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Four Films in 26 Hours

Miami Film Festival.photo For some time now I’ve wanted to attend one of the premier film festivals (Sundance, Tellerude, Toronto, etc.) and immerse myself in five or six days of nonstop film watching.

I got a taste of that this past weekend when I was in Florida, taking in a few Sox spring training games and visiting my soon departing Miami daughter.

A couple of months ago said daughter sent me the program for the March 2014 Miami International Film Festival, and without much planning or investigating, I quickly chose four films that sounded of interest and got tickets.

How was it?

I loved it.

I saw one film Friday night at 7 PM and three the next day, at 1:15, 3:30, and 7 PM.

The films were all very different, but all four were enjoyable and entertaining. None will win awards, I suspect, but there is something I continue to enjoy about not knowing before hand much about what I’ll see.

Shirley.photo.2_-e1394635081707The first one was Elsa & Fred ***1/2, a remake of a 2005 Argentinian film, this time starring Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer. (Digression and admission: I have for 50 years now been in love with Shirley MacLaine, having seen most of her films, read most of her books and watched her dance as well as age. Thus, anything I say about Elsa and Fred should be taken with a touch of skepticism.)

The film is the story of two aging people, both now single (sort of) who fall in love in New Orleans (great scenes of that wonderful city). The story is predictable and not very complex. But watching these two supremely accomplished actors for an hour and a half was worth the price of admission.

Next up was The Immigrant **** with Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix. It is the story of two Polish young women who come to the US through Ellis Island in the early 1900s and the struggle of one of them to survive. She is ‘rescued’ upon arrival by a sleazy nightclub ‘show-runner’ who uses her as well as falls in love with her. The story is better than the acting, but the scenes of the 1920s NY streets and the lives of immigrants were enough to make this film satisfying for me.

I just made it to the next film, probably my favorite of the four, Words and Pictures ****.

Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche played the roles of two rival teachers in a private school who get their students to think about whether literature (words) or art (pictures) is a more powerful way to express an idea, a feeling, or a thought. Both Owen and Binoche are enjoyable, and both the contest between their two loves (words and pictures) as well as the relationship that develops between them made the film enjoyable for me.

The final film was The Mountain (La Montana) ***1/2, a first film by a young Dominican artist (really a musician), which tells the story of three Dominicans who climb Mt. Everest in 2011 to plant their flag at the summit. A parallel story follows three very young Dominicans who, in support of the three on Everest, climb the Dominican Republic’s highest mountain, Pico Duarte.

One of the enjoyable parts of this evening was the presence of the director, one of the climbers, and the doctor who supported the climbers. The discussion with the director particularly added to the value of the evening. Also, the audience was cheering the efforts of the climbers throughout the film and spoke movingly afterwards about feeling pride in the accomplishments of their countrymen. There was some excitement in the air, and being in the audience with that going on was indeed fun.

So, my ‘take’ on nonstop film watching?

I’ll definitely look for an opportunity to do more of this and hope in the next year or two to spend a week at one of the preeminent festivals.

Anyone want to join me or help get me into one of them?