Eleven movies in four days is quite a bit, even for a weirdo like me, but I still have to say that the folks at the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival put on one heck of a show.
I can't say any of the flicks I saw were awful, and well more than half of them were very good to outstanding. Though I'll be taking on full reviews of a few throughout the week, here's the breakdown:
Let the Right One In: Vampire mania is about to hit big time with something called "Twilight," which I'm way too old to enjoy, but there's another vampire movie out there now if you live in one of America's big cities (or many other places in the world) that's truly creepy. Swedish director Tomas Alfredson's "Let the Right One In" is the best horror movie I've seen in many years, and a movingly twisted love to story to boot. I'll offer a full review tomorrow, so please feel free to come back for that, but if you can, see this great flick as soon as possible. Besides, according to MTV, President-elect Obama is even reading the "Twilight" books along with his daughter Malia (as if he didn't have enough on his plate already), so maybe I'll have to give it a chance after all.
A Secret: Claude Miller's film about how World War II tore apart one family, and the personal act of betrayal at its core, is as dynamic as Truffaut flicks like "400 Blows," and I'm not exaggerating one bit when I say that.
In a Dream: This astounding documentary by Jeremiah Zagar starts out as a portrait of his father, Isaiah Zagar, who has covered 40,000 feet of Philadelphia with his beautiful mosaics. As it delves deeper and deeper, however, you get a painting of a very troubled man and the effect he has on the people all around him, including his devoted wife, Julia. Difficult but very entertaining all the same, like the best documentaries are meant to be.
The Grocer's Son: I have a fairly low tolerance for sentiment in movies unless it's delivered with a well-developed story to suit it's heart ("Chocolat," for example, is just a movie I simply can't stand.) Writer/director Eric Giuardo's simple story here is one many people will be able to relate to, about a son who returns from the city to run his father's small-town grocery after the pere suffers a heart attack. Funny, romantic and beautifully shot.
Man on Wire: The fun in this "documentary" about Frenchman Philippe Petit's high wire stunt between the Twin Towers in 1974 comes in trying to keep up with what is actual historic footage and what has been re-enacted for the sake of this movie. If that sounds corny, it really isn't. It comes off as one big trick you won't mind one bit falling for, and when you finally get to see Petit on the high wire it's well worth the wait.
Tell No One: Like "The Usual Suspects," this complicated but absorbing thriller from Frenchman Guillaume Canet is one I had to see twice to truly appreciate. After viewing it in August, I was sure the story - from a novel by Harlan Coben - just didn't add up, but after watching it again on Sunday I'm now fairly certain it does. If you can keep up, you get a flick with all the conventions of a truly mind-bending thriller, with the bonus of a great performance from leading man Francois Cluzet, action scenes that pulse with genuine intensity, and a "reveal" that just might be the best 30 minutes of film I've seen all year.
Trouble the Water: I thought that after watching Spike Lee's tremendous "When the Levees Broke" I'd never want to see another documentary about Hurricane Katrina, but husband-and-wife team Carl Deal and Tia Lessin certainly proved me wrong. Though their flick, produced by Michael Moore's shop, overreaches more than a bit, it's very effecting when it focuses on the husband and wife at its core, two people you will grow to love as you see their harrowing, handheld camera account of what it was like to be trapped in the attic as Katrina bore down on the Crescent City.
Wendy and Lucy: I had extremely high hopes for this flick from director Kelly Reichardt, but I have to say it just left me more than a little cold. Michelle Williams certainly delivers a great performance as one half of the titular duo, Wendy, a truly down-on-her-luck woman who loses her dog, Lucy, and spends most of the movie looking for him. I'm really not giving too much away since not much happens in this flick at all, but I liked Reichardt's "Old Joy" quite a bit, so I'll definitely give her another chance next time.
Under the Bombs Philippe Aractingi's movie about the aftermath of Israel's 2006 bombing campaign in Lebanon certainly wasn't uplifting fare for a Sunday morning. In Lebanon's Oscar hopeful, Aractingi focuses on the story of a woman searching for her son and the cab driver who takes her on the very wild ride to try and find him. Almost all of the other "actors" who appear in the film are Lebanese people who survived the bombing campaign and tell their stories, giving the movie a very one-sided and didactic feel, even though the story has a genuine urgency to it.
Mister Foe This very odd little flick from director David MacKenzie stars Jamie Bell (yes, "Billy Elliott") as a teen with a nasty habit of spying on people and an even more troublesome oedipal complex. Even with a solid cast that includes Sophia Myles, Ciaran Hinds, Claire Forlani and Ewan Bremner (remember Spud?), this one just has a far-too-familiar feel as it tries to deal with some truly twisted subject matter.
And, finally ...
Mirageman: As silly as it is, I really can't fault this flick too much because it delivered exactly what it advertised: A Chilean flick about a superhero called, obviously, Mirageman. As our low-tech street vigilante develops into the people's hero, you do get a fairly sly commentary on tabloid news and just a fun way to spend 90 minutes or so.
I plan to write full reviews of at least "Let the Right One In" and maybe a few more in the coming days - before Bond! - so please feel free to check back, and have a perfectly passable Monday.