Friday, April 27, 2007

Independent Film Festival of Boston 2007 Thursday Night: Congorama and The Great World of Sound

Since so much of the IFFB is at the Somerville Theater, I am my selection of what films I see is in part motivated by getting home. I can easily walk home from the Brattle, and while the Coolidge is a little more of a hike, I've done it before and will likely do it again. Five of the seven screens that might be running films at any given time are at the Somerville, and though it's right on the T, this is Boston. The puritan values that founded this city say that if you're up past midnight, you're probably sinning, and they feel no need to help you with that. So, if a film at the Somerville looks like it might go past midnight (based upon starting half an hour late), it's out.

That's part of why when making plans for the festival, I generally start from the late shows and work my way back. Great World of Sound and Gretchen both looked most likely to finish while the subway was still running, and I'm not terribly excited about misfit teen movies right now. So Great World it was, and then Congorama almost by default. I liked Congorama, though - I'm a sucker for interesting engineer characters, and although the sharply dilineated parallel structure may sap the revelations of some surprise, it's a niftily plotted movie.

Tonight: Quiet City, Monkey Warfare, and Black Sheep.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 26 April 2007 at the Someville Theatre #5 (Independent Film Festival of Boston)

As I said, I liked Congorama quite a bit - it did the thing where it showes Michel's story, then backs up to show Louis's and how they intersect, which makes for a weird effect - what happens to Louis is more or less a foregon conclusion, but also serves to highlight how we know things that the characters don't. It also allows for their stories to be told in parallel without their similarities being too crushingly obvious.

More on this later, when I can go back and revisit things that aren't getting other runs at the festival.

Great World of Sound

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 26 April 2007 at the Someville Theatre #5 (Independent Film Festival of Boston)

I've been encountering evidence that we need more sub-ninety minute movies for a few months now, whether it be in the form of (mostly older) movies that are just tight as heck with the short running time or others that seem to be stretched out to give the filmgoer the appearance of value for money. It saddens me to report that Great World of Sound falls firmly into the latter category: An idea that's not bad but which would be much more effective if it was told more efficiently.

The good idea is a movie about song-sharking, the predatory practice of so-called music producers arranging auditions in which they convince would-be professional musicians that they will help them put out an album, although the artist has to put up 30%. The album, of course, never materializes. In Great World of Sound, the people selling this bill of goods are Martin (Pat Healy) and Clarence (Kene Holliday), although they to are initially duped into thinking they've been hired by a successful producer. It doesn't take very long before they realize what they're involved in, but they need the money and are able to convince themselves that there's at least some effort being made to follow through.

Pat Healy and Kene Holliday working together could form the basis of a very good buddy picture. Aside from being opposites physically - Healy is a young, scrawny, pasty Caucasian with a receding hairline; Holliday is black, middle-aged and kind of burly - they work their characters' contrasting personalities of each other very well. Healy makes Martin nervous, a little naïve, and indecisive; he's a good partner for Clarence because his lack of ability to do the hard sell makes the operation look more credible. Clarence is, of course, very good at the hard sell; Holliday makes him a graduate of the school of hard knocks whose larger-than-life personality fills whatever room he's in almost to overflowing. They do a lot of regognizable bits - Clarence making a race-related comment that makes Martin uncomfortable followed by a big laugh and "I'm just kidding" and Martin joining the laugh nervously, for instance - but they do them with a believable lack of polish. Holliday doesn't seem to be trying to project a cool image when he does his thing, and Martin's squirmy enough to be genuinely uncomfortable.

Full review at HBS.

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