Saturday, November 14, 2009

Come Saturday Morning

Such a beautiful day outside, I almost wish I didn't have all these movies to watch. For me, movie-watching weather is when it's blazing hot or pouring rain. Well, at least all the people visiting Fort Worth for the festival are enjoying this.

The highlight of the early morning shorts program was a spooky Australian short film called Miracle Fish, about a bullied boarding-school kid who hides out in the school's sick bay for a few hours and then emerges to find that everybody has mysteriously vanished. I like the way the movie resists throwing the kid into a hackneyed thriller plot; the boy reacts to it all by eating candy and drawing on the chalkboard. Other than that, the program also had City of Cranes, which I took note of when it played at last year's festival.

Then I headed over to the Kimbell for Ry Russo-Young's You Won't Miss Me, which our presenter aptly said was "probably the grungiest movie that's ever been shown at the Kimbell." Russo-Young is affiliated with the "mumblecore" movement, having acted in Hannah Takes the Stairs and directed the feature film Orphans, plus a short called Nude Descending Stairs that, if my memory serves me, played at the first LSIFF. (Also, movement regulars Aaron Katz, Joe Swanberg, and Greta Gerwig all appear in You Won't Miss Me.) I put the word "mumblecore" in quotes because many filmmakers associated with it don't like the term, and I really don't see what they're doing as all that different from Richard Linklater's early films, or indeed from My Dinner With Andre.

Enough about that. What about the movie itself? It stars Stella Schnabel (the daughter of painter/filmmaker Julian Schnabel, and the granddaughter of pianist Artur Schnabel) as a mentally unstable 23-year-old named Shelly who, when she isn't doing drugs and having sex with all manner of shaggy-haired artistes (male and female), is pursuing acting not because she really wants a career but rather so that she can get away from herself for a while. The movie is aimless, sometimes maddeningly so, but it's a deliberate strategy to capture the directionless quality of this young woman's life. The skeezy New York City apartments that the movie plays out in are evoked pretty well, and there's some vinegary stuff when Shelly has a big falling out with one of her friends in a hotel room. You Won't Miss Me has some flat stretches, and it's not a very likable piece, but it has some interesting things to say from a viewpoint you don't get from most other films. -- Kristian Lin

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