SFIFF 58 – Harry documents his day of documentaries…

My second day at the Festival began with an attempt to see a film entitled The New Girlfriend, but Peter beat me to the Press Office and as we only get one ticket per screening, I had to decide on another film. After a few seconds trying to determine Peter’s punishment for his transgression (Doesn’t he know who I AM?!), I quickly decided on a film running concurrently that I was also interested in seeing. There was some time before the screening, so I spent some time in the Festival Lounge with friend-of-the-show and Festival Programmer Sean Uyehara. Sean gave me his typical, precise recommendation of what to see – “Everything’s great!” Really, Sean? Really? Two words – “Running Sushi”.

Sean was a regular guest on our show over the years when it was a podcast. I had to explain to him how the change in show format over the last couple of years had forced some changes in our coverage of the Festival. I assured him that his failure to be asked on recent programs had nothing to do with his previous Festival recommendations.

After hanging with Sean for a bit, it was off to the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas for my first film of the day.
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One of the last completed works of famed documentarian Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens), Iris is a look at fashion icon Iris Apfel, who built her reputation off of her ability to “accessorize”, and boy can she. Apfel has spent decades taking objects and items that might seem kitschy to many and with the right garment and fabric created fashion of amazing color and contrast. I have little interest in fashion but Maysles brings us the woman behind the reputation and it is a colorful and entertaining. The film works as a documentary and it works as a love story as we spend time with the 93 year old Iris and her 100 year old husband Carl. Their relationship is as fascinating as any of the fashions she created.

After a detour to a scheduled meeting of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (of which I’m a member), I returned to the Festival twenty minutes too late to see the film I wanted to catch next. I ended up with a few hours to kill before the next screening, so it was off to the Festival Lounge for Luna bars and a couple of Fort Point beers. Which is just as well as a little “lubrication” could enhance my enjoyment of the next film – Drunken Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.

Drunk_Stoned_Brilliant_Dead_01Probably the single greatest source of American Comedy from the 1970’s on (and no, it wasn’t Saturday Night Live. Most of the various casts- John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Christopher Guest, etc. – had connections to the Lampoon before Lorne Michaels ever saw them.), the National Lampoon was a magazine (What’s that?) that I read whenever I had the chance, which was infrequent as the plethora of nude photos in each issue (for comedic purposes only) made it a “dirty” magazine to many parents. This documentary tells the tale of the magazine’s creation, rise and fall, and the human stories behind it. And the humor, lots of the incredibly offensive humor…

The poignant conclusion of the film, which dealt with the death of one of the group’s founders, was marred by an audience member who may have taken too many drugs in preparation for attending the film as she got progressively louder in her commenting on and talking back to the people on screen. I’m not quite sure what Irish-Catholicism and affordable housing in San Francisco had to do with anything, but she railed on to the consternation to the folks sitting around her and throughout the theatre.

The patron’s behavior, though marring my experience, didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the film and the recognition it gives to the comedic minds behind one of the greatest sources of American humor to this day. National Lampoon was so much more than just Animal House.

So ended my second day at the Festival. When would I return?

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