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<em>Warren</em>

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Warren


Horseplay and Spliffcakes

Mid-Saturday Report from SBIFF 2014


MORNING PEOPLED: One of the surprise sensations of this year’s fest is the jacked-up audience head count in the relative wee hours (well, 8 a.m.-ish) “Breakfast Club” early morning screenings every day during the festival. The time slot is relatively young notion, and in past years has been something of a secret window in the schedule, where a stalwart group of us could gather in relative non-crush conditions. Apparently, the cat is creeping out of the bag.

Exec. Direc. Roger Durling told one of a few full houses this morning “when I started the ‘breakfast club,’ the staff thought I was a nutcase…” Cue to a genial club-member who yelled out “you are a nutcase.” “I know I am,” says Durling, “and so are all of you for being here.” He commenced to take a photo of the packed house, as proof and social media validation. (Another line-busting festival secret zone: the late night screenings.)

On Friday morning, after catching two powerful, but decidedly darker-toned films — Omar and October November — I felt the urge to mix in some light with the dark in my filmgoing diet. The programming fates arranged for me to head to Iceland, and the Lobero, for the eccentric jewel of a film, Of Horses and Men. A series of vignettes in a farming community in the beautiful and bleak landscape of Iceland, with a Breughel-esque and parable-like quality deals with the subject of noble equestrians and buffoonish humanity, in scenes which sometimes come to grisly ends, but always with a delectably dry, Icelandic sense of humor going for it.

SPACE CAKES: Of course, cool Icelandic humor pairs well with French farce, and where would the SBIFF be without some crowd-pleasing French froth on the varied menu? The raucously fun, juiced-up spliffcake of a comedy, Paulette, more than fills the bill. Said Paulette is an uber-grumpy, racist, don’t-mess-with-me old lady who, facing destitution, discovers a means of income on the far side of the law, and epitomizes can-do and f-you spirit. There are laughs by the kilo, although ultimately, it veers off into French farce formula, where very naught turned nice (with a pinch of naughty), and salty yields to smugly sweet. We leave with a smile on the collective face. C’est la vie, et vive le farce!

FILMMAKER TO FOLLOW: Warren, the subject of Saturday afternoon’s world premiere event in the “big house” of the Metro 4, was a bounty of plenty, in terms of the sold-out crowd packing the 350-seater, the massive collection of filmmakers and producers lining all in a row come Q&A time, and also the auteur math of the film: talented young Alex Beh was the writer, director, and star of the film, and a charmingly unpretentious character who could be going places. As in movies which have regular run in an American multiplex like the Metro.

As seen in this tale of twentysomethings in Chicago (and the city’s wiles are nicely showcased) trying to find their path between passion and the professional long haul, art and getting down to business, and defining the twain between. Warren is our protagonist, a barrista (for the moment) with a flair for improv — an autobiographical touch for Beh — and a would-be ex-lover who becomes the aim of a late-breaking homage to the famous wedding-interruptus scene from The Graduate. Aided by a wonderful cast and crew, the young Chicagoan Beh projects a good-natured, warm-hearted flair, with just tiny pinches of edge, reminiscent of another Chicagoan, John Hughes.

For me, one of the secondary treats of the film is the chance to the impressive and under-employed John Heard cut loose on some marvelously rambling yarn-spinning. For local cinema nerd trivia, Santa Barbara gets a wink or two, through the local location shooting of The Graduate (including the infamous wrong way through the Gaviota tunnel gaffe) and the fact that Heard was a memorable part of the best film shot in and made (loosely) about Santa Barbara, Ivan Passer’s Cutter’s Way. Thus, Chicago and Santa Barbara got their props, courtesy of a triple-threat show biz kid-turning-adult.

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