One: Only connect, said Mr. Wystan Hugh Auden once upon a time in old Hollywood, I think it was. I usually do so halfway through any given film fest. And right on target, it’s finally happened Wednesday, thrice, after a long warm up of pretty good films. The first and best was Short Circuits, a Belgian version of the Magnolia– or Crash-type genre, interweaving stories that in America would reflect the agency of chance, but in this inspired version, they all boil down to excruciating moments of responsibility – so fine that the plot leaves them subtly for the audience to mine.
Two: Next came the sensually complex Argentinean transgender film XXY, which turns out to be more about the crazy specificity of desire that both motivates and shatters our human hearts. Filmed with a wealth of telling detail-the wounded turtles for instance-and a piercingly gorgeous cast. Note to Wendy McCaw: No real turtles were hurt in the making of XXY so call off the counselors, please.
Three: Finally the playful, though seemingly somber Ben X, a film that uses Asperger syndrome and video games to symbolically objectify the creative life. Hell with some rewards, it turns out. By the end of the day, I was happy, though tired of youthful angst and ready for the night’s big feature.
Four: The Virtuosos, an awards ceremony held at the Lobero honoring a five actors barely out of their teens yet defining a lot of what was remarkable in film this year – namely Casey Affleck, Marianne Cotillard, James MacAvoy, Ellen Page and Amy Ryan. Where you might’ve expected sparks and sharp disrespect, the panel, interviewed first individually and then in a group, it furnished very little heat, with the possible exception of MacAvoy’s explicit tongue and smoldering eyes. On the other hand, the evening reminded us that actors are individuals in their motivation and roadmaps to stardom. Ivan Retiman presented the award, summoning memories of the Showtime Lakers team playing the Fabulous Forum. If the actors looked perplexed, it’s because Casey Affleck was matriculating middle school in those days.