Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A west coast swing

It’s funny what you run into when you travel – like film festivals. Recently on a swing through the Pacific Northwest I lucked out and was in Seattle during the Seattle International Film Festival. But given my timeline and what was available, I only caught one film – that being Turkish director Mehmet Can Mertoglu's Album. It was a bizarre little story about a couple adopting a child, with surreal or magic realist touches. It was hard to understand the director’s point – the surreal flourishes (a cow giving birth, civil servants asleep at their desks) made no sense or were grasping at straws. If anything the film mocked middle class Turkish society by the couple who wants the perfect child and then for respectability conceals the adoption......Further down the coast I, again, stumbled upon the San Francisco documentary festival (SF Docfest) and managed to get to just one film. But it was a great one. It’s Salt Lake City director Andrew James’s Street Fighting Men, which follows the stories of three men in inner city Detroit. James had no familiarity with Detroit but you wouldn’t know it from the film. The film, obviously a doc, comes off as a drama, which was James’s intention. More on this film – it has yet to screen locally – in an upcoming post…..Then in my Berkeley domicile I
walked over to a couple of Landmark (the same company that owns Royal Oak’s Main) art cinemas. At the Shattuck I saw Venessa Gould’s Obit, a look at The New York Times’s famous obituaries, or the staff who write them, often about obscure but significant individuals and under daily deadlines. Engrossing. Then, across the street and around the corner at the California (great to have two art houses in such proximity) I saw Chasing Trane, John Scheinfeld’s doc about the late great John Coltrane - my fave jazz musician – and a pitch perfect treatment of the man, who died in 1967 at age 40. A Coltrane doc was well overdue since he is among the pantheon of jazz greats including Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Most significant was showing Coltrane’s humanity and spirituality, an even more uplifting personality than I'd expected.