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The First Three Rows Are Exhausted: PIFF 2006 (Part 2)

Thursday, November 9, 2006

The poster’s theme is ‘Asia.’  Everything in Asia’s theme is ‘Asia.’When last we saw our intrepid Pusan International Film Festival explorers, they’d slept a mere 4.5 hours since the previous morn, and were now faced with what was truly a daunting challenge: to stay up all night watching more movies, and surrounded by Asians, to boot.

For this is both the contradiction and the eventuality for all “buffs” — be they film, music, or exercise. This is the moment when a man will ask himself, “Am I a man?,” boldly ignoring the redundancies therein. A similar question applies to woman buffs, though the exact phrasing of this question eludes me at the moment.

So fire up your reading eyes, activate the word-comprehension section of your brain, and engorge yourself of the middle-half of this new epic trilogy. But be warned: it’s darker and more violent than the first, is filled with preposterous language no person should be expected to understand, and it basically only serves as setup for Part 3. Off we go…


12:40 am — Free Jimmy (Norway)

The bastards dropped us up front again, this time all the way to stage left. Curse these same-day tickets!

It feels like there's an elephant running around in my head.  No, a really big elephant.

Now this is unexpected: it’s a CG movie about an elephant. Why the hell would they think a CG movie about an elephant with celebrity voices and all that shit would be best served in the witching hour?

The answer comes fast.

Drugs, sex, violence, gore, and loads and loads of swearing: that’s why Free Jimmy’s a midnight movie. This is actually Norway’s first CG film and its highest budgeted film ever (though it actually looks a bit cheap compared to the stuff we’re used to; awkward character movements and some severe uglies are the norm here) — in his short introduction, the director told us that every Norwegian would have to see Free Jimmy ten times for it to make its budget back domestically. I wonder if he’s including kids in that figure.when he was reaching for his soda.

The humans in Free Jimmy, every one of them, are pretty despicable, from the main group of druggie thugs, to the ignorant animal rights activists, to the hick hunting party. On the other end, the two lead animals are extremely sympathetic, and they’re probably the least anthropomorphised animals in CG history. No talking, no singing, none of that. Jimmy the elephant does have some human problems, though — he’s a circus elephant, and he’s kept at his professional best with speed by the handful. He’s an addict, and though they do use this elephant element as a source for dark humour, it’s still presented as as sad a thing as it really is. And then when Jimmy escapes and fights his addiction (with the help of a wild moose, naturally), it’s very rousing. I was rooting for the big guy.

Free Jimmy is great because it’s a daring departure from the usual family fare in big-budget CG, and because it does have a real story and pathos mixed into its mess of crudity. Its largest problem is that it’s just not funny enough. It has its moments for sure, but not enough of them — which is all the more surprising considering that the English script was written by Simon Pegg (who did voicework as well, along with Woody Harrelson, Kyle MacLachlan, Samantha Morton, and other moderately-big names). I suppose he was working with an already fully assembled-film, just plugging dialogue into set beats, but still, this is the guy behind Spaced and Shaun of the Dead. I can’t help but expect more of the ha-ha. [IMDB] [Official]

2:30 am — Bad Blood (Portugal)

They never would've even known about the ghost of the second floor if it weren't for the rolling brownouts.

I don’t really like ghost movies. There are exceptions, of course — The Shining scared me half way from crap; The Sixth Sense uses the elements of a ghost story to do some unique things; and the big bang basically only happened in the first place so we’d get Ghostbusters. But otherwise, I find it harder to maintain my suspension of disbelief with a typical ghost movie than with, say, the Asian Blur. This is because it seems that ghost movie ghosts, while the circumstances of their deaths are usually tragic enough to makes their motivations clear, the way they go about expressing themselves is always in the same two ways: a) by trying to scare whatever character is off on their own in the dark hallway, and b) by trying to scare the cameraman. There’s basically no real reason or rhyme to the spooky things they do — and more often than not, those things they do do have already been done before, plenty of times.

Bad Blood’s a bit of the same — Oh my God! Who are those children?! — Holy fuck! I just heard a sound upstairs but everybody’s outside!! — Jiminy Cricket! I was just raped by my brother! Okay, I guess that one’s new.

I do like how the main character isn’t just disbelieving in all this ghost bullshit, he’s a hardcore scientific skeptic, way more believable in his arguments than Scully ever was. And it’s got some nice, oddly appropriate music, as well. And good performances. It’s not that Bad Blood’s a bad ghost movie — it’s probably one of the better ones I’ve seen, from a sort of high-minded perspective. It’s just that, like I said, I don’t really like ghost movies. If you do like ghost movies, yeah, track this one down, sure. And sorry about the brother rape spoiler. [IMDB] [Official]

4:20 am — Shortbus (U.S.A.)

The streetlight was so out of place, all she could do was lay there with her pelvis out.

If you thought I was sharing my thoughts on Asian porn censorship just for the fun of it, you’ve misjudged me. Travelling Companion and I had been curious all day how John Cameron Mitchell’s penetration-filled new movie would fly on Korean screens, if in fact it was an legal issue and not just a decency guideline that had been keeping me from seeing Sora Aoi’s crotch in action all this time.

