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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mid-Week Report!

Porcupine is pausing to poke his head out of the movie burrow where he is spending the week - the Maine International film Festival!

The best films so far?

Killer of Sheep - a 1977 documentary-style fiction film made in Watts about what life was like there. To Porcupine, the most poignant thing is that the hero, desperately going to work every day and trying to do the right thing by his family, probably lost everything he owned in the riots the ensuing year. Very powerful.

Kek - is Kazakh for Vengeance, and this new film from Kazakhstan gives a new meaning to the word. Set in the 1700's - but not that different from 75 years ago or 750 years ago - two warring clans fight over honor and family. Especially interesting is how the Muslim women are portrayed – when has a Muslim woman ever been portrayed in a film nagging her husband and correcting him? Porcupine asked the director if this was a change in Muslim culture, or in Kazakh culture. He replied through the interpreter that Muslim women in nomadic tribes had never been veiled and were far less subjugated; the harshness of nomad life precluded it, and it is not a requirement in the Koran. Indeed, Kazakhstan’s vast bleakness makes the American West seem cozy in its scope. Porcupine only wished that he could have discussed it at greater length with him.

Macao – The first Swiss movie Porcupine had ever seen, it was a surreal and witty rumination on love and the Afterlife.

Lonesome – a lovely 1928 film, restored by the George Eastman House, and presented by Bill Pence, the founder of the Telluride Film Festival, this was the first film shown there 33 years ago. Hand colored in parts, it is a story of two young people in New York, desperately alone in vast crowds.

Knee Deep – A boy drops out of school in 6th grade, to work on the family dairy farm. He is always told not to complain, because someday it will all be his. After Dad dies, Mom decides to evict him and sell to developers. So he shoots her. Maybe. A true story, this documentary is about a family tragedy, but is funny against its will. As the director said, sometimes the material just demands to go in a certain direction. The film has a web site – HERE – and this saga of work, greed and rural community in Farmington, Maine is a winner.

Porcupine was pleased to attend the World Premiere of High and Outside, a baseball film about Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee of the 1970’s Red Sox, founder of the Player’s Union and general madman. The Spaceman attended, and told even more scandalous anecdotes about baseball than were in the film; indeed, he has lost none of his panache or wit. Porcupine’s favorite line from the film - “John Kerry is like Ivory Soap. He’s pure, smells real nice, and gently cleans. George Bush is like Tide, full of special stain fighting power and additives. But at the end of the day – they’re both owned by Proctor & Gamble.Porcupine cannot imagine WHY the owners of major league baseball chose to let this healthy, talented southpaw pitcher slip through their fingers. The old baseball footage alone makes it a hit – Porcupine had forgotten how amazing Luis Tiant looked while pitching – but Bill Lee makes a baseball film a joy.

Indeed, this is fewer than half the movies Porcupine has gone to – these are just the stand-outs. Another film he saw called Back Wards, Front Wards was about the struggle to close – or keep open – the Fernald School in Waltham, and its checkered history. Steve Buscemi has completed a screenplay by Theo Van Gogh, has directed the film, and for the first time is the lead in a film. The film is a battle of wits with Buscemi as a jaded political reporter and Sienna Miller as a cross between Paris Hilton and Jennifer Anniston in a film called Interview. And there are another 6 or 7 yet to come. So, my political friends, Porcupine will return on Sunday with a ballad for Barack – but right now, it’s back into the Cave, to watch the flickering images reflected from the fire, as talented people share their imaginations.


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