Friday, March 20, 2015

QWFF 2015 Day 3: Sentimental journeys

My first night at P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights was a relatively short one. It was also Parent-Teacher Conference night, so the Queens World Film Festival activities didn't get under way until around 9:30, but it was worth the wait. All four movies I saw were good:

- Dollar Night. The ancient projectionist of a movie theater on its last legs tries to bring back the patrons with a promotional event. Shamelessly saccharine and manipulative, with a way-over-the-top score specifically designed to tug at your heartstrings, but you know what? I'm giving this one a pass, and I'll explain why.

Before the show, I talked to a fella named Sam, who was the projectionist for this venue. He's nowhere near as old as the one in the movie, but he said he was in the game for 40 years, and as you might expect, the industry's transition from celluloid to digital projection has meant less work for him, but, as he told me himself, he takes the time to do the job right - and the filmmakers (the ones screening at QWFF, at the very least) appreciate him for that.


Sam, the projectionist at P.S. 69.
Forgive the blurriness; I didn't take this shot.
In this digital age of online streaming and video-on-demand and watching movies on your friggin' iPad, we're forgetting what watching movies used to be like, and a generation is growing up knowing no other way of watching them. I accept that there are faster, cheaper, easier ways to make and watch movies, but that shouldn't mean setting the old ways aside if they're still viable. I believe they are, and I know others think the same - and this movie, as sentimental and fetishistic towards 35mm film as it is (long, loving shots of celluloid strips held up for examination, watching the projectionist carefully load up the film projector, the dust particles floating through the flickering light of the projector, etc.), comes from what I believe is a genuine love and appreciation for the medium by director Marco Antonio Martinez, and I can't knock him for that. Sadly, he wasn't in attendance last night; I wish he had been.

With the love of celluloid also comes a love of classic films, and that's part of Dollar Night. We see the torch being passed to a new generation, which, let's face it, is necessary if the old stuff is to survive. No matter how often I see it, I'm still amazed whenever I see bloggers or fans of Old Hollywood under 30, and not just casual ones, but hardcore cinephiles. Over the years, I've introduced you to some of them at this very blog, and I expect I'll see more in the future.

Finally, when you get right down to it, sometimes - not always, but sometimes - sentiment is okay! For all of the genuine quality of films on display here at QWFF every year, many of them are deadly serious. It's good to also see a few that are simply uplifting, feel-good crowd-pleasers... and Dollar Night is definitely that.


Diversity Plaza, at Jackson Heights
- Between Times. A tale of two clocks, one indoors, one outdoors, and the different ways they perceive time and the world of humans around them. Yes, the narrator of this stop-motion animated film from the Netherlands is a clock, and she has a personality and a perception of her surroundings that makes this story quite clever. The look of the animation is nice, especially the village street and the design of the clocks.

- The Shed. Portrait of a happy, healthy, normal marriage. It's a lie, of course, but not in the way you think. This nine-minute Irish film has not one, but two plot twists, and it ends at exactly the right moment! Great fun.

- Mousse. Dog Day Afternoon if it were a comedy, and if Al Pacino and the cops spoke different languages, and if the cops were a bunch of old men. This Swedish film could've ended in the first ten minutes by having the cops shoot the robber (they have ample opportunity to do so without hurting the hostages), but that's not what happens. It goes in a different direction for a little while before arriving at the inevitable finish, but once you embrace the absurdity of it, it's not bad.

More pics at my Tumblr page.

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Previously:
Day 1
Day 2

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