Cinematic Self-Love

Film-about-film 10f.jpgthemes and in-jokes somehow just go down
easier when you’re mentally lost in the thicket of a film festival.
Two films screened on Wednesday at SBIFF ‘007—the Hollywood Man
in the Chair
and the Dutch film Waiter—bore out that
theory, giving the film-obsessed among us something to chuckle
knowingly about, even though the films themselves are flawed and
nothing too special.

After the screening of
Man in the Chair
, writer-director Michael Schroeder talked
about how he had been plugging along as a B-film director, making
eight forgettable films in eight years, and wanting to finally make
something he was personally attached to and proud of. He should be
proud, even if the film doesn’t quite hit artistic “money.” The
script is fairly larded up with quips and quotations, from
Nietzsche to Hunter S. Thompson, but it contains plenty of both
indie “feel good” moments and old Hollywood nostalgia. (“The
glitter stops at La Brea” is but one true and metaphorical
statement).

At one point, a veteran gaffer dresses down a big shot producer:
“I’ve seen the celluloid abortions you call movies,” to which the
producer replies, “Those abortions have won me some brass dolls.”
They’re speaking English, by way of Damon Runyon and timeless glib
Hollywoodese.

It’s also a hoot to hear a scraggly Christopher Plummer spewing
gutter wisdom and potty mouth lingo, a la Alan Arkin in Little
Miss Sunshine
. Everyone’s favorite character actor M. Emmett
Walsh dishes out a rolling bellyful of character, too.

With the clever Ober5.jpgand drolly funny Waiter,
Dutch director Alex van Warmerdam throws his hat into the genre of
screenwriter as pliable God, with obvious comparisons to Barton
Fink
, Stranger than Fiction and Adaptation,
and also with those films’ shortcomings of implausibility after the
charm of the conceit wears off. Characters—particularly our hapless
waiter protagonist—bemoan their fate at the hands of fickle a
writer’s imagination and seek to alter destiny. Waiter is
a cleanly-made and left-of-center film, though, with two of the
funnier scenes yet seen in this festival: In one, the simple
ultra-fastidiousness of a bizarre bow and arrow salesman’s wrapping
job, and another Dadaistic scene in which our waiter abruptly
starts chanting “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa,” (spoiler alert), the result of
the screenwriter has fallen asleep on the job and is resting on the
“a” key.

Also Seen Dept.: The Korean film
The King and the Clown
is your not-so basic tragicomic
tale of jesters at the mercy of royalty in 16th-century Korea, and
is a blockbuster success in its native country. The film is also a
remarkably beautiful film to look at, from the costumes to the glow
of virtually every neatly-composed shot. In this tale, the king is
a sadistic buffoon, while his jesters are innately wise, even as
they skewer the corruption and cruelty of the man in charge. Hmm,
sounds kind of like George Bush and John Stewart, the foolish king
and the profound jester.

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