Karlovy Vary film Festival, Day 9

We watched just one movie on the final day, a Japanese flick with some nice twists and turns, and some really interesting characters that you mostly hate but have to grudgingly identify with. fuego’s putting a list together of all the movies we saw; I’ll probably violate his copyright and put it up here as well.

Then it was time for lunch. Conversation was sparing; we were both tired and we’d just spent eight days together. One thing we both thought, though, was it was time to get some of our work into the festival. Or some festival. Or something.

It’s tricky, though. Making even a short film requires a bunch of talented people, and equipment, and facilities. I’m surrounded by film people, all of whom have their side projects, but I’ve never seen any of them finish one. So the trick would seem to be coming up with a project that required little or no cash (raising money puts a huge unknown in the schedule, and no one will commit to the project until the money is there), was interesting to the right people, and then finding a block of time when they all can commit as if it was a paying job.

When I got home last night I knocked out a screenplay for Hell-Cricket, which fuego is going over now, but it almost certainly breaks the zero-budget rule. Which means that we can only take the project to a certain point before we reach the money-raising stage, where it would be very easy for the project to stall. I have no idea how much money we’re talking about, and won’t until more work is done, so it may not be too bad. We’ll see. While we push forward with Hell-Cricket, I’m still mulling what we could make that requires only getting six or so people to commit a week of their lives to it. I’ll keep you posted.

Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Day 8

Day 8, the last full day of movie-watching, was only two days ago, but already the memory is a bit on the sketchy side. Our first film wasn’t until 4 p.m., which made for a lazy day. From four to midnight I caught four movies.

And they were… uh…

Mutant Lizards! I remember the midnight one had mutant lizards. It was pretty good.

I do remember thinking that it had been a pretty good set of movies… I just can’t remember what they were.

Joe Strummer! One of them was an excellent documentary about the life of the front man for The Clash. Quite moving at times.

And… um… two others.

Quite a day!

Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Day 7

There was a minor hullaballoo surrounding the screening of David Lynch’s new movie Inland Empire, so perhaps it was the European premiere or something like that. Then again, maybe not. I did score a free T-shirt out of the deal, whatever the reason.

One thing about staying up to watch the campy movies at midnight, coming home and writing, then getting up in the morning to score the next batch of tickets: there isn’t much time for sleeping. So it was that we arrived at the screening armed with Coca-Cola and sandwiches, mentally preparing ourselves to become one with our seats.

I’m not the biggest David Lynch fan to start with, and this movie did not substantially move my opinion of him in either direction. fuego said it best: “The thing is that he almost makes sense, so you keep watching, thinking it’s about to come together.” Well, that’s not exactly what he said, but it’s close. At the end of this one, something significant has happened, and there are some people who are happier than they were, others not.

I got the feeling at some points, however, that the creative process went something like “Hmm… this part is tedious. Let’s put the actors in rabbit suits so people will be confused rather than bored.” It’s a sort of sleight-of-hand that shifts the blame for not enjoying the film onto the viewer. Instead of saying “I didn’t like it,” people say of Lynch’s movies “I didn’t get it.”

Quite a few people left early, but I lasted to the end. I fought heavy eyelids for a bit, but by the end I was fully engaged. The movie portrays people living multiple, parallel lives, drifting between them in a lost, confused fashion and intersecting each other in interesting ways (for far too long), and at the end you do get a feeling of resolution, even if you’re not sure just what was resolved.

Overall, I’m glad I went and I’m glad I stayed to the end, but it’s not a movie I’m going to go out of my way to see again.

The rest of the day included an Australian comedy with excellently crafted characters called (I think) Lucky Miles. The description sounds like the beginning of an off-color joke. “An Iraqi, a Cambodian, and a Thai are in the Australian outback…” Hijinks ensue, seasoned with moments of drama. Next came a Czech film titled in English Empties, another comedy that did a great job of mixing in drama. The writer/main actor spoke a few words before the show, and said, “I wanted to show that growing older does not make you any better at life.”

Finally, it wouldn’t be a movie day without zombies. fuego and I had been joking about zombie exploitation and labor laws earlier in the week, and now here was a movie that was about that very subject. It is set in a 1950’s-like American Dream town, with shiny cars and white picket fences. And zombies, of course, fitted with special collars that curb their desire to eat human flesh. The zombies provide a docile and cheap labor force. No one has forgotten the Zombie Wars, however, and marksmanship is an important part of the grade-school curriculum. “Remember, always shoot for the head!”

