The 19th Hamptons International Film Festival

Day One: Well, I couldn’t get out of work to be there opening night and I knew I’d already missed a few films I would have liked to see, but that’s ok, that’s life, the films I really wanted to see will come around another time. So there I am, Saturday morning 10:30 and ready to receive The Fairy, (directed by Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy), which turns out to be as funny, charming and quirky as I’d hoped and which was deservedly recognized as the Narrative Jury Winner at the awards ceremony on Sunday. The film centers on a frustrated hotel clerk (Dominique Abel) into whose hotel and life a real-life fairy wanders, granting him three wishes. The oddness of the fairy (Fiona Gordon) is matched by the clerk's eccentricities, and the eccentricities of the filmmakers' themselves; an underwater scene where the two do a mating dance, including pressing and gyrating their naked buttocks together, is just one moment in a film full of truly laugh out-loud moments.

Afterwards, as I was deciding where to go for lunch, I almost literally bumped into Fiona Gordon and Domique Abel. I took advantage of the opportunity to tell them how much I enjoyed their film. A nice surprise, the first of several over the next few days.

Second film at 3:45 in the afternoon, Butter, (directed by Jim Field Smith), an often-funny if predictable satire starring Jennifer Garner that almost veers into camp-horror territory at one promising moment and displays touches of black comedy here and there but is too mainstream in its heart to actually go there. Nice to see Alicia Silverstone on the big screen again. As Billy Crystal would say, she looked marvelous.

Act III of the day, Salute to Filmmakers party. A nice opportunity to catch up with some old friends including Lauren Wolkstein (please scroll down to see an interview with Lauren about her short film Cigarette Candy in a previous blog entry) and Chris Radcliffe, who together would win the HIFF Short Narrative Award for their short The Strange Ones, and Fellipe Barbosa, whose feature-length documentary Laura, which would win the Golden Starfish Award for Best Documentary and whose screening I attended on Day Two would be most memorable.

Day Two: 10:30am, screening of “Shorts for All Ages.” Had to go, to see Windsor McCay’s 1921 animation Flying House – Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, restored and with color, a new score and spoken narration by Matthew Modine and Patricia Clarkson added by Bill Plympton. Quirky, very early, ground-breaking animation with a story about a husband and wife afraid of losing their house to foreclosure oddly timely. Another standout in the program was Apollo (Felix Gonnert), an animated short from Germany about a boy playing with a toy rocket and wreaking havoc, most notable for giving us the child’s point-of-view.
Flying House

5:30, Awards Ceremony at Guild Hall. Who sits next to me but Fiona Gordon and Domique Abel, so another chance to say hello, and I was very happy to see them win the Golden Starfish Narrative Feature Award for The Fairy. On my way out I was able to congratulate Fellipe Barbosa on his award for Laura.

Time was on my side as I made my way back to the United Artists theater to catch a 7:30 screening of Fellipe’s film, a fascinating portrait of Laura, a Brazilian woman living in Manhattan whose style and diva-ness gets her into celebrity-studded parties (and who is chummy with Ron Perlman among others) but who remains on the fringe, of the parties and society, living in a decidely-not 5-star hotel, her room so crammed with collectibles (in theory at least) she can barely open the door. We never get to see inside that room, but the audience at the screening I attended did get a real-life glimpse of Laura, as she appeared in the back of the theater during the Q&A. Although she was invited up on stage to join the discussion, she chose not to, preferring to exit grandly, adding a dash of live theater to go along with the cinema. An entertaining and thought-provoking subject and film.

Day 3. Decided to take advantage of the perfect October weather to walk around Sag Harbor. Sadly The Black Cat bookstore, previously one of my favorite stops, has closed but I got a nice juicy hamburger at Bay Burger. Later I found out there had been an extra-added screening of The Fairy at 3:00 in East Hampton, which I would have liked to see again, but you can’t argue with a good burger. So the films for the day began with a 6:30pm program of shorts including The Shore (directed by Terry George, Hotel Rwanda)), a moving drama starring Ciaran Hinds about two Irish boyhood best friends whose lives diverged due to the troubles in Belfast; a bonus was a stunning wide shot of Belfast from a hill overlooking the city, a welcome image for this Van Morrison fan.

8:45pm, another program of shorts, most notable for the inclusion of Steve (directed by Rupert Friend) featuring Colin Firth as a disturbed and potentially-dangerous neighbor to Keira Knightley, and Animal Love (directed by Mollie Jones), an ambiguous sci-fi starring the always-welcome and lovely Selma Blair. The next to last film in the program was The Wholly Family, directed by the irrepressible Terry Gilliam. A bizarre, dream-like story about a boy who undergoes some unsettling experiences while on vacation with his family in Naples, The Wholly Family was, like most of Gilliam’s films, entertaining and exasperating at the same time. More than once I had to suppress the urge to blurt out, “The man’s lost his mind.” Yes, Brazil is brilliant and the man has a very, very vivid imagination. Well, let’s leave it at that; one must admire imagination, at the very least.

As we walked out into the quiet dark night, the marquee for the East Hampton movie theater was being changed. The festival had come and gone and though there were quite a few films I would have liked to see, every film I did see was rewarding in one way or another. Mike Fishman.

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