Rest assured, we saw it all. And I’ll say this right now: Shortbus is the best film of this festival and one of the best anywhere in quite a long time. The actual real genital sex, while not as central to the film as you might think, is hardly gratuitous. The movie is about sex beyond just the genuine depiction, but it knows that its shock value is what will get it the most attention, so they lay it all out for you right off the bat, with a graphic, funny, startling, playful and pretty ridiculous montage of our main characters going at it in all their various manners.

Now that that’s out of the way, they can get down to the matter at hand: yeah, as you’d expect from a indie movie that would claim it’s being “frank” about human sexuality, these people are not quite happy. But don’t be so serious about it, because Shortbus considers the fun, goofy side of sex to be just as significant (more so, perhaps) than the head-fucking-with side. I would call this movie a comedy, despite how it’s classified elsewhere about the Internets, but it’s a comedy with the smarts to be more than just a comedy.

There are criticisms to be made, sure, but I’m not gonna make any of them. And if I did, they wouldn’t be about the sex itself. I’ve read here and there that it’s a bore, gratuitous, shocI was all about love and togetherness, until some motherfucker swiped his new juicer.king-for-its-own-sake, or excessive, and I disagree on all fronts. I’m very pleased that all the sex in here was real, and that they did deliberately go to some ridiculous lengths with it — to do any less would’ve betrayed one of the key ideas behind this movie. Shortbus proudly declares that sex is not something that should in any way be a shameful, hidden thing in our world, and it suggests that when a movie wants to include a sex scene but needs to shoot around the actual body parts that make it sex — and for the sake of decency, of all things — it’s kinda preposterous.

And I can not end this without mentioning the film’s closing montage: it’s the most joyous, energetic, enthusiastic celebration on film I can ever recall seeing. It’s got kissing and riding and sucking and fucking and music and it builds up to an explosion and yes, that means exactly what you think it means. Of all the movies I was able to see at PIFF this year, the best one is actually the one any of you people back home are actually able to see. Lucky you. [IMDB] [Official]

Now, it’s 6:00 am and the day’s movies have come to an end. Time for some more sleep. Or rather it would be if I weren’t such a damn fool.

6:14 am — Back in Line.

My Travelling Companion has pussed out. He wanted to see The Front Line at 10:30, and I was willing to go along, but he decided he just can’t handle it. Which really, is just sensible. So instead of seeing another movie four hours from now, we’ll be sleeping. And then he’ll be getting on a train and heading home.

I will not be getting on that train. Maybe it’s that I’m something of a masochist, maybe it’s that I’ve got plenty of experience in sleep deprivation (three night-shift jobs plus a role as the subject of a documentary about a young man staying awake for 72 hours), but I’m gonna ride this festival out to the last possible minute. Travelling Companion heads back to the hotel; I get in line to buy more tickets.

I’m much further back now, having claimed my spot some five hours later than I did last night, so I’m a bit nervous. It would be very, very unfortunate if both of the shows I want to attend are sold out.

Unrelated Beach Shot

Not just because of the sleep I’d have missed out on by waiting in this lineup for the next two hours. The Busan-Seoul trains are popular, and you need to book your spot in advance. Travelling Companion’s Korean girlfriend took care of that for us; he got one of the last seats on the 4:30 train today, and I got one of the last spots on the 6:30 am train tomorrow. If I don’t get into the evening movie I want, or worse still, tonight’s midnight screenings, what the hell am I gonna do until 6:30 am? (The seemingly obvious answer would be sleep, but we have to check out of the hotel at noon.)

It’s a rough couple of hours for me, though I notice the folks up near the front of the cue have got their shit together — no more cardboard boxes and newspapers spread out on the floor, they’ve got sleeping bags and inflatable pillows. If last night was a hobo campout, tonight we’ve got a Microsoft Wilderness Unity Weekend going.

8:30 am — Thank Fucking God.

I got both of my movies. Now I’m going to bed. laebmada

Celebrate good times, come on.  Hey you, why aren't you celebrating?

Go to Part 1Go to Part 3

8 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Monday, November 13, 2006 5:19 pm

    A delightful tale.

    I still have to see Shortbus, and I’m glad to know it has your ringing endorsement.

    And just who is this mysterious ‘Travelling Companion?’ I can’t wait for the thrilling climax of Part III.

    (Actually, I already know who ‘Travelling Companion is — I’m just trying to build some suspense for our readership. Hi readership! How are ya?).

  2. Tuesday, November 14, 2006 8:10 am


    Oh wait, you meant someone other then the guy whose name is at the top of the site.

    And you have piqued my interest about Shortbus -to tell you the truth, all the stuff I’ve heard about it makes it sound like a very bad ‘film school’ idea.

  3. Tuesday, November 14, 2006 8:44 am

    My Travelling Companion is, and always will be, Jesus.

  4. Friday, May 4, 2007 6:40 am

    All my questions answered — Shortbus is/was going to get its “real” Korean release soon, and it seems there was a bit of an issue with that. But it’s been resolved.

  5. James17930 permalink
    Friday, May 4, 2007 11:20 am

    Good to see that full-on, on-screen banging will be available to the Korean people at large.

  6. Friday, May 4, 2007 11:27 am

    Not really. If you click that hyperlink, you’ll see that it’s only allowed to play in “festivals.” So it’s hardly at large, but still available for those who really wanna see it.

    Also, you said “at large,” which I found amusing.

  7. Wednesday, July 18, 2007 2:15 am

    Hi, Black Anal Porn. Thanks for reading!


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