Lest you believe a reviewer’s life is one long anguishing rejection or aggressively veiled disdain of what is lovingly put before him or her, I want to declare unequivocally this was my favorite film fest of all. I know that, as I write this, there’s one full day left, but after viewing a record (for me) 27 films, attending three big events, one panel, and a party including the party-within-the-party, from a field of 170 films from 49 countries, 30 world premieres and 33 U.S. premieres, I feel the right is mine to declare the fest triumphal. It never felt too crowded or under-attended, and, except for a stupid kerfuffle over coots who didn’t understand irony or creativity when it is applied to megaphones and public behavior, the aesthetic satisfactions were ample and unobstructed.
To each his own, my mother always said. But the advice I got from strangers was almost universally constructive. Most people loved staring at the pastries and actors and actresses in Patisserie, but most also agreed that it went on forever; the lovely process documentary Dancing Chaplin was universally acclaimed for its documentation of a dance rehearsal, though few enjoyed the actual rehearsed-for dance. (Chaplin himself was a million times more graced.) Nobody I know enjoyed the film school cant of the Brazilian film Light in Darkness — all of us are henceforth forever tired of post-modern favelas, I think.
Meanwhile favorites abounded around every possible corner, though the independent sidebar yielded a trove: Benavides Born, Good for Nothing, Angels & Airwaves Present Love, and Small Town Murder Songs were the films-most-favored-by-a-stranger. The docs abide as usual, too: Nostalgia for the Light, Pablo’s Hippos, Skateistan, Exporting Raymond, and Troubadors (which won The Independent’s Audience Choice Award) were also on collective lips frequently.
My own favorites were all of the resonating quality. By which I mean they made me think and think again. The Italian film The Double Hour (Giuseppe Capotondi) wandered gracefully though genres — suspense, romance, and ghost story among them — with a hip veneer and compelling score as well. I can’t chase The Illusionist by Sylvain Chomet (Triplets of Belleville) out of my head, and don’t want to, either. (Please Metropolitan Theaters; bring it back for a long run.) Good for Nothing, the terrific western shot in New Zealand is about a stunningly conflated good guy and bad guy into one seemingly insensate lout, exploring the beautiful line between civilization and wilderness that runs inside of us. Nostalgia for the Light, Fire of Conscience and Just Between Us I’ve written about at length elsewhere, but also remain happily etched in my head. Really: Going to the 26th SBIFF was better than going to the 2009-10 season of big release movies. For sure.
Which brings us to the end, where we all go back towards the light. I’m looking forward to the grand finale, a 3D screening of the opera Carmen, which promises to do for classical music what U2 3D did for Bono and the Edge, add spectacle to the bluster. But cool, though.
And then comes everybody’s — everybody’s — chance to experience the best of the fest, the so-called Third Weekend. All I can say about this piece of extravagance is this: to the best of my knowledge, no other film fest in America provides its community a free pre-digested meal of the best bits of something that a lot of people put a ton of time and goodly amount of money into creating. All you have to do is get up to the Riviera Theater a half hour before the film begins. Then you will almost surely get in and then will not join the hordes of people who actually complain to Roger Durling and his staff about the wait.
Likewise, if you don’t like the free movie you saw, it would be bad form to yell at SBIFF. They can’t give you your money back, dear heart. You’re already spending theirs.