theatre in Mill Valley, while Ang Lee's Lust, Caution plays at the nearby Rafael Film Center. Not an "official" opening night film, but also playing the Sequoia on the 4th, will be Wes Anderson's the Darjeeling Limited.

I'm not supposed to write much about the Savages until closer to its theatrical engagement in December, which suits me fine. Well into watching the film, I realized I would probably need to see it again before I'd be able to make an evaluative judgment about it. For its first two-thirds, I found myself resisting the film's tone; it felt like a sneering dramedy designed to make the audience feel glad we're better than the "horrible, horrible, horrible people" played by Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. But by the final few reels, I'd started warming to the transforming characters, and surprisingly, to the film itself. I'm curious to learn how it'll play from the outset, knowing the narrative in advance...

In the meantime, I'm extremely excited about the October 7 & 9 performances of a Dmitri Shostakovich score for Battleship Potemkin by the Marin Symphony at the Veterans' Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael. Of course the film will be projected as well (I've never seen it except on VHS). More revival screenings of great interest are an October 8 screening of Wild Boys of the Road, William Wellman's pre-code talkie update of Beggars of Life (same train-hopping milieu, different actors and story) and an October 6th screening of John Korty's the Crazy Quilt.

The slate of new films at the festival looks like it holds a great deal of promise, particularly the festival foci on the recent cinema of India (7 Islands and Metro looks interesting), Germany (Yella comes praised) and Romania (the Paper Will be Blue, the Way I Spent the End of the World, and California Dreamin' represent this currently-fashionable national cinema). A documentary I've been greatly anticipating called Welcome to Nollywood will take a look at the thriving Nigerian videofilm industry. I'm excited that the film will also play here on the South Side of the Golden Gate Bridge, at the SF Art Institute October 9th. A comparatively big-budget Nollywood film called Laviva will also be part of the festival, playing in Marin on October 7th and 8th.

I'm also curious about the three new digital features by longtime MVFF stalwart Rob Nilsson. One of the three (I'm feeling too shy to say which one) could actually have a bit of footage of yours truly in it, as I spent a day as an extra on the set.

The list of 30th Mill Valley Film Festival programs is now available online. Take a peek and tell me what looks good to you in the comments below, if you like.

OK, I give up! Please tell me how you found the freaking list of films. I went to the MVFF website several times today and couldn't find program notes of the film. I cancelled a frustrated email to you earlier this morning because I couldn't locate the freaking film list on the website. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for this post, because I was about to just freaking give up and use another more expletive-y adjective.
I was having trouble finding the list of films on the festival site yesterday, but after some tenacious trial and error I eventually figured out to click a link having to do with ticket purchases, which put me on a page with the full film list. This morning, that same url opened a different page, so I swapped the link for one to a page with film programs and descriptions.

So that's the boring behind-the-scenes stuff. What are you interested in seeing, Adam? Some I didn't mention above:

The partially-animated documentary Chicago 10, which was one of the best-buzzed films from this year's Sundance.

Tuya's Marriage won the Golden Bear at Berlin.

And it looks like Iron Ladies of Liberia has nothing at all to do with transgender volleyball players after all, and instead about the first woman to be elected President of Liberia. That's good, since I thought that one sequel to the Iron Ladies was already too much.
I plan to see ICE BAR because I focus my writing on South Korea films. I'm also really interested in the Canadian film KIVIUQ, the doc about Double Dutch (DOUBLETIME), and the doc about Nollywood. As for what I can arrange to see, that's a different story. I'll be renting a Hybrid for the first weekend, since the second weekend conflicts with Kaurismaki's latest at the PFA and the Oakland Museum's outdoor screening of a Graf Doc.
oh, and I saw KENNY at a theatre in the Carlton neighborhood of Melbourne and enjoyed it. It's not brilliant, but a doc about a port-o-potty vendor is bound to make you laugh.
Adam, I hate to break it to you, but if you're talking about Piece By Piece, it looks like it screens on the second day of the festival, October 5, not the second weekend of the festival.
ugh! i'll buy the Kaurismaki tickets first to make sure i have my weekends straight. That film means to most to me outside of all the others.
I'm glad about the festival's focus on African and Romanian film; though, all in all, I'm not that jacked up about MVFF this year and probably will only make one appearance (maybe two) at the festival proper, with all further interaction being through press screenings and screeners.
I'd love to attend the Ang Lee event since I like his work and I'm interested in his new film. Jennifer Jason Leigh is one of my favorite modern actresses so I wouldn't mind attending that event as well.

As far as the films go, I really want to see The Orphanage, but I'm most excited about all the music biopics (Corbijn's Control, Haynes' I'm Not There and Temple's Joe Strummer) this year. They all look really interesting and I like all the directors a lot, as well as musicians their films focus on.

Hopefully I'll be able to check out a few of the films playing.
Kimberly, I'm not sure quite why it is, but I'm feeling major trepidations about I'm Not There and particularly Control. Perhaps because I like the musicians in question so much, and I'm so generally wary of the biopic genre, I'm nervous despite the track records of the directors. Joe Strummer: the Future is Unwritten is a documentary, not a biopic, which perhaps paradoxically a) makes me think it's less likely to be bad, and b) makes me little less curious about it.

Michael, does this year's MVFF lineup appear weaker to you than in previous years, or is there a different reason why you're not as jacked up this time around? Because at first glance this seems like one of the most appealing schedules I've seen them put together. Admittedly I've never gone to more than a couple days of the festival before, but this year more than any before, I hope I can.
Michael Hawley has presented a more detailed preview of the MVFF here.
Yeah, Brian, I find the programming weaker this year, especially with regard to the Rafael Film Center venue. The Sequoia is just not a venue I can get to easily and the splashy stuff all seems to be happening there. Not that I'm totally in to the splashy stuff but getting wet once or twice doesn't hurt. In gist, several were titles I passed on at Toronto assuming I'd be able to catch them at Mill Valley and now they're out of reach. That's okay. As Michael said, most of them are opening before Xmas.

I caught the Joe Strummer doc at a press screening the other night and, though the plant's a bit gangly, the flowers are compelling. Anyone who's ever been interested in The Clash will find merit here and, to the film's credit, it covers much more of Strummer's fascinating life. We should all live to be so genuine and creative.

I'll be catching Lust, Caution at a press screening early next week and dependent which way the winds (i.e., whims) are going at THA that week, maybe I'll have some f2f time with Ang.

I'm currently reviewing the Latino films on screener. Watched the Uruguayan piece La Cascara (The Rind) last night. I liked its score more than anything. Reminded me of Bernstein's score for The Grifters.

I'm Not There isn't completely successful but, man, is it interesting and innovative. Totally worth the time. Not really a biopic at all; more a riff on the Dylan mystique. And Cate Blanchett delivers one of the most incredible performances of her career; she's mindblowing. Don't sell yourself short. Catch it if you can because something is happening, even if you don't know what it is, Mr. Darr.
Oh, I'm sure this Thin Man will take a look. I'm just saying that my expectations are relatively low right now. Though it's good to hear you say it's "not a biopic".

And I appreciate your brief assessments of the Rind and the Strummer doc. Always glad to have to stop by!
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