Killer of Sheep
Maine film buffs have it tough. We travel an hour to Portsmouth to see the year’s most popular foreign film — South Korean monster movie The Host — because our theaters are busy processing a backlog of staid, anonymous foreign films. We wait upwards of five months for films by our greatest auteurs to arrive at our arthouses; they’re released on DVD weeks later. But we travel, we wait, and every summer Waterville’s Maine International Film Festival puts us briefly, tantalizingly ahead of the curve with features cobbled from both local filmmakers and the world’s most prestigious festivals.
Last year, MIFF 9 hosted the regional premieres for some of 2006’s most-praised films: the Oscar-nominated Little Miss Sunshine and Half Nelson, and Kelly Reichart’s sublime Old Joy. At MIFF 10, actor/director Bud Cort — beloved as Harold and Maude’s titular pyromaniac — joins Terrence Malick and Peter Fonda as Mid-Life Achievement Award honorees. He’ll be in Waterville to receive his award at a July 21 screening of the subversive 1972 comedy, part of a career retrospective. Also receiving oeuvre treatment are Jacques Rivette — the most overlooked of the French New Wave auteurs — and Taiwanese festival-circuit favorite Lin Cheng-Sheng, who will be honored at a reception on July 14.
MIFF screenings are held from July 13 to 22 at the 900-seat Waterville Opera House, Railroad Square Cinema, and the Maine Film Office Theater. Advance tickets ($8-10) and multi-show passes ($50-150) are available at the festival Web site, www.miff.org. Consult film listings this week and next for a complete rundown of the schedule; for now, here’s a pre-emptive top ten list of films you shouldn’t miss.
10)The Ten — David Wain’s first film since the summer-camp cult comedy Wet Hot American Summer is a mixed bag of ten interconnected short films, each based around one of the Ten Commandments. Worthwhile for a great cast (Winona Ryder, Paul Rudd) and a few classic bits, including one about a doctor who kills a patient and defends it — in court — as “a goof.”
9) C.R.A.Z.Y. — A smash in its native Quebec, the French-language coming-out dramedy about a boy coming to terms with his sexuality and homophobic family in the 1960s/’70s has been widely praised for its soundtrack, buoyancy, and eye for period detail.
8) Noise— Australian director Matthew Saville’s debut feature, a psychological drama about a cop with tinnitus (represented accurately in the film’s sound design) who counsels witnesses after a bloody public massacre.
7) Four Minutes — A well-executed hokey setup, Chris Kraus’s film is about a pianist (Monica Bleibtreu, of the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others) who provides lessons to a sullen inmate in a woman’s prison. Winner of German Oscars for Outstanding Feature and Best Actress last year.
6) Celine and Julie Go Boating — At 192 minutes, this 1974 film is one of the longest of Jacques Rivette’s notoriously “patient” features, but it’s also considered his best. The lighthearted but abstract presentation of two women’s friendship is considered a forebear to the dream logic on display in David Lynch’s recent work.
5) Exiled— Along with South Korea’s Park Chan-wook (of the Virginia Tech controversy-magnet Oldboy), Hong Kong’s Johnny To is Asia’s pre-eminent maker of ultra-violent, hipper-than-thou action flicks. His latest is an homage to the original bloodbath classic, Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch.