Monday, March 23, 2015

Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival 2015 Day #07: The Noah

I'm not sure if the actual details around this screening of The Noah are necessarily quote as good as the story that Garen Daly and the festival spun for the attendees; the institution has earned a little skepticism where the exclusivity of its screenings is concerned. But, "only remaining 35mm print and not shown for decades" means that it goes into the booth that can handle switchovers (presuming that the other booths that can project film are platter systems; they may not be). It made for a sparse crowd - ten or twenty people in a room that holds hundreds.

Pretty good-looking print, as you might expect from it getting relatively little use, although something got a little funky with the sound on one reel, which was a bit strange: It was early enough in a surreal movie that the audience didn't quite know whether this was the sort of effect that the movie would be using.

Writer/director Daniel Bourla was on hand, which was pretty impressive, considering he's got to be about eighty, lives in the Dominican Republic, and flew up to Boston between two blizzards, which I might have done if this was the first opportunity to see my film in a theater in the four decades since its two original screenings, or not. New England was cold, folks.

It was, perhaps, not necessarily the most illuminating Q&A; Mr. Bourla has reached the age where a person sometimes has to build up a head of steam when getting a point across, and he wasn't always given this opportunity. I think it was very much a case of a situation where moderation and/or a prepared interviewer might have really helped; the backstory and life-cycle of this film is strange enough that there must have been some great stories to tell, even if they were far enough back that they needed some coaxing out.

Sort of amusingly, one of the things he wound up doing was asking us about whether we thought some subtitles might have helped in one scene or another (the prevailing opinion seemed to be that it was fine). I half-wonder if every filmmaker wants to ask the audience things like this at this kind of screening, or only those who only have a few to fret over.

After the festival, it was revealed that this won the audience award, and I'm not sure how that works - most festivals I've been to that award such things are polling the audience somehow, which didn't happen here. There was a get-together after this film at a nearby bar/restaurant (which I skipped; work the next day, after all), and maybe it was decided there, before two more days worth of films and with at least two of us who had been at the whole festival to that point absent. Or, more likely, it was just assigned that because everything is going to get some award.

The Noah

* * * (out of four)
Seen 12 February 2015 in Somerville Theatre #1 (SF/40, 35mm)

Having an unusual life doesn't actually make a movie like The Noah better, but it undoubtedly makes pulling it out of obscurity a bit more exciting. One might be inclined to dismiss this post-apocalyptic art-house film as not one's thing, but to learn its history is to become a little curious: The director could have made it with Jack Lemmon but baled at both having a big start and shooting in color? It sat on the shelf for roughly eight years before playing two midnight shows and once again disappearing for decades? Even if this were a bad movie - which is not the case - a film fan really should give it a look when it surfaces in his or her area.

It opens in the aftermath of cataclysm, with an American career soldier (Robert Strauss) making landfall at a deserted but fairly well-provisioned Chinese Army base. With no sign of any other human life, he sets up shop and gets into a routine. It is, of course, a lonely one, so it's not surprising that he soon invents companions for himself - and they appear to take on minds of their own.

Despite Noah's invention of other people to keep him company, the audience will spend much of the film watching him alone, with his "companions" present only as voice-over provided by Geoffrey Holder and Sally Kirkland (among others). The voice actors do their work somewhat more broadly than Robert Strauss, a hint that he has not exactly conjured complete individuals but characters with whom he can act out simple dramas, and it works, by and large: As much as the audience gets to watch interaction, there is never a feeling that Noah is anything but alone.

Full review at EFC.

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