A Day at Mill Valley’s 2012 Film Festival: “Missing Piece”, “Reality”, “Amour” and “Seven Psychopaths”

Weighing heavily on my mind this year was the question of whether or not I could possibly top last year’s Mill Valley experience where I saw back-to-back screenings of Miss Bala and Shame, two of the most exceptional films I’ve seen from all of last year?  I couldn’t.  That’s not to say my one and only day spent in Marin’s valley wasn’t a waste of time.  With last year’s rewarding experience still fresh in my mind I set out to once again have my cinematic pleasure buttons pushed.  I wasn’t to be disappointed.  Capsule reviews and trailers after the jump

Missing Piece: The Truth About the Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa

True story (Well, duh.  Afterall, it is a non-fiction movie), in 1911 Leonardo da Vinci‘s Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre museum in Paris, France.  The painting was held onto for two years before being returned to its home.  This story is old news, especially to those familiar with art history.  However what isn’t old news are the many facets of the actual person, Vincenzo Peruggia, who committed this crime.  What was his motive, his reasoning, his day-to-day life like?  This was all mystery.  Not anymore.

Director, Joe Medeiros‘ documentary is a touching and humorous heist film complete with Monty Python-esque animation, a lively historical score, and is ultimately the funnest time I ever had while learning history.  If only High School history classes were this much fun.

Reality

A slice of frittata, a can of Calistoga, and an hour and a half later and I was back in the theatre ready to watch Matteo Garrone‘s follow-up to his 2008 dramatic gangster film, Gomorrah.  As one of the festival’s programmers announced before the film began, indeed, Reality was “light years different in terms of tone from Gomorrah.”  Whereas Gomorrah was a gritty depiction of the Italian mafia as it exists today, Reality played more like an adult cautionary fable/commentary on the pursuit of one’s 15 minutes of fame.  Although these two films are vastly different, at least as far as plot and genre are concerned, they both have a look and feel to them that is distinctly Garrone’s.

If comedic films were to be looked at as drinks, this would be considered a freshly squeezed medley of only the heartiest of fruits.  No added manipulated Hollywood preservatives and flavorings here.  Indeed, the best part about this film is that it exists as a comedy, yet has none of the usual comedic tropes that most of the Judd Apatow comedic fans are so used to nowadays.

Amour

Michael Haneke‘s latest was a late announcement in the festival, so late, that it didn’t even make it into the guide books.  Even with the late announcement, I was still expecting a sell-out crowd.  Afterall, this won the highest honor at Cannes, the Palme d’Or, and it’s in French!  I thought the Mill Valley demographic are supposed to love all things french.  Did I not eat my breakfast at their french-themed cafe, Champagne, located right next door to the theatre?  Not that I’m complaining about the turn-out, mind you.  I will never complain about not having people sit in front of me.  Anyway, enough about the turn-out (for the record it was a good turnout, just not the sold-out one I was expecting) I guess I should talk about the actual movie.

This film is a moving, and at times heart-wrenching exploration of what it means to come to terms with having to watch someone you love dearly deteriorate towards death.  As is par for the course, Haneke’s minimal camera movements make way for the actors to truly shine.  Both Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva are outstanding as the elderly couple, and Isabelle Huppert is, as to be expected, magnificent, even though her role as the daughter is a smaller one.

Of all the Haneke films I’ve seen thus far (Funny Games, Cache, The Piano Teacher, Time of the Wolf, The White Ribbon and now Amour), the one constant is that they are all in one way or the other challenging.  And while I do enjoy being challenged at the theatres, I do have trouble enjoying such a daunting subject matter right after I have seen two films loaded with comedic sensibilities.  I have no doubt that upon a revisit some years later that I will appreciate this film substantially more than I already do.

Seven Psychopaths

And now, due to capsule-review-writing fatigue; my gimmick review of Martin McDonagh‘s (In Bruges) latest comedy.

Seven reasons why I enjoyed Seven Psychopaths:

1. Christopher Walken pulling off the impossible.  He’s able to play a parody of his now cult status self without projecting any hint of insincerity.

2. This is the best, most original, and probably only parody of a post Pulp Fiction “cool dialogue” film.

3. Sam Rockwell.  So underrated.  So good.

4. Finally, Mr. McDonagh explains – in a most meta way – why his female characters are pretty forgettable.

5. Tom Waitts.  Nuff said.

6. A nice, unexpected, and scene-stealing cameo by a one of my all-time favorite actors (hint: think star of Paris, Texas whose initials are HDS).

7. Christopher Walken pulling off the impossible.  He’s able to play a parody of his now cult status self without projecting any hint of insincerity.  I know, I mentioned that already.  But I can’t stress how nice it was to see Walken being Walken again, and not some silly cash-in cameo in some stupid Adam Sandler romp.

Time to once again brush up on my Christopher Walken impressions.  Won’t my girlfriend be happy!




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