Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Independent Film Festival Boston 2014.07: The Trip to Italy, The Double

For the last two days, the festival moves to the Coolidge - there used to be a day at a different venue, but no longer - which means getting a seat was potentially a near thing, with Brian surveying the audience about the best way to get across the river after the first six days mostly being in Cambridge and Somerville. I voted Red Line/C Line, although someday I'm going to actually do research about doing that versus the 66 bus. I'm just too timid to get off at Harvard and potentially be waiting fifteen minutes for a bus when the movie's start time is inching ever closer.

I did make it just in time, and the seat I got want bad since I don't mind sitting in the first couple of rows. By chance, I wound up seated behind Adam Roffman, the festival director up until last year who had to step back in order to concentrate on the day job. Not having to obsess over running the festival seems to have agreed with him, and he was having a grand old time giving the guys still involved trouble. But, hey, they let him help throw bags of potato chips and pretzels to the audience for old times sake.

And, trust me, I was glad of those chips - I had originally planned to go to Otto or the Upper Crust between films and make a joke here about how getting pizza after The Trip to Italy at least made more sense than the burger I had after The Search for General Tso, but we wound up sticking around in the theater for The Double, so that didn't happen. Still, a good night: The Trip to Italy was just as good as I expected and The Double much better (I hadn't much liked Submarine). And weirder, for that matter.

This wound up being my last day of the festival, although that didn't necessarily have to be the case: Though I had purchased Red Sox tickets over the winter without doing enough to check and see if they would conflict with my busy film festival schedule, I probably could have just given the one I had for Wednesday up, and might have if it weren't Dustin Pedroia bobblehead night. Plus, it's not like a Michel Gondry movie starting Audrey Tautou is either going to skip Boston when it gets its regular release or have guests at the screening.

The irony? The ballgame was rained out. Early enough for me to get the next day of from work for the make-up game, but not so early as to get tickets online, and if it was raining hard enough for there to be no baseball, I wasn't messing with the rush line.

So that was the end of IFFBoston 2014 for me. Despite my absent-mindedness in term of properly preparing for it, I had a great time and am already looking forward to next year.

The Trip to Italy

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 29 April 2014 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (Independent Film Festival Boston, DCP)

It's a rare sequel that can get away with the straight-up honest of The Trip to Italy, which starts with Rob Brydon telephoning Steve Coogan and saying that folks liked the last time they spent a week on a culinary road trip, so why not do it again? No excuses, no pretending there's some sort of conflict, just get to the table and find the first excuse to do dueling Michael Caine impressions.

As the title indicates, the sequel is a little fancier, with beautiful Italian breaches and hotels, and food that I'm sure tastes as good as it looks. Another switch-up has Neuron fretting over a part in an American production while Coogan makes noises about wanting to stay closer to home. Both, being well-read Brits in Italy, spend a lot of time pondering Lord Byron's travels there.

Director Michael Winterbottom has a writing credit this time around - something that was notably absent from the first movie - and there does seem to be a bit more of a pre-planned structure here, with supporting characters and a sense that Brydon & Coogan are progressing toward something rather than just reacting to what they encounter and each other. It's not a particularly heavy plot, just enough to keep things moving and give the stars some specific material to work with on one day or another, but there is is something to it: The pair are both pondering how much Byronian adventure they want in their lives compared to stability, especially as Coogan's work on an American television series has him missing his son while Brydon seems to be feeling his life is in a bit of a rut.

Full review at EFC

The Double

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 29 April 2014 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (Independent Film Festival Boston, DCP)

It says something, either about my expectations or what Richard Ayoade pulled off, that The Double is actually more peculiar than I had figured on a movie about a man meeting a dead ringer who is his opposite in temperament being. Given the fantastic premises that frequently populate mainstream movies today, this could have been fairly conventional, but I do appreciate that Ayoade and company went the extra mile to make it weird.

Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) isn't particularly weird himself - he's a quiet but hard worker at the office, unnoticed by his boss (Wallace Shawn) and nursing a crush on Hannah (Miss Wasikowska), the girl at the photocopy desk who lives in the building across the way from his where he often sees her via his telescope... Okay, that's kind of weird. Still, it's not quite on the level of how things get when James Simon joins the company and Simon is told to show the gregarious, charismatic guy who looks just like him the ropes.

It's worth noting that all of this happens in a world that is in some ways modern and is in others halfway between steampunk and Terry Gilliam's Brazil. This may have been done entirely for the purposes of looking cool, as it certainly succeeds on that count - every impeccably designed prop looks mechanical and run down, but basically functional, and the style makes everything easy to grasp without it ever feeling like a real place and time. That also lets Ayoade preserve just as much mystery about the situation as he wants to, no matter what the audience's impulses may be: We're never spending a lot of time trying to figure out how Simon can figure out what's going on; we just assume that this smart and motivated guy who knows the world better than we do is exhausting whatever resources are available and coming up with nothing. And since the world is so strange, we're add off-balance as Simon, rather than able to see some sort of order from the outside.

Full review at EFC

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