August 2, 2010

Film Fest: Day Sixteen

Ok. The penultimate day of Festival. Nearly there. Nearly finished. Just had to get through this day and to the Festival Party that night. Ahhh... it's what I've been looking forward to. Drinking, dancing and generally blowing off steam. It was a damn good night, with plenty of moves busted and beers drunk. And boy howdy, I felt it the next day. But before we get to that...

Melody for a Street Organ
There is no way I would have chosen to see this film. I was rostered on to Usher it though, so I had to. To me, it looked to be a depressing Eastern European "art" film that would be a slog. I wasn't disappointed.
The film concerns two little tykes on their way to Moscow (from somewhere in the Ukraine I think) to find their dads. They're all alone and are quickly booted off the train and robbed. I think we're supposed to care for them, but the poor performances and the fact the characters don't seem to be like real people at all, inhibits this. In fact, no-one in the film acts like a real person. Everyone encountered is some sort of cipher, meant to symbolise some belaboured point. At one point, the two kids wander into a part of the station full of people on phones. No-one has anytime for them. Everyone gestures wildly, with their hands, their face and their bodies as if they were drama school dropouts asked to act being on the telephone. It's a scene that drags on and on. And we get the point very, very quickly. The whole film is like this.
Thus, when we finally reach the obviously tragic end my only emotional response to the whole thing was: thank fuck that's over. My brain felt like it had been relentlessly pummeled with a hammer. The Symbolism and Meaning Hammer.

American: The Bill Hicks Story
This was the film I was actually looking forward to seeing today. A documentary on Bill Hicks, his life and comedy. An interesting choice was made in not showing the people talking for the majority of the run-time. Interviews with Hicks' family, friends and fellow comedians are overlayed with animated photographs, old footage of Hicks and various filmed stand-up gigs. It was hard to tell who was talking at times and it occasionally took you out of the flow of the story.
The story of Hicks' life is engaging enough, and I see what they were going for with the use of photographs. As for Hicks himself, he's one of those brilliant comics you either get or you don't. As he died way back when, I've only known of him posthumously and loved his angry, intelligent humour. He seemed to truly want to change the world. To make people laugh and really get them thinking. Of course, he wasn't amazing popular in the States. So while all of this, and the details of his life, were new to me I don't know how new it would be to true Hicks fans in the audience (like the guy sat in my room who heaved and giggled at just about every utterance from Hicks). But the footage of Hicks's first gigs, shot on home video when he was still in high school, is something to treasure. As well as home video footage of his last ever gig.
The real sadness in the Bill Hicks story is that we lost him. Like so many other great minds, we lost him early and we lost him young. Dead at 32 from pancreatic cancer, he was really beginning to become a stand-up superstar (especially in the UK, surprisingly).
If you know Hicks, if you know his comedy, you'll get a kick out of this. If you don't know Bill Hicks... please, take a listen sometime.

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