PIFF Day 2 – 4 Films and a Party

I had a full day of PIFF events yesterday, taking in four movies and hitting some of the star-studded nightlife. In true tabloid style, I’ll start with the nightlife.

My friend and former professor is down from Seoul for the festival. He’s filming a documentary on Korean moviemakers. For this trip, he’s documenting a particular movie star. Around 10pm I called him and he told me to join him at the Grand Hotel. When I arrived, I met some of his friends — a director and a screenwriter. We exchanged cards, had some chit-chat, then went to a party near the Westin Chosun. It turned out to be an older crowd singing karaoke. We stayed long enough to say some hellos and drink a shot and then went back to the Grand Hotel for the “actor’s party.”

We got in the elevator and headed for the top floor. Along the way a beautiful woman got on and was surprised to see my friend. They chatted the rest of the way up. When we got to the top, there were a bunch of people processing wrist bands and screening people to go through. I guess I was okay, because I got my wrist band. I peeked in the entrance and saw about a dozen photographers in two rows waiting. We were about to go through when someone pulled us back. This beautiful woman I mentioned before was apparently famous. Some “handlers” fixed up her dress and then she went in and stood in front of a huge banner while the paparazzi lit up the room. Then it was our turn. We quickly went through. Needless to say, no one took our picture.

The room inside was huge, dark except for swirling colored lights, and full of beautiful people. Apparently, all the major Korean directors and movie stars were there. Imagine going to Sundance and getting invited to the exclusive party. This was Korea’s version. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was the only white person there. I met a young director who had previously worked under Lee Myun-se and was now working on his first major film. Through him I was introduced to an actress whose name unfortunately eludes me. Unfortunate because we really hit it off and wound up talking for 30 or 40 minutes. She had lived in the U.S. for two years and was really cool.

We hung around for a while and then their group had to leave. I stayed a little while longer. I was sort of waiting to see if Josh Hartnett or Bryan Singer would show up. As time went on I felt more and more like I was loitering, so I took off. Just as I got to the hotel entrance, a black car pulled up. Inside? Josh Hartnett. He got out of the car and was met with ear-piercing screams. I couldn’t exactly turn around and walk back into the party, so I left.

(Click ahead for some photos and brief reviews)

I saw four movies on Day 2, but none of them knocked me out. It’s a crap shoot for me. I don’t want to read any reviews in advance, and I want to treat it like treasure hunting. Yesterday’s treasures left a lot to be desired, but there was at least one that I can recommend.

Metropia: This is a Scandinavian animated film set in a dystopian near-future. The animation style really bothered me: expertly rendered 3D on multiple 2-dimensional layers. I don’t care for 3D animation. It feels too cold, digital, and precise. As exquisite as the facial detail and expressions were, the characters moved in blocky motion. The 2D layering made matters worse, erasing any possible depth of field. The story itself was typical paranoid hipster existential doom. We’ve seen this covered many different times in much more aesthetically pleasing ways. Voices were provided by Vincent Gallo and Juliette Lewis, so it’s sure to hit the arthouse circuit soon.

Dear Music: That is, their Fantasy Heading for the Sea: This was the best of the foursome. The backdrop involves a Korean man, raised in Mexico, and taught to play the violin. He makes one recording and then dies. So the album is a rare treasure in Korea. The story takes place when two musicians try to buy a copy off a woman whose husband is in a coma. But the album soon becomes secondary to the melodrama that eventually unfolds. I loved the style. Clearly influenced by French New Wave, it used unconventional cutting of beautiful black and white footage, and the characters stop occasionally to address the camera. I can’t say I loved this movie (the revelation lacked some depth), but the music-as-plot-device was interesting and it was stylistically effective.

Like You Know It All: Another Korean film, this one started well. A clueless movie director is a judge at a film festival (well, two film festivals) and the whole thing pokes more than a few laughs at the industry. But it was a mess of character intention and storytelling. There’s really no story here, just a pathetic man trying to get his ego stroked. I didn’t care for the director’s camera style. Instead of using conventional OTS shots and return shots for dialog scenes, he did most of them in a single take, panning and zooming the camera. While my hat’s off to the actors who performed well during these long takes (except for the American actor – dreadful), the style didn’t work for such an otherwise very conventional film. It came off less as style and more like laziness. In a word, this movie was boring.

Sleepless: A movie by Dario Angento, it’s an Italian horror film staring Max Von Sydow. It was released in 2001, but looks like something out of the 80s. I have a hard time with European horror because it tends to go more for excessive shock than story. Some of the killings are overly gruesome. But what really bothered me was the terrible dubbing that is also typical of European foreign language films. The original dialog was in English, but evidently the actors got replaced by American voices. Why make an Italian movie with American accents? I have no idea, but it was distracting as hell.

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One Response to “PIFF Day 2 – 4 Films and a Party”

  1. Nice shot Jim… thanks~

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