Cinema Classics New and Old: ML Film Fest Day 3

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Above: Sierra Spirit Award recipient director Joe Dante, festival founder Shira Dubrovner, actor Robert Picardo at Mammoth Lakes Film Festival

Saturday  – our third full day at the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival started with terrifically insightful and fun interviews with Alex Simmons, director of Buddymoon and star/co-writer Flula Borg. That interview, along with a great session with director Joe Dante, awarded the first annual Sierra Spirit Award, will be published separately.

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Onto the films:

First up was Bodkin Ras,  in which an isolated Scottish town becomes a temporary hiding place for a fugitive, Bodkin.  Bodkin is  the only character played by an actor, all other characters are actual inhabitants of the Scottish town. Surprising twists and turns in a beautifully evocative setting make this a must see, directed by Dutch filmmaker and writer Kaweh Modiri. The combination of documentary story telling and narrative fiction was perfectly woven, resulting in a startling conclusion as inevitable as it is shocking.

Next up,  the short film I Would Like to Be Enraptured, Muzzled and on My Back Tattooed, a powerful  Brazilian short about a woman who may prefer to die than keep on living in her highly sexualized yet anonymous world. It made a great lead in to All the Colors of the Night, another film from Brazilian cinema, directed by Pedro Severin. The surreal yet somehow wonderfully novelistic story of a woman who discovers a dead body in her apartment the morning after a party, it’s a poetic tale related by shifting and unreliable narrators, as stunningly shot as it is haunting. There’s a Bunuel-like quality to the film, which will have you considering its realities long after the credits roll.

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Director Alex Simmons, left, and film co-star Flula Borg of Buddymoon, above

Buddymoon is unabashedly my favorite film of the festival, an inspired, loose comedy about friendship, the priorities of modern life, and a hiking trip undertaken by protagonist David and his best friend Flula after David’s fiancée dumps him just before their wedding.  Witty, fresh, and perfectly paced, this is a comedy that well deserves a scheduled mainstream release July 1st. Pitch perfect acting, dialog, and a lovely use of drone cinematography results in a comedy that has depth and never gets tired.

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Above, great give away “Honey Buddy” T-shirt from the film, which was originally titled “Honeybuddies.”

Director Alex Simmons has created documentaries and music videos for bands such as Death Cab and Sigur Ros, but this is his first feature. Simmons and stars Flula Borg and David Giuntoli were once roommates in LA, who had always planned to create a film together.  Giuntoli currently stars in ABC’s Grimm, the shooting schedule for which led to the team’s decision to shoot in the Portland area where the television show is also in production.  Produced on a shoestring budget and equally limited time frame, the economies of craft do not show on the screen.

“We had a crew of six,” Simmons relates. “All of us had so many different jobs. “ Flula Borg adds, “My job was counting everyone’s jobs.”  While shooting was accomplished in just ten days, it took Simmons two years to edit. Watch for this sweet, hilarious film in both theatrical release and on iTunes;  interview with the filmmakers  coming shortly to this site.

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Above: Robert Picardo with Joe Dante

The evening brought a tribute to director Joe Dante, who started his career working in independent cinema as an editor and director for Roger Corman.  Screened was the still-fresh Innerspace, a hybrid comedy-thriller with Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Martin Short, and Robert Picardo. Crossing genres in such a thoroughly entertaining way is rarely done in mainstream cinema today, and this was a refreshing look at a purely fun genre film that was a true experience in clever storytelling.

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Following the film was the presentation of the Spirit Award to Dante, a truly iconic director. A lively discussion with Dante, actor Robert Picardo, who plays The Cowboy in Innerspace, and festival programmer Paul Sbrizzi included references to the extreme differentness of studio production today. “No one just comes up with a script  and asks if you want to make a movie. Now they come with a project, and if you’re interested, they try to raise the money with your name  attached. I prefer coming up with my own ideas and getting funded on my own. You find yourself spending so much time asking for money rather than filmmaking,” Dante says. A full interview with Dante, including his early filmmaking career in the indie world, will be appearing shortly on this site.

Summary:  arguably the strongest day of the fest so far, the ML Film Fest continues to surprise with challenging and exciting international films, a tribute to a true cinema icon, and the presentation of a comedy that is as fresh as it is funny.

It’s not too late to come up from LA or down from San Francisco and see what tomorrow’s Sunday closing has to offer. The relaxed and personal vibe of the festival creates experiences with filmmakers as comfortable as they are exciting. Cinemaphiles: take note.

  • Genie Davis; ALL PHOTOS Jack Burke

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