Woodard’s Day One at the Movies

Veteran Fester Reports on Films So Far

With the arrival of Day One of SBIFF 2010, a familiar old sensation sets in for the habituated fest-goer: call it cine-wanderlust. Memories of the pleasing enough but unfinished-feeling opening night film, Flying Lessons, were barely 10 hours old when one could start plunging into the world, via the IF (international film) aspects of the acronym.

First stop, post-coffee, at 8:15 a.m., it was to Slovenia and the gritty but strangely hopeful Slovenia Girl, about a college girl in Ljubljana whose rent-paying “side job” as a call girl pulls her toward various dark sides. Later in the day, the path led north to Finland, and its subtle, surprisingly poetic and potent Letters to Father Jacob, Finland’s Oscar bid. Who knew that a simple tale of a blind old preacher and his parolee assistant could be so moving, cathartic, and visually hypnotic?

Surprising and hypnotic in a very different, more shamanistic way, Kazakhstan director Yermek Tursunov’s film Kelin is ravishingly sensuous (one of the sexier film of the current fest’s roster, no doubt. Another unexpected treat from a far global corner we all need to know more about, Iranian director Shahram Mokri’s Ashkan, The Charmed Ring and Other Stories … is an ingenious narrative puzzle and a dryly hilarious comic heist film, probably the funniest film of the fest.

From a more expected angle, respected Italian director Marco Bellochio (Fist in his Pocket, The Eyes, the Nose, The Mouth), delivers another powerful and highly filmic film with Vincere. The subject — about Mussolini’s hidden, ostracized secret lover — is historically intriguing enough, especially given the story told from the spurned woman’s perspective. But the film itself is a work of heightened cinematic sensibilities, mixing archival footage and his ravishingly realized color scenes, with operatic music snippets and general inventiveness on high alert.

Stay tuned. Stay dry. Stay global.

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