PIFF - Day One

This year, for the first time, we decided to arrive at the Provincetown International Film Festival for Opening Night, so Scot, Beth Caldwell and I boarded the fabulous, if ungodly early Ptown Ferry at 8 a.m. to get a day of relaxing before the movies kicked in. We checked in to Romeo's Holiday, our B&B, got our terrific massages by Lenny, and were prepared for our opening night film.

FILTH & WISDOM (UK; 81 min.)
directed by Madonna
cast: Eugene Hutz; Vicky McClure; Holly Weston; Richard E. Grant

I'm not sure what I expected from Madonna's directorial debut, but I know the main reason why I came was because of a fairly positive review I read from the Berlin Film Festival. Had I dug a little deeper, I would have found this Variety review and stayed far away. That said, FILTH & WISDOM is not without some redeeming qualities (its 81 minute running-time being one of them), and it was fun to be a part of the opening night film. As an added bonus, actress Vicky McClure, one of the film's three leads, was present for the Q&A, which I have to say was a more enjoyable experience than the film itself.

The main problem with FILTH & WISDOM wasn't the direction (although a more experience director would have certainly done a better job, Madonna did a perfectly fine job at the helm) but the writing. While the imdb credits the screenplay to Dan Cadan, the film itself listed the screenwriters as Madonna and Cadan. Based on her own experiences, Madonna would have been better served by a better script. The story, about three roommates living in London and going through some tough times is fairly disjointed (certainly as evidenced by the plot explanations needed by the audience during the Q&A!) and certainly less than compelling. There is some philosophical claptrap about, you guessed it, filth and wisdom, the filth being evident, but where she came up with the wisdom is anyone's guess.

The actors acquitted themselves well, and there are moments of a delicate directing touch that surprised me such as a moving moment with an Indian housewife (that really shouldn't have been in the film in the first place as it came out of nowhere). As A.K., the philosophizing, Ukranian punk-rocker/sex worker, Eugene Hutz (EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED) is certainly a compelling figure and is making quite the name for himself in what seems to be a new stock character. Vicky McClure is wonderfully effective despite the script limitations as a down-on-her-luck retail worker at a chemist who longs only to travel to Africa to help orphans. From the sounds of the Q&A Madonna is a director who works well with her actors, possibly from her experience acting in films. Only time will tell if she can hone her craft to create a truly worthwhile film. 2.5 cats.

After a quick dinner, we regrouped with Beth and Beth for PIFF's opening night party at Crown & Anchor. Again, as my first time attending Opening Night, I was surprised by the number of people who attended that party. The ubiquitous John Waters was there, of course, as were many of the filmmakers with films in this year's festival. One pleasant surprise was re-connecting with Lucia Small (pictured left with Beth Curran and me), director of the Chlotrudis Awards nominated MY FATHER, THE GENIUS, whose latest film, THE AXE IN THE ATTIC is playing this year. Lucia used to live in Boston, but has relocated to NYC, so we haven't seen each other for a while. She's such a delightful person, it was so nice to catch up with her.