Monday, February 13, 2012

Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival Daily, 2012.02 (11 February): In the Renaissance and Folklore

Saturday was Japanese class, T, two movies in Somerville. You know, wouldn't think it takes quite this long to get from Kenmore to Davis on the T, even with the transferring and having to take a shuttle bus north from Harvard. Makes for a bit of a long day, but it beats working.

Both filmmakers were on hand, but In the Renaissance's Damien Ober didn't stick around for questions afterward, even though there was a bit of time with Folklore scheduled to start a little late because the director's train was delayed. Probably for the best - there was polite applause at the end, but it was applauding the fact that the movie had ended, rather than the work done on it. Most of the comments I heard were rather less friendly than mine.

Eventually, Mr. Chenn showed up, and we got Folklore.

(Justin Calen Chenn and Garen Daly)

Most shocking thing about the Q&A: Answering the inevitable "how much did this cost" with an actual number! I suppose he might as well, as the micro-budget picture was funded via Kickstarter and people can look it up, but, man, you just get used to hearing "I probably shouldn't say because we're still looking to get distribution".

It was a friendly enough Q&A, with Chenn mentioning that a lot of both the cast and crew were people working on big studio films in lesser roles - soundtrack composer Sunna Wehrmeijer, for instance, has done technical work on the soundtracks of Prometheus and other movies multiple orders of magnitude more expensive than this. It got a little odd when we started talking about how to get more people to see this movie, with the audience offering a lot of answers of the "I don't really know but want to be helpful" variety.

Still, it's a pretty good movie; I wouldn't be shocked to see it turn up at Fantasia later this year (it has the "Sunday afternoon in de Seve" feel to it).

In the Renaissance

* (out of four)
Seen 11 February 2012 in the Somerville Theatre Micro-Cinema (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, video)

I must admit, it was kind of a relief to discover that I'd nodded off and so couldn't, in good conscience, give In the Renaissance a full review. It's pretty terrible, right across the board, but it's the sort of "locally made by earnest young amateurs" terrible where putting it in the eFilmCritic database next to big studio releases and devoting six paragraphs to telling people who will never encounter it why seems like the equivalent of picking on little kids.

Still, if Damien Ober and his compatriots are going to continue making movies, I hope they opt to start telling stories with a real beginning, middle, and end. Don't just include weird things for weirdness's sake. And please, don't draw things out with long establishing shots to try and get to feature length. You're not yet technically astute enough to pull that off, and the result is a real drag to sit through.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 11 February 2012 in the Somerville Theatre Micro-Cinema (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, video)

Folklore is the sort of comedy that will, over the course fo the film, tell the audience about a hundred jokes in the hope that enough hit to make the whole thing worth it. It's got a hit rate of around 50%, which is pretty good, all things considered. The really good news is that the bits which might grate become funnier as the movie goes on, rather than the other way around.

Collins Jahn (Brad Roller) has been working for the Quartz Agency for a few months, and today he has a busy day ahead of him: Quartz's purpose is to monitor the various mystical, extraterrestrial, and scientifically augmented intelligences on Earth, and it's census time. Today's schedule of biennial interviews includes an android (Paris Benjamin), alien sisters (Sherill Turner and Rachel Rath), a vampire (Ruth Connell), a time traveler (Napoleon Ryan), a shape-shifter (Tracy A. Bjelland), a banshee (Elizabeth Knowelden), a Chinese god (Roy Ying), a werewolf (Larry Purtell), a were-unicorn (Maria Olsen), and angel (Angela Hay), an Icelandic troll (Garrett Liggett), and a water nymph (Paulie Rojas). Collins does have the assistance of camera tech Merle Eppis (Laura Waddell), but to be completely honest, she's probably the weirdest of them all.

Writer/director Justin Calen Chenn isn't going for anything very complicated in terms of plotting or mythology here; the dozen interviews are, by and large, individual sketches that stand on their own instead of adding up to a larger plot or even character arc for Jahn (although the impression he makes on the ladies is a recurring theme). Chenn does break the longer ones up and bounce back and forth over the course of the movie, and that's a pretty good idea: Not every bit is going to strike gold for everyone, and having the the interview with the alien Ipsitt sisters play out in its entirety early on could certainly burn out the goodwill of some in the audience, even if they're inclined to like the other segments.

Full review at EFC.

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