PIFF - Day Three

Despite the late nights, I got up early on Friday morning in order to make it to my first (and ultimately only) "Breakfast with..." PIFF has this great series of breakfasts which feature different categories of filmmakers discussing their craft over a fine meal in a local restaurant. Friday morning's breakfast featured documentary filmmakers and a lovely breakfast as Bayside Betsy's. On the panel were Randy Barbato, director of THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE and INSIDE DEEP THROAT who was attending the festival with WHEN I KNEW; Lucia Small, director of MY FATHER, THE GENIUS, who was screening THE AXE IN THE ATTIC this year, and John Walter, director of HOW TO DRAW A BUNNY, this year attending with his film THEATER OF WAR. Moderating the panel was Boston Phoenix film critic Gerry Peary. The panelists talked about their very different documentary styles, the profitability of the documentary today, and how their careers evolved. (at right: Peary, Small, Barbato, Walker).

The Substitute (Denmark; 93 min.)
director: Ole Bornedal
cast: Paprika Steen; Ulrich Thomsen; Jonas Wandschneider; Nikolaj Falkenberg-Klok

This Danish science fiction/comedy/suspense film hits all the right notes, especially with the casting of the divine Paprika Steen in the title role. What's a willful and rowdy class of students to do when they discover that the substitute teacher is an alien from outer space? They try to do the right thing and go to their parents, but Ulla is no dummy and she's already spoken to them about their kids' overactive imaginations.

The success or failure of THE SUBSTITUTE relies completely on Steen's performance, and the actress/director's outstanding performance doesn't miss a note. She alternates between cruetly and kindness with her students, she is sweet then monstrous wihotut missing a beat. She is all kinds of fun, and this performance, added to her many others has catapulted her into the upper echelon of my favorite actresses. I wonder if I can get her to come to Chlotrudis next year? This one's tons of fun, and I hope you get a chance to see it. 4 cats.

Were the World Mine (USA; 95 min.)
director: Thomas Gustafson
cast: Tanner Cohen; Wendy Robie; Judy McLane; Nathaniel David Becker

Based on the short film FAIRIES (which was entered into the Chlotrudis Short Film Festival a few years ago) WERE THE WORLD MINE focuses on Timothy a young gay high school student who, after winning the role of Puck in the drama classes' production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," develops a potion to make people fall in love with the first person they see. It sure sounds fun and also like a dream come true for this put upon student in an all-boys' private school. Not only must he endure the taunts and jeers of his classmates and phys. ed. teacher, the conservative little town he lives in is pretty darn homophobic as well, as his single-mother knows and endures herself.

I'm getting tired of films where the protagonist continues to make bad choices that hurt others until they finally learn the lesson of the film. I'm also really tired of seeing films with endless beautiful people. Ironically I was chatting with a young film student at the festival, and he only likes films with beautiful people in it (we were talking about AMERICAN TEEN) so perhas it's a generational thing... and WERE THE WORLD MINE is about high school kids, so maybe that audience needs everyone to be beautiful. Wendy Robie (one-eyed Nadine from David Lynch's "Twin Peaks") is pretty awesome as the Titania-like drama teacher, Ms. Tebbt, and the young men are good singers for the most part... oh did I mention that it's a musical? I usually love a good musical, and the actors are certainly talented, but unfortunately this one just didn't work for me. 2 cats

After the day's films we headed over to the Schoolhouse for the Filmmaker reception. This is one of our favorite parties and I did have the honor of being rubbed against by Gael Garcia Bernal as he left with his fiancee while we arrived. Also saw the ubiquitous John Waters (and got to thank him for his help with the Q&A at last year's AMERICAN CRIME screening) Gregg Araki, Tom Kalin and Christine Vachon. We also hung out with WERE THE WORLD MINE director Tom Gustafson and co-screenwriter Cory James Krueckeberg. Very nice guys and fun to hang out with at a party. I'm sorry I didn't enjoy their movie more.

(Makes note to see The Substitute at Fantasia.)

Of course, this means either What We Do Is Secret or Who's That Knocking at My Door? gets missed, since I'm not going to pass up Johnnie To's Sparrow.