Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2013: What a Magnificient Presence

19 08 2013

Okay, okay. So I know it’s a little late to be blogging about the start of the Queer Film Festival in Vancouver when the festival started on Thursday. I’ve caught a few films already but I haven’t had a chance to really review them until now. Before I get to it, I want to say that it’s always such an awesome time to attend the festival because it really does feel like a community gathering. I love how loudly people laugh during the films, the hums and haws at the quiet moments, and even the rare cheer when the guys hook up with guys (I haven’t seen enough women’s films to know whether or not it happens with female audiences). And to have a film screening as part of the festival too– that’s such an awesome feeling.

So to get to it: Magnificent Presence.

The film is about a shy, quiet Italian guy who lives with a troupe of ghosts who believe it’s still 1943. He’s the only one who is able to set them free and to solve the mystery of what happened to them.

At first, this sounds really interesting. It’s even more promising that this is supposed to be a comedy, and the film is comedic in parts, especially at the difference in time periods. Pietro, our protagonist, longs to be an actor and the his ghostly roommates give him outdated, hilarious advice for his upcoming audition, including bursting out into song if there’s an uncomfortable silence.

Unfortunately, writer and director Ferzan Ozpetek’s script too underdeveloped to be fully enjoyable. The rag-tag troupe is all visually and physically distinct in their own ways, yet they are mere skeletons of characters. And the characters aren’t eh only underdeveloped aspects of the film. Subplots, such as a flirtation with a hunky downstairs neighbour and one of the suave ghosts who watches Pietro sleep yet admittedly still comes off as alluring and romantically charming instead of creepy– all these are cut short or disappointingly lead to nothing. Even the main plot, Pietro’s investigation into the history of the troupe, has a troubling plothole: [spoilers herein] Why would Livia Morosini report them? If it was out of jealousy or for her own career, why flee to South America after? What was her relationship with the troupe, anyway?

Instead of fleshing out the who’s and the how’s, Ozpetek tries to juggle too many subplots at once, including Pietro’s own transformation, and none of them are really satisfying, ultimately, not even the main plot. It’s all very well to have a comedic film have some funny lines, but what keeps audiences truly mesmerized, like Pietro’s subtle facial expressions in the end, is a good, thoughtfully constructed story.

Grade: C+

Oh, and the actor playing Pietro, Elio Germano, looks ridiculously like my friend Ryan Clayton, except Elio is older. And speaks Italian. But they’re both so adorkable!

Ferzan Ozpetek

Different From Whom?

25 08 2011

The Closing Gala at the Queer Film Festival.  My, what a fantastic festival it’s been.  Although I didn’t see nearly as many films as last year, I was lucky enough to be on the Programming Committee and to hear people’s reactions and thoughts to the films that I helped pick out was a cool experience.

Here’s my final review for the festival.

Synopsis: a gay politician who subsequently becomes mayor of a town in Italy struggles to keep his professional relationship with his conservative deputy mayor and personal life with his husband working.

Super awesome things: it’s nice to come across a political film that doesn’t take itself seriously.  Despite the synopsis, the film is a comedy, with many outrageous scenes including when Piero and Adele — SPOILER ALERT — end up making out and having sex in a field where they are almost caught by Piero’s father.  The audience at the Queer Film Fest is already ready to laugh, and laugh they did.  Many, many loud, uproarious times when the audience just burst out into laughter.

I also quite like the tense relationship between Piero and Adele in the first third of the movie when they are veyr much in opposition of one another.  Very funny to watch them interact.

Going back to the point of politics, because the film is so heavily centered around politics and uses humor as a way to lighten the mood, I found that it made fun of the politics at times, skewering not just Italian politics but internationally as rigged from the beginning.  I quite enjoyed the satirical aspect of the film too.

Not so super awesome things:  Though the film takes advantage of humor and makes good use of it, certain scenes run into soap opera-territory, and a few times, I found myself in disbelief at what was happening — in a bad way.  I think of the scene in Bridesmaids where the girls are vomiting in the wedding dress store which is completely outrageous but is plausible.  But in Different, the laughs come as characters are outrageous themselves, screaming and keeping secrets from one another, with tons of dramatic irony only found in soaps.  Didn’t really dig that.

I don’t know about other people, but I found the whole plot with Piero and Adele a little contrived.  The whole gay-man-sleeps-with-straight-woman phenomenon is so cliche now that even though I saw it coming, I hoped it wouldn’t be the focus of the movie– but it was.  Instead of focusing on their political relationship, the film does a 180 after they start to get along (“Nooooo!” I was thinking), nearly abandoning anything to do with campaigns and speeches until the predictable “I am different” at the end.

And running at 102 minutes, the film feels twenty minutes too long, especially — SPOILER ALERT — with the whole baby plot.  What???

Good for watching: instead of your daily soaps on weekday afternoons.

Overall:  a good choice for the Closing Gala, I must say.  A nice little fluff piece that, although a theme is in there somewhere, is buried beneath craziness.  Makes me think of Patrik Age 1.5 which for some reason wasn’t included in this year’s festival and is superior to this film.

Grade: C+

30 Day Movie Challenge: Day 10: Favourite foreign film

23 06 2011

I know Federico Fellini’s films can be kind of obscure and confusing(I definitely felt that way watching 8½).  I think La Dolce Vita is the first Fellini film I ever saw (or perhaps second), and I remember getting about halfway into the movie and thinking, “This is so damn good.”

It’s hard to describe why I like this film so much.  It could be because of the fantastic cinematography, the fascinating and colorful characters that Marcello meets, or the commentary of society’s obessession with celebrities and, well, the “sweet life”.  This film and Amarcord are my two favourite Fellini films.

Here’s the Trevi Fountain clip from the film:

Allegro Con Fuoco

18 01 2010

Something I very quickly formed in a day for my Creative Writing Poetry class.  There’s a screencap of the original scrap of paper I scribbled on since I don’t even have a camera to take a picture of it.  (Seriously.)  This is only the first draft so if you don’t understand it all, don’t worry — it’s not that you’re stupid.  At least not this time.


First draft of Allegro con Fuoco poem

Allegro Con Fuoco

Fast with fire,
his hands are matches,
striking the wooden keys, trying to set them ablaze.
Though his father speaks of final preaching,
there always suddenly, subito, seems to be a repeat sign and it begins all over again,
a leitmotif no one wants to listen to.
Smooth slurred words, striking the hammers in his son.
The young man wishes his own speech tumbled out as he played,
as legato and articulated as the sixteenth notes,
that if only his father’s words were as flat as the key signature and as quiet as pianississimo.

His father, a permanent face over his shoulder,
Shaking his head in disappointment with every mistake.
Always pushing, never listening.
Sforzando! Marcato, marcato!
His fingers stretch to meet the octaves, banging on the delicate keys,
like a strongman game–
except the prize is his dignity and pride.

Every one of his words has been sotto voce,
mumblings underneath his breath while his father spews on like a cadenza, uninterrupted.
But with his music, his fingers agitated,
the notes are no longer just staccato, guillotined.
Purposely and furiously jabbing each note tenuto;
his music and words played to their merited length at last.

Back hunched and hands pressed firmly on keys,
the last enraged chord shouts out,
while his father only plays indefinite bars of rest.