by Fabiola Feyt
Everyone around me is critiquing films I haven’t seen, praising marginal directors with last names that are impossible to pronounce, and worse (for me), they are talking (out loud) about how much they are spending on their own productions “that take place in the future but are filmed in the north of Argentina; more indigenous, ya know?” Despite all that, the Festival de Cine de Mar del Plata (which today is in the sixth day of its 26th edition) always feels more authentic to me than the BAFICI, although both make me feel slightly unsophisticated and a little incompetent in the art of film discussion. The parade of nerds present at the conference led by Joe Dante, as part of the “Master Talks”, makes me feel more at home. Dante is one of the festival’s central figures: director of both Gremlins (1984 and 1990), and a few more gems that mix science fiction, humor, horror and the absurd, like Piranha (1978), Matinee (1993) and a few epic episodes of “Masters of Horror”. He has been invited to