LOCKED IN: Suri Krishnamma shows skill at evoking existential horror with effects no more complicated than an empty room.
In recent years, the Boston Film Festival has alternated between catastrophe and semi-revival. The 26th annual version might be leaning more toward the latter, though it’s hard to say. On the plus side, it boasts more movies (24) than parties. Some of the films — all showing at the recently revived Stuart Street Playhouse — are fairly high-profile independent and studio offerings, and some of those will have cast members and filmmakers in attendance: actor Sam Rockwell will grace Tony Goldwyn’s CONVICTION (September 18 at 9:15 pm), and Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck will be present at their IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY (September 19 at 7 pm).
Neither of those two screened for the press, but I did get a look at some of the other features. As you might expect, they’re obscure and low budget. But they’re no worse than your average movie in a commercial theater. Most, in fact, are well worth seeing.
So attending the festival this year might not be like watching a car crash — though, as it turns out, there are plenty of car crashes to be seen in the movies themselves. Disasters of various kinds and near-death experiences, both figurative and literal, are a unifying theme. This might be a reflection of the festival’s own precarious status, if not that of the world in general. A typical Boston Film Festival entry starts with a plane plunging into the ocean, a handful of survivors stumbling onto shore to discover a mysterious world with strange inhabitants and eerie links to their previous life, and . . .
I’m sorry, that’s the TV show Lost. The film I’m thinking about is Phedon Papamichael’s ARCADIA LOST (September 23 at 5 pm, with Papamichael), in which a car crashes into the ocean and a teenage stepbrother and stepsister stumble ashore to discover a mysterious world inhabited by Nick Nolte. Charlotte (Haley Bennett) has been a pill since her father died and her mother remarried a guy whose son Sye (Carter Jenkins) is kind of cute but a nerd. So she acts up by kissing a cute waiter at the resort hotel they’re staying at in Greece and making Lolita-like poses for Papamichael’s camera. For his part, Sye barely tolerates Charlotte, but they’re thrust into each other’s care when they get stranded in a strange land without a cell phone.
Leading them in search of “The Way” is Benerji (Nolte). Sucking on what looks like a bottle of Red Bull and vodka, Benerji intones profundities like “I have seen many things. . . . I have seen the snakes. . . . I have walked the road under water” while affirming the power of love. Not very helpful. Yet though the film has its share of ludicrously portentous dialogue, the imagery rises to the level of its ambitions — the sudden appearance of a giant, rusted freighter on a beach, for example. It’s far superior, at any rate, to Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones.