Wednesday, July 13, 2011

NYAFF and Japan Cuts- A mixed shorts program and food place to die for

Today was an abbreviated day for me. I was supposed to see the second Mise-en-scene short program at the NYAFF and two films at the Japan Society. However life interfered and I had to cut short my time at Japan Society or else not get home tonight.(Then again after the movie at the Japan society I would have left anyway so the mood wasn't spoiled)

First up was the short film program, and as I've been told about past years the turn out was rather light. My understanding is that the short films don't get a big crowd because they are usually scheduled midday mid-week, but I've always been told the best films usually are found there. This year I was warned that the films were unusually mixed.


The program ran the gamut from the best of the festival to the least.

First up was Tunnel. This is a 15 minute shaggy dog story about a man who is one ball away from bowling a perfect game when some annoying people show up. She has terminal hiccups and pops her gum, he is just freaking strange. Told out of order, it would have to be for it to be at all interesting, the film ultimately is pointless since the story once it's all laid out makes you go "That's it?". Apparently. In the end it's 15 minutes I'll never get back.

Debris is another 16 minutes of my life wasted. It's about the lone guy at a space gas station dreaming of women and then finding a porno mag floating outside the space station. Despite some very good visuals this one was a time suck. It just seemed to go on and on and on toward a conclusion that was like WTF.

Yoon Hye-Ryeom's Familyship is three minutes of sustained black comedy that starts with a mom threatening to shoot her son if he doesn't get a math question right. its wicked funny. The director was in the house and an excellent and truly informative Q&A followed all of the films. I realize I never found out the name of the gentleman who interviewed her, but this guy was amazing and I told him so. As I said I have been to dozens of Q&As and this is one of the best. The fact that he could turn a 3 minute film into a 30 minute interview was miraculous. It was so much better than many other Q&As I've seen at Lincoln Center which often rambled and were off topic. Here the discussion was interesting and on point, often in ways you never knew were on point. The interviewer said it was all Yoon Hy-Ryeom who IS and excellent speaker, but a large part of the success goes to the modest fellow asking the questions since he knew what to ask and how to move things along (Trust me I've seen train wrecks at the NYFF, Tribeca and Film Comment Selects that would curl your hair and this was light years from that).

My Mom's Great Kimchi Stew was an over long piece that nominally is about a mother who cooks Kimchi on the first of the month and forces her family to eat it the rest of the month. It has some amusing bits but its wildly over long at 19 minutes.

is a very good animated short film about what happens when one member of a group of martial arts heroes decides to go off to get glory for himself. Its done to look like watercolor on textured paper and it's amazing to look at (and the story is good too)

The winner of the bunch and one of the best films of the Festival and of the year is Lee Sang Geun's Mr Tap's Holiday. It is just fantastic. DO yourself a favor and just give yourself over to this marvelous and moving film and be moved. The plot has a plumber working on the tap in a wall. During the process of fixing it the wall cracks and out steps a man with the tap coming out of his head. He wanders off leaving the plumber staring. We then follow Mr Tap as he goes on an adventure and is reunited with a lost love. I can't explain it even if I wanted to. This is just one of the films you have to see to have it make sense. And you will want to see it, you just don't know it yet. Trust me, this is one of the most romantic films you'll see all year. This is one of my finds. And yes I thought this was just too weird and strange at first but it just clicked and it had me getting misty by the end.

After the shorts I wandered the city a bit and then I headed down to the Japan Society.

I was supposed to see two films, but because of a situation involving cars I had to bail on seeing Birthright (aka Umbilical Cord) which a thriller. However after the first film I would have left the theater anyway since I didn't want the spell broken. BAsically I was feeling too good.

Rinco's Restaurant is, probably going to become one of my favorite films of all time. Its a very bittersweet film about Rinco, who loses her voice when a boyfriend steals all her things and runs away. She moves back home with her mom, the talking pig and opens a restaurant. There's more to it then that (like eating Rinco's food has the ability to give you what you want) but I'll let you find out about it for yourself.

This is a magical realism story about finding ourselves, finding what we want and making our way in the world. Its got a marvelous imagery, great characters and one of the most joyous feelings I've ever experienced at the movies. I was crying because something about the film was making me feel so damn happy I couldn't help myself. And then when the sad parts came I got teary from those too. (Yea basically I cried all over the place).

I love this film.

It just made me feel good, even the sad parts.

When it was over I sat in my chair wondering why I had never heard about this film before. Why weren't more people talking about it? It just blew me away. I was feeling so moved that even if I could have stayed for the second film I wouldn't have since I was still processing, still feeling Rinco and I didn't want it to end.

Oh my lord was my world rocked in a good way.

One of the best films of the year and you really should make an effort to track this down. (And it can be had on DVD if you look around- though check the subtitles since some versions apparently aren't good. I'll post where to find it cheap once I sort out who has the best version)

And that's it for today's films, some good ones, some bad ones and some great ones.

Tomorrow is supposed to be another run in the Railtruck at the Japan Society and a trip to Yellow Sea to close out the NYAFF. Things are in flux so I'm not sure how it will all play out. Even If I don't make Yellow Sea(it would mean I'm out until almost 3 AM because of trains) Mr C is going and he is going to report on the closing ceremonies.

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