Update – SFiFF 56 – The Revenge of Sean Uyehara

Seeing as how my first day at the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival didn’t end until 3am, I was in no particular rush to head back down to the Kabuki Cinemas on Sunday and catch a few more Festival flicks. Upon checking the schedule, I was pleased to see that a film that SFFS Programmer Sean Uyehara RAVED about on our preview show was screening at 4:15pm. Perfect. Or so I thought.

Now, a little back story. Sean has been on our BlogTalkRadio show for the past five years and has always been a great guest. He gives our audience great insight into the Festival, the films and the Special Events going on throughout the two week run. We’ve had a lot of fun with Sean over the years, and in this year’s preview show we decided to rib Sean a bit regarding his tenure at the San Francisco Film Society. I just thought it was funny that after 13 years with the Society, he was still “just” a Programmer. I mean, come on, shouldn’t he be Executive Director by now? No one stays 13 years with one organization any more – excluding the military and Congress – without advancement. I busted on Sean for his apparent lack of initiative and hoped that he would get at least a 25 cent an hour raise for all his hard work. Sean took it all in stride — or so I thought. I then asked him to recommend something that I should definitely catch on the big screen. Sean said he had a great one for me to see – “Leviathan”.

Well played, Uyehara. Revenge is a dish best served cold – cold as a mackerel – coincidentally, one of the many stars of the film…

Leviathan is 20 minutes of interesting documentary footage stretched out to an interminable 87 minute length feature. With cameras placed all over a fishing trawler, you get a not-typical look at what goes into getting that seafood special onto your dinner plate. You may not like what you see. My initial thoughts while watching this film were just how brutal and inhumane commercial fishing is and how archaic current fishing methods seem to be in this digital age. But my concerns seemed to melt away as the monotony of this film bludgeoned me into indifference. I wasn’t alone in this, as a steady stream of patrons exited the auditorium throughout the screening. When I estimated that about 20 people walked out, SFGate’s John Angelico insisted it couldn’t have been that many. I reminded him he nodded off several times during the film, and might have missed a few.

If it was filmmakers Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verna Paravel’s intent to transmit the tediousness of a modern fisherman’s life, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

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Resisting the impulse to track Sean down to ask him what I had done to deserve such a torturous cinematic experience as viewing that film, I opted instead to go check out “Nights with Theodore”, a French film with mystical undertones that intrigued me.

The film played with a short entitled “night, peace” which opened up with a ship heading out to sea. Fighting back the terror that I had wandered into another showing of “Leviathan”, the short turned out to be an overnight look at London from different perspectives – all done in 11 minutes. Aforementioned filmmakers, take note…

“Nights with Theodore” is a tough film to describe. What is the strange power a certain park in Paris seems to hold over its visitors? I’ll leave it at that, except to say that while the film held my interest, the ending left me a bit cold and wanting. Running a scant 65 minutes, the film could have run a bit longer and fleshed out its climax.

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I finished up the evening with a screening of “The Kings of Summer”, an absolutely delightful coming-of-age story that captures the truths of adolescent male friendship better than most films of the same ilk.

The three male leads ( Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias ) are outstanding and are ably supported by comedic greats Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally. The young gentlemen were in attendance at the screening and participated in a Q&A after the film’s conclusion. Arias is the veteran of the group (at age 19) having been working steadily since age 10, and can be seen in the upcoming sci-fi opus “Ender’s Game.” Basso seemed a little overwhelmed by the whole Festival environment, though he does have a few films under his belt as well. Robinson seemed to be just a little too full of himself at the Q&A, but I’m willing to chalk that up to the arrogance of youth – Hollywood youth. Regardless, they all acquit themselves well as performers in this film.

Seek this one out when it goes into general release at the end of this month.

And so ended my first weekend at the Festival… more to come!

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