Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Film Days I

Last week I attended the annual Malmö Film Days (Malmö filmdagar to Swedish readers), an event which is half film festival, half industry wooing; during four very busy days the various film companies pool their resources and show advance screenings of about 30 upcoming films to important (and not so important) industry folks - including distributors, theatre managers, Institute people, and critics. This was my first time there, and I understand now why it's so popular, not to mention tough to get into (invitation only, peasants!). It's a fun mix of people too, from the networking pros to the unashamed freeloaders, via stiff academics and faux bored critics who really hate being there, but unfortunately had to. There are the middle-aged women who only watch Swedish movies and love all of them, there are the competing critics strutting their stuff, there are the distributors comparing press kits, and so on.

In addition to seeing so many movies for free ahead of everyone else, the neverending supply of sugar-rush candy to gorge on between screenings, and plenty of fringe benefits like a Chronicles of Narnia-sponsored luncheon with turkey rolls and decent red wine, there is the gift bag. A couple of years ago, when the film companies organized the event without interference by the Institute, they apparently went completely over the top with gifts, showering critics and distribs with extravagant bribes - please Mr Critic Man, hype Van Helsing for us! Too bad I missed out on that. These days things are much more moderate (read: cheap), and every attendee gets but one bag filled with goodies. Jaded faces around me signalled that I really shouldn't be excited about this lame excuse for a freebie-bag, but I was thrilled. Eleven DVDs! An umbrella! A silly clock! A t-shirt! Two... books? I thought I came here to watch movies.

Anyway, I was psyched about getting home, sitting down in front of the comp and summing up the intense days with long, thoughtful posts about all the great new films I'd been watching, but then, a sluggish, strange, post-everything coma set in, and I didn't watch a single film in four days. Nor did I write a word about any of the ones I'd seen during the film fest. So sorry 'bout that, and let's get down to business.

Things kicked off Monday night with a cocktail party followed by Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (Shane Black, 2005, pro), which I didn't know a thing about, and which in hindsight was a perfect opener for this cheerful audience, greasy from the complimentary snacks and tipsy from the endless outpour of kiwi/wasabi cider as they were. It's a crowdpleasing neo-noir thriller comedy thing, definitely Hollywood all over but surprisingly witty, occasionally hilarious, and while not exactly intelligent, it has a distinct non-stupid feel to it that I found satisfying. Black has made a living writing era-defining actioners like Lethal Weapon in the past, and this is his first gig at the helm. It's a fine accomplishment, but it's obvious that his love affair is with the dialogue, which is handled in excellent fashion by the principal players, Robert Downey Jr. in particular. Downey plays a goodhearted smalltime thief from NYC who literally stumbles into an audition for a movie while running from the cops, and hey presto, it's off to Tinseltown for a movie career. Once there, he gets tangled up in a myriad of metariffic mysteries, that may or may not be interconnected. Filling out the cast is a long-lost high school sweetheart, and chubby Val Kilmer, fresh off the overweight set of Alexander, as an outrageous celebrity detective called Gay Perry.

Black obviously hasn't been out of L.A. (or worse, Hollywood) for the last fifteen years or so, which might explain his obsession to connect every plotpoint and supporting player back to the glamorous movie world, and keep them there. The film goes overboard a few times in its self-referential gab, most notably in Downey's "been there, done that" voice-over, but most of the time it's very entertaining. Joel Silver produced - I was expecting more explosions.

Next entry: day II...


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