IFFB Round-up

Ugh, playing catch up. Looking forward to a stress-free weekend! Maybe I'll even write about an exquisite film I saw earlier this week. Maybe I'll even see it again on Sunday. Until then, here's what I saw at the festival last week.

I LIKE KILLING FLIES: You've probably already heard lots of praise about this simple, beautiful film, and get ready to hear a lot more over the next year. I can't remember another doc where I've laughed so hard and felt so moved. This follows Kenny Shopsin, a hilariously profane, unexpectedly gifted chef (his menu contains over 900 items) who ran a tiny, pre-gentrification Greenwich Village diner with his wife and five children for over 30 years. As he loses his lease and prepares to sublet a larger location down the street, viewers can practically gleam a philosophy of the entire world in his single grain of sand. Kenny may be cranky, but as the film progresses, he evenutally comes off as a honest and exceptionally humane son-of-a-bitch.

DIG!: This frenzied documentary is worthy of the hype lavished upon it. A chronicle of seven years in the lives of two bands (The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre) who start out as friends and end up taking wildly divergent paths. Deeper and much more fun than your average rockumentary, with BJM leader Anton Newcombe emerging as a fascinating portrait of a eccentric, mad, tragic genius.

GOWANUS, BROOKLYN: I wish our short film festival received more entries like this somber, subtle, soulful sketch about a 12 year-old girl and one of her teachers. Everything is delicately nuanced and left open; if the filmmakers succeed in expanding this into a feature, it could be another Our Song or Raising Victor Vargas.

BIG CITY DICK: RICHARD PETERSON'S FIRST MOVIE: A Seattle fixture for decades, Richard Peterson is a mentally challenged, musically gifted savant obsessed with Johnny Mathis and orchestral cues from the '50s TV show Sea Hunt. Initially, I feared that the filmmakers were crudely exploiting Peterson in this documentary, but that feeling disintegrated over time. To the film's credit, watching it is akin to meeting Peterson; at first, you don't know what to make of him, but gradually, he becomes familiar and (dare I say) engaging. Although the film's a little slick and overlong, Peterson is unlike anyone you've ever met (the real life "Rain Man" comparisons don't do him justice). I think I'd much rather meet him onscreen than in person.

SEXUAL DEPENDENCY: I had mixed feelings about this ambitious but flawed first feature from director Rodrigo Bellott. Beginning in Bolivia and ending up at a prototypical American University, it tracks a cast of young adults undergoing various sexual awakenings, experiences and epiphanies. It's entirely in split screen (except for one shot), which at times makes for some interesting comparisons/contrasts; at other times, it's merely superfluous and distracting. The cyclical script is a little uneven and cliched on occasion, but innovative in its construction, with a pretty surprising conclusion.