Monday, May 01, 2006

Independent Film Festival of Boston 2006, Day 5: Hitting the Wall (Thin)

There was supposed to be more than one review here, but I bit off far more than I could chew. I wanted to get a review of Abduction up in time for the second showing, so that kept me up until four, then there was a certain minimum amount of cleaning to do before Matt could get moved in. Then an hour and a half of sleep, a shower, and helping Mom & Bill dump all the stuff I left in their basement seven years ago in our kitchen, emptying out Matt's Northeastern dorm room, dumping that in our living room, and then taking them to Fire & Ice for breakfast because, really, it had to be a sort of crappy trip for them - load up the van with stuff, leave North Yarmouth at about six in the morning, help move stuff, and then head back North because I had film festival stuff I wanted to do and Matt had to help his girlfriend move, too. By the time we finished eating, I'd missed out on the start of Red, White, Black, and Blue.

The thing about Fire & Ice is that you get unlimited trips to the grill. So after the first trip which involved a big ol' pancake with coconut, raspberries, and chocolate chips, I felt like I had a little room left, and I might not eat again until late, so why not get an omelette, too? Answer: Because between the time I picked out my ingredients and the time I arrive back at the table, the pancake had sort of settled. By the time I finished the omelette, I was overstuffed to the point of lethargy. I wound up watching most of the baseball game before heading out to Coolidge Corner.

For a film about anorexics. Man, there is nothing so odd as watching a movie about eating disorders with a big lump of food in your gut. It's humbling, though, just because it puts me in a place where I can't really feel any superiority towad the extreme cases on screen. After all, my own relationship with food isn't exactly perfect, at least not on that day.

Q&A afterward was handled by Amanda Micheli, who served as cinematographer and producer and came to the festival a couple years earlier with her own film, Double Dare.

So, after, that, it's a rush to Somerville to see The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes. It's the new one by the Brothers Quay, whom I make a real effort to like. See, they've got uncanny skills with visuals - if you've seen Frida, they did the surreal puppet sequence - but they can't make a story exciting. Now, certainly, I was not in the best position to see the movie - two hours of sleep all day, a big breakfast pushing me toward a food coma, and seats toward the front of the theater where I really would have to crane my head up to see. I think I can safely say that I saw about fifteen minutes of the film's 100, more or less randomly scattered throughout. I truly hope there wasn't anybody in the "rush" line who was denied a ticket so that I could nap there.


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 23 April 2006 at Coolidge Corner Theater #2 (Independent Film Festival of Boston 2006)

Thin is difficult to watch. Eating disorders are an uncomfortable subject under any circumstances, but Lauren Greenfield's film steps it up a notch by being exactly what we say we want documentaries to be - clearheaded, objective, and non-judgmental. That's a rough deal, since there will likely be a number of times during the film's running time when the audience will want to yell at the camerawoman to do something, even if they're not sure what.

Greenfield sets her cameras up in the Renfrew Center, a residential clinic for women with anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders. Mainly, we follow four women: 15-year-old Brittany, who learned her bad habits young; 25-year-old Shelly, who has been fed with a surgically implanted tube for the last two years but learned that it provides, as she puts it, "direct access to [her] stomach", making purging with a syringe much less unpleasant than the usual methods; 29-year-old Polly, who becomes Shelly's best friend at the clinic; and 30-year-old Alisa, a mother of two worried that she won't be able to see her kids grow up. We follow them through morning and evening weigh-ins, precisely monitored meals, group therapy, one-on-one psychological, medical, and nutritional examination. We see them receive visitors, and watch them break the facilities every rule.

Read the rest at HBS.

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