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Monday, Apr 26, 2010
The Independent Film Festival of Boston is running April 21-28 at various locations throughout the greater Boston area.

Now in its eighth year, the Independent Film Festival of Boston (or Biff, as I affectionately call it) has solidified its position as New England’s premier film event, only getting better as times goes on. Biff celebrates all that is alive and burgeoning in independent filmmaking by trotting out its typically diverse lineup of narrative films, documentaries and shorts, featuring work by established directors and fledgling first-time filmmakers, and boasting name stars and young up and comers, .

This is my fourth year covering the festival for PopMatters, and in that time I’ve been fortunate enough to see some great diamonds in the rough. I’ve also seen some real dogs that never should have made it past the vetting process of the festival board—or even been allowed for consideration in the first place. Sadly, I’ve spent more time trying to sort out schedules and conflicts than seeing actual films, and whiffed on seeing films that broke out of the festival to have some popular success (e.g. 500 Days of Summer, from last year) in favor of films that I thought would do better (Beeswax, also from last year).

In fact, this has happened so often over the last three years that this year I’m consciously going against all my instincts.  (Hopefully this will prove as successful as it did for George Costanza).

So, on to the films – and there are a lot of them. They need previewing, watching, and reviewing. I’ll be doing a little of the first and a bit of the latter in these posts, but mostly I’ll be holed up over the weekend and well into next week, at the Somerville Theater in Somerville, or the Brattle Theater in Cambridge. (The great joke of the Boston Indie Film Festival is that very little, if any, of it is ever actually held in Boston).

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Tuesday, Dec 8, 2009
Dogtooth by Yorgos Lanthimos: 29 November 2009 - Cinecity Film Festival - Brighton, England

Winner of the award “Un Certain Regard,” Dogtooth is Yorgos Lanthimos’ second feature film.  Thus far it has received great acclamation and has won awards at film festivals in Toronto, Munich, Catalonia, and, most recently, Stockholm.  Dark, provocative, humoristic and twisted are some of the words that best describe Lanthimos’ film, which will be the subject of long discussions when officially released in the UK and US.

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Monday, Nov 30, 2009

The 2009 Cinecity Film Festival in Brighton opened with a preview of Micmacs à tire-larigot, the first film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet since 2004’s A Very Long Engagement. The film proclaims itself to be a satire on the world of arms trading. The official press release states:  “Is it better to live with a bullet lodged in your brain, even if it means you might drop dead any time?  Or would you rather have the bullet taken out and live the rest of your life as a vegetable?  Are zebras white with black stripes or black with white stripes?  Is scrap metal worth more than landmines?  Can you get drunk from eating waffles?  Can a woman fit inside a refrigerator?  What’s the human cannonball world record?  Find out answers to these questions and more.  A comedy in the vein of Delicatessen,  and Amélie.”

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Friday, Sep 18, 2009
Our TIFF coverage wraps with Tilda Swinton's exemplary new film, Drew Barrymore's turn in the director's chair, a new vampire flick and more.

The end is nigh. Tomorrow, it’s one last film (Werner Herzog’s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done) and then it’s no TV for a month. 27 films in 8 days is pushing it, even for a genuine film fanatic such as myself. Plus: I can’t straighten my legs.

Highlights this week are clear: A Serious Man was my favourite, for sure, but I am predisposed to a certain reverence for anything those Coen Brothers do. Still, I do believe it’s their most rewarding film since The Big Lebowski. And, yes, I am including No Country for Old Men when I say that. Alongside it, Partir, The Disappearance of Alice Creed and I Am Love (see below) were both top flight films (for totally different reasons). Guy Maddin’s short Night Mayor was indelible and mysterious.The Road was good, but does not need to exist. Up in the Air was almost great. And, Jennifer’s Body was just plain awful. See you next year?

Cracks (dir. Jordan Scott, 2009)
After 80 minutes or so, what appears to be a perfectly pleasant (if a bit dull) coming of age tale turns so abruptly into something else that one’s head is given to spin. Where on earth did this come from? Set in a remote all-girls boarding school in 1930s England, seven teens practice diving under the watchful eye of an encouraging, modern, and poetic free spirit named Miss G (Eva Green, doing an Anne Hathaway impression). “The most important thing in life”, she counsels, “is desire”. But, before you can say Dead Poets Society, a new student appears: a beautiful Spanish countess (Maria Valverde) with the whiff of scandal following her across the sea. The erstwhile leader of the dive team (Juno Temple) is immediately jealous (especially after the new girl performs a complex dive, suggesting that all young women in the 1930s just happened to be adept at high dives, something that is news to me) and sets about a plot to destroy her. This would have made for an agreeable enough film, but all of a sudden Eva Green’s character begins to break apart, her armour showing (ahem) cracks. She is not who she says she is, you see. And, worse, she has fallen in love. Forbidden love. From then on, first-time director Jordan Scott (daughter of Sir Ridley) relies entirely on the goodwill of her audience as characters begin to do things she hasn’t prepared us for, culminating in shocking violence and frustrating ambiguity.

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Thursday, Sep 17, 2009
The new George Clooney showcase Up in the Air, the excellent Partir, the engaging Micmacs, and four short films from the National Film Board of Canada.

Things I overheard while eavesdropping during the festival so far include:

(Some film student-looking guy): He has more than… double my knowledge of international cinema!

(Some jaded and quite famous film reviewer): One year, I swear, I’m going to get a button that reads: “It’s just a fucking movie!”

(Some industry guy, talking loudly on his cell phone while in line ahead of me): I saw Roger Moore’s [sic] film last night. Well, you know I agree with his politics, I mean totally. But he can be so childish. This one was good though, not too didratic [double sic].

(Some local film reviewer with perhaps ironic facial hair, regarding the popular midnight madness public showings of horror films): I cannot watch a movie with that audience. (His friend): What, you mean like real people? (Mustache man): Yeah.

(Industry guy, looking a bit peaked, as we exited The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus): Oh, what a horrible mess. (Weird looking lady behind him): Yeah! Didn’t you just fucking love it?

(Reviewer from some obscure website unavailable outside of the mighty U.S. of A., to a helpful unpaid festival volunteer): So, am I to understand that no one in Canada has ever heard of the Huffington Post?

(Some serious film fanatic, as he sat down in front of me at a 9 a.m. screening): Only for Herzog would I do this. I was up till like three in the morning.

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