First two screenings

I’m finally PIFF-ing. In fact I saw two films in two nights. I’ve been lucky in that both have been really good. Neither was something I intended to see—the one I really wanted to see this morning was sidetracked by, erm, life drama—but I am glad for unintended happy accidents, even if the subject matter itself was anything but happy.

Night Train (dir. Yinan Diao)

This is a Chinese film that takes place in a rural, working class part of northern China. The whole atmosphere was intensely drab, depressing, and dark, not only in aesthetics but in story and characters. The shots were interesting; we got close-ups of people’s feet, the train’s gears, a wall, half a chair… as if the camera was offering the vision of someone who has nothing inspiring to look at in life. On this level it worked, but the pacing was dreadfully slow; it felt like some Russian films I’ve seen. Truth was, for the first hour I was in agony. After a while, I started getting angry at the director, thinking that here’s yet another independent filmmaker with an axe to grind and he feels he has to use it on my skull in order to exorcise his misfortune.

But then, all of a sudden, the whole thing came together for me. It was the strangest thing… something suddenly clicked and I understood why we’d gone on this journey. Everything that came before took on new meaning. The real change during that last half hour was that I finally gained access to the bigger story, and it turned out to be huge, a powerful existential dilemma in which two people have to make the conscious choice, even against their own desires, to carry through with what fate has given them. I was so wrapped up at this point, and so completely in lockstep with the director, that seconds before the end I was thinking “do it, end it now, end it now!” And then: black, it ended. Nice.

Une Journee (dir. Jacob Berger)

This is a movie that takes place in one day. There is a husband, a wife, and their child. The husband is having an affair, and through the course of the film we see how it affects everyone involved. Sounds simple enough. But the way it was presented was really well done. Instead of telling it linearally, we get three highly subjective versions of the same story. First the husband, then the wife, then their son. It was so beautifully told and so effectively edited that we get deeper layers with each pass. It also got more strange as things progressed.

My experience with this film was very different from Night Train. I enjoyed every scene as it happened. There was a subtle psychological undercurrent going on that kept everything moving. The acting was outstanding, the characters compelling, and the music was fantastic. And as with Night Train, the ending was masterfully done.

I took a few pictures of our fabulous new theater in The Shire. First, a threatening word on piracy:

The view from the street:

The view back outside from the 6th floor:

Inside, we have Batman:

And The Terminator:

Incidentally, despite their ideological differences, there were no skirmishes and things remained peaceful.

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