Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Daytime Drinking, Hunger, Religulous
Seriously. Does anyone who knows me think I could pass up a film called Daytime Drinking? Even one in Korean?
This film was entertaining, but not destined to change to world or sweep a bunch of awards, I don't think. I was almost more entertained by the Q&A where the young director (through a translator) admitted he was an art student who didn't know much about film making and was pretty floored that his film was now making the festival circuit. When someone asked him why he chose this subject for his film, instead of going into some artsy explanation involving existentialism or other such heady stuff, he said, "I like drinking and I like traveling, so I thought, why not make a film about drinking and traveling."
The protagonist of the film is heartbroken, having been recently dumped by his girlfriend, and drinking with his buddies one afternoon, they all talk him into going on a trip with them to cheer him up. He can't leave right away (as they plan to) because he has to find someone to take care of the family dog, so he agrees to meet them at the mountainous village the next day. Problem is, when he arrives, his friends aren't there and it turns out they just kept drinking the day before, and were too hung over to go and/or don't remember making the plans. And the market they assured him would be there is closed. And the great pension they recommended is less than welcoming. So what's a young man to do? Drink, of course. And he ends up getting into more and more scrapes including being dumped in the snow at the side of the road in his underwear. I laughed quite a few times during this film, and the view into young Korean culture (much the same as student culture here -- only the details are different) made this one worth seeing.
After In the Name of the Father, you'd think the story of Bobby Sands' 1981 hunger strike had already had its time on the big screen. But this film is different. It was certainly one of the "buzz" films and in fact won the prize for the best film in the Special Presentations series. (The first year such an award has been handed out.) And Special Presentations had many really great films... so this is no small achievement.
The film follows not only Bobby Sands, with an astonishing performance by Michael Fassbender, but also a prison guard and other people on both sides of the "troubles" in Northern Ireland. The effect is such that the film doesn't take sides as blatantly as most films that cover politically charged subjects do.
It was made by a first time director, Steve McQueen, a young British artist of some repute (his work has been acquired by the Guggenheim among other major galleries) and certainly the film shows his eye for detail and finding a beautiful way to show many things that are less than beautiful. And the ugliness of things too. Showing the truth in them, I guess.
Many things in this film will make many viewers gag and/or cringe with disgust, but it was worth seeing for Fastbender's performance, alone. Staggering what humans will do to other humans and what one human will do to himself.
This was a highly anticipated film in general this year, partly because Larry Charles and Bill Maher showed 12 minutes of it last year at the festival during a talk they gave as part of the Mavericks series (which are lectures/discussions with filmmakers). It was also highly anticipated by me because it was Bill Maher and Larry Charles (Seinfeld, Borat) and the subject was the ridiculousness of religion. What could be better than that? But to be honest, the film disappointed me a bit. I did laugh, but some of the laughs seemed like cheap shots based on sight gags when they didn't need to be. The words coming out of the people they interview are funny enough with out the "ba-dump-bum". I didn't feel like the film really taught me anything or made me see anything any differently... but perhaps they were literally preaching to the choir in my case, having decided much about organized religion was ridiculous at least 25 years ago.
Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way was Charles' answer to a audience member's question at the end, who wondered why the film mostly makes fun of Christians and Muslims and Mormons and Scientologists, but pretty much leaves the Jews alone (except for a small bit with a clearly fringe sect of Jews) and was that because he (Charles) was Jewish. I don't want to misquote him, so I won't put his answer, but it made me think the audience member had been right to ask the question... He said something about there being fewer Jews in the world than Christians or Muslims so he was trying to be proportionate... but that doesn't explain the bigger bits on Mormons and Scientology.
I'm sure this one will be opening (and being picketed in various US cities) soon. I think some time in October, in fact. Worth seeing for the laughs. I might even go again. I know I missed some lines because of the full audience and raucous laughter, and maybe I simply wasn't in the right mood to fully enjoy this film, having just come out of the very serious Hunger -- a terrifying look at how religion can tear people apart.