SFIFF 57 – The Curtain Rises… (for Peter)

Greetings, film lovers. It’s been a rather dreary past few weeks at the movies, with virtually nothing catching my attention. That’s common for early spring time, but usually there’s at least SOMETHING that looks interesting to me. Fortunately, for anyone longing for something resembling Oscar season in this month of April, I have good news for you. The San Francisco International Film Festival is currently active, and there’s an enormous slate of terrific-looking movies from which to choose.

Today marked my very first day attending the San Francisco International Film Festival, as well as my first day attending any film festival with an actual press accreditation. It was certainly nice to be able to march up to the press lounge and attain my very own badge with my picture and everything. It felt so delightfully official. After obtaining my ticket to the John Curran film Tracks, at literally the moment tickets were released to the press, I strolled right down beautiful Fillmore Street to get my spot in the already formed line. The festival worked like a well-oiled machine. Volunteers were friendly and more than ready to answer any question a patron may have.

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The name John Curran rang a bell with me, but I couldn’t quite place it. At first I mistook him for John Cariani, who made Once, one of my favorite films of its decade. But after looking his name up I saw that he directed We Don’t Live Here Anymore and The Painted Veil –  two films I saw one time each during their respective theatrical runs. Needless to say, my memory on both of those films was hazy, but if they were anywhere near as strong as his latest effort, Tracks, I think they may be worth going back to again. Tracks is enthralling, and yet another fine step forward for Mia Wasikowska. She was the title character in that Alice In Wonderland reboot that everyone saw and no one remembers. Telling the true story of a woman’s dangerous journey across an Australian desert, Curran’s direction starts out a bit disjointed, but quickly snaps right into place and becomes riveting.

A mere hour after the emotionally draining experience of Tracks came another film with a one-word title, although that’s pretty much the only similarity. Frank is a hilarious and wonderfully quirky film from Ireland in which a young songwriter named Jon, through sheer chance, falls into a place as a keyboardist in an alternative pop band. A lot of the film’s humor comes from the eccentricities of these artists, while Jon acts as a fish-out-of-water audience surrogate. Fortunately, the film goes much deeper than that as it goes on and has as many moments of pathos as of humor. While it may not result in a perfectly satisfying message, it’s still quite a delight to spend the 90 minutes with these people. Now’s probably a good time to mention that the lead singer insists on wearing an oversize model head over his own head at all times. He never takes it off. Like I said, quirky.

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And so concluded my first day covering the SFIFF. I’ll certainly be planning to return soon and look forward to bringing you further coverage of my escape from the doldrums of the current Hollywood releases.

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