Overall, it was a good day of movie-watchin’. Only two days left, then it’s back to the real world. Whatever that is.

Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Day 6

There is a routine to life here at Karlovy Vary. Each day starts with scoring tickets for our chosen movies for the following day. Today it was my turn to get up and schlep down to the special box office for insiders. On the way in I passed long lines of people standing in the rain, waiting for the box offices for the common folk to open. Minutes later I was breezing past them the other direction, my only delay being some difficulty with the bar-code scanner as the girl scanned my Badge. No worries, it gave me a little bit of time to venture a very small joke in czech, which she dutifully laughed at while correcting my grammar.

It’s good to be an insider, especially when the festival is designed to be an industry event first, and a public movierama second.

Today is Slavic Day for fuego and me; we started the day with a couple of shorter Czech films, one of which was all right and the other not very good, then went on to a Polish film that was an unrelenting downer from start to finish. It was well-acted, but the production never shifted gears, only briefly giving glimpses of happiness (quickly and guiltily stifled) as things steadily spiral downward.

Now I’m in a pub named for the Good Soldier Svéjk (rhymes with ache), one of the Czech Republic’s greatest war heroes (not only was he terrible at waging war, a drunk, and a conniver, he was fictitious), having a drop of Kozel Dark to lift my spirits. Not that lifting them is terribly difficult; I disengaged from the (well-portrayed) weak main characters fairly early on. In the end, I had no sympathy for anyone.

Next up comes a Serbian flick, The Optimists. I’ve got my fingers crossed. After that no more movies until midnight, when we’ll see if the Norwegians are able to match the New Zealanders for pure schlock magic. In between I hope to keep the writing momentum going; the last couple of days have been quite productive.

We are indoors for our interludes today; the weather outside is unseasonably chilly, the light rain pushed around by just enough of a cold breeze to make sitting outside under an awning uncomfortable. I’m hoping for nicer weather tomorrow, when I’ll haul out the camera and take a few snaps around town.

Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Day 5

It was a good day of movie-goin’, but the midnight showing of Black Sheep took the cake. It was in the largest venue, packed to the gills and then some with an enthusiastic midnight crowd. The movie brought the house down. You can’t argue with zombie sheep. Not in New Zealand.

Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Day 4

I’ve decided not to worry about trying to give my impressions of every damn movie I see while I’m here. I’ve seen some good flicks and some not-so-good ones, but if you want a play-by-play of the festival, that’s where my brother comes in. He’s a little behind right now, but his goal is to pop up a movie review in almost real time as we catch the flicks. He has the technology.

I will say, however, that I really enjoyed the Danish movie Prag (In English, “Prague”). It was fun for a few reasons that might not apply to the general viewing audience, but even without the “Hey! I know that square!” pleasure of recognition, a foreign place now familiar, and without the amplified humor of the Czech mindset from the perspective of a foreigner, what is left underneath is still a darn good film. The subject is a heavy one, but there is just the right touch of humor to make the whole thing go down easily. If it were food, I’d be complimenting the chef on the delicate balance of flavors. So if it comes your way, or you’re in the mood for something more substantial while you’re staring at the titles in the video store, Check out Prague. It is the movie that has dominated our conversation since.

It is evening now, and I’m sitting in a sidewalk café in a pedestrian zone, watching people more than writing. The sky is still light despite the advancing hour, and there are plenty of people worth watching.

It’s now official; I completely failed to spend any time with my pretty czech teacher, a film buff who laughs at my jokes. She and her friends have left the festival to go back to Prague. Bummer. I will persevere, however; I will continue going to movies and sitting in cafés, and try somehow to enjoy myself, and try to maintain some sort of upbeat vibe here at the center of the Media Empire. You don’t have to thank me; it’s what I do.

Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Day 3

Two surprises tonight. Hostel II was actually a pretty good flick if you’re into that kind of thing, and the short films sucked. Some of them had visual appeal, and there was a touch of irony here and there, but not one damn short told a story. It was all about images. I feel better about Pirates, now. It would have brought down the house tonight; the audience was hungry for something more than what they were given. They were craving the originality and offbeat humor that you get in a good short film. Maybe it’s the fault of the people who decide what to put in the show, but honestly I was fighting off sleep while I watched.

Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Day 2

Our last-minute lodgings took a turn for the even better this morning when the landlady arrived with a bag full of food. Bread, cheese, cold cuts, jam and butter — nothing fancy but plenty good enough. Thus the day began on an unexpectedly high note.

The rain is playing a gentle staccato tune on the awning as I sit here at a pleasant sidewalk café, reflecting on the movie I saw this morning. We were in an inflatable theater, which would have been a pretty good venue but the sound isolation from outside wasn’t very good. If the movie had been more interesting, that might not have mattered as much. Title I Can’t Reproduce From Memory had its moments, but when it was over I was rather amazed that only 90 minutes had passed. Was it Chekhov who said that when you show a gun in act one, it should go off in act three? In this movie the gun never went off. The blurb said something like “Kid is drawn into a dark and violent underworld,” when it really should have said, “Kid draws near underworld, doesn’t do much, and then goes home to take care of his mother.”


Another movie, another gentle rain under the awning of a café. It’s a tough life.

This movie was Ma che ci faccio qui? (What the Hell am I Doing Here?), an Italian film, and when you boil it down it was an “I know! Let’s put on a show and save the bar!” movie. You’ve seen them before. Happily, this was a very nicely done LPOASASTB movie, with genuine humor and a bit of heart as well. There’s nothing wrong with rehashing an old idea if you do it well. Heck, somewhere around Homer all the good ideas were taken. (Although, it might have been Chaucer who did the first LPOASASTB story.) The movie was from a young director who made it in film school, which adds to the surprise of how much top-quality acting was involved.

Walking around after the movie we ran into a couple of fuego’s coworkers on one film or another. One woman, when she heard I was his brother, looked at me and said, “from Pirates of the White Sand?” She was enthusiastic. That was nice.

Now I need to get some work done.


Movie three today was German-Polish-Czech movie that kept me chuckling for much of the time. I’m not sure how it would play to an American audience, although the stereotypes of the Czechs, Poles, and Germans are just as broad and unflattering as that of the token American in the film. Schroder’s wonderful World is about a man who has the idea to use American money to build a theme park where former East Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic intersect, an area that is rather an international mess of communist industrialization, much of which has now been razed. The mayors of the three towns of the triangle must cooperate to make the project work.

I don’t think I’m ruining anything to tell you that the project does not work.

It was a quick shift of location to catch our final flick of the day, A Romanian film that won the big prize at Cannes. My expectations going in were pretty high, and while the movie was awfully damn good, it didn’t live up to what I had come to expect. The marketing nightmare — get such great buzz that the movie disappoints. Still and all, If you get a chance to see 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days (off the top of my head, I can’t reproduce the Romanian title), do so. It’s dark, but compelling.

Looking back, we are still talking about yesterday’s Mister Lonely, despite the cinematic flood we’re experiencing. That’s gotta mean something.

Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Day 1

The question is on everyone’s lips as I walk down the street. I can see it in the sidelong glances and the more honest stares. Starlets, wondering who to sleep with to best promote their careers, pause and try to answer the question:

“Who is that guy?”

While most patrons have a badge that hangs vertically from its orange lanyard, bearing the picture of some model who is apparently the face of this year’s show, my badge is horizontal, and the picture on it is mine. Stamped in big red letters are the words “FILM INDUSTRY”. Combined with the sheer power of my charismatic personality (*cough*), it’s easy to understand why people would be intrigued.

Here, on day one of the festival, the power of the badge showed its first practical superpower as well. We selected the film we wanted to watch, and fuego went to get the tickets. “None available,” the agent told him. He asked for our second choice. Nope. Then when booking the third choice the agent saw The Badges. Whaddaya Know? There were tickets available for our first choice after all.

We watched Mister Lonely, an offbeat story of a Michael Jackson impersonator who gets recruited by Marilyn Monroe into a commune of impersonators. Then there’s the part where the nuns are jumping out of an airplane…

The show was quite good but missed an “excellent” by going flat at places. Marilyn’s performance went soft at a key moment. Still, a movie I’m glad I saw and one that would definitely be worth the price of admission should it show up in a theatre near you. It manages to combine the entire range of emotion from farce to tradegy — sometimes simultaneously.

In other news, I’ve run into several friends while here, some by design, others by accident, and they have helped make this one heck of a good time so far. There was a tense moment when we found that the apartment we had reserved was suddenly unavailable, but the folks at Shadows of Stars and Cine-Jessy came through and now I’m sitting pretty! Today I’m gonna watch me some movies.