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VIFF 08: The End is Nigh For Vancouver's Subjective Film Festival


General consensus on the last days of the 27th annual Vancouver International Film Festival is that the quality of films at this year's Fest don't measure up to the films that were available in 2007.

But, then again, very few Vancouver International Film Festivals ever have.

One of the striking aspects of this year's Festival is the uniquely subjective nature of attendees' response to films. For instance ...

Audiences are divided on The Secret of the Grain, half feeling as VanRamblings does that 'Secret' represents one of the strongest films available on the world stage at the 2008 edition of the Vancouver Film Festival, the other half of the madding crowd calling the film loud, boring and overlong. There was a similar response to VanRamblings' Festival film favourite, The New Year Parade, where more than half the audience of 30 walked out of the film midway through, leaving only 14 audience members in attendance at the VanCity Theatre — all of whom raved about the film in an informal scrum after the screening. Who's to know?

Thursday evening we found ourselves in a heated discussion (well, we were heated, anyway) about the merits, or lack thereof, of the German film, Cloud 9. VanRamblings viscerally hated this film, which many have dismissed, and called Old People Fucking. Bereft of insight and tedious in the extreme, the women we were discussing this film with (an erudite group) had much praise for the film. Gosh. There's just no accounting for taste. Whether it's VanRamblings taste, or the taste of the group of women with whom we were conversing, is up for discussion, it would seem.

When all is said and done, we still hate Cloud 9, but are we in the minority?

The same women came away from 3 Women — which we saw on Thursday morning, and loved — critical of the film, calling it a "failure". We were swept away by the film, as were most in the audience (given the comments we heard while exiting the theatre); these particular three women with whom we were conversing were, decidedly, not. Sometimes, there just ain't no ...

Or, as retired Famous Players' manager, Ted Beelby, averred upon leaving a screening of the Canadian film, Crime, "there's 2 hours I'll never get back."

Still, there were at least a couple of buzz films we saw over the course of the past couple of days on which there was some positive consensus ...

Let The Right One In (Grade: A-): A touching, pre-adolescent vampire love story, VanRamblings saw this gory horror delight with a secondary Vancouver school audience who'd been invited to the screening (it's all about building a future audience for the Festival). No one can do atmospheric dark horror like Swedish filmmakers, and Lina Leandersson is simply exquisite as the lost soul of the film. We're glad we saw this film.

Sita Sings The Blues (Grade: A-): Given that first time filmmaker Nina Paley has been unable to gain the rights to the songs sung in the film by jazz/blues singer extraordinaire, Annette Hanshaw, and that permission has been given to screen the film only at selected film festivals, either you caught Sita Sings The Blues here, or you were simply going to be out of luck. A crossover Bollywood / contemporary American tale, based on an ancient text, the Hindu epic poem, Ramayana, paired with modern-day vignettes of a San Francisco couple's passage to India leading to the end of their marriage, Sita Sings The Blues is brilliant from beginning to end.

The power of the music and lyrics of the evocative 1929 jazz and blue soundtrack so heightens a character's interior state, with the blues songs Sita sings — from "Daddy, Won't You Please Come Home?", "Mean to Me ("You treated me coldly")," to "Am I Blue?", you're just pulled in.

VanRamblings was very mezzo mezzo about Ellen Kuras' The Betrayal (Grade: B), about the personal and political betrayal of a family of Laotians (Nixon comes off very badly here), and were even more significantly disenchanted with Donkey in Lahore (which, for filmmaking expertise, we'd offer a Grade: B-; and on a personal basis we'd award a solid Grade:D-).

Apart from the craft of the filmmaking in Donkey in Lahore, we hated the film (for personal reasons, of course). We ask ourselves, would we want to marry off our daughter to an unemployed Australian hobbyist puppeteer with a borderline personality disorder? Nope. We think not.

And it was ever thus at the 2008 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival. Some films you love; some films you don't. But rarely do you find Festival-goers in the very same group, agreeing on any one particular film.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at October 9, 2008 11:56 PM in VIFF 2008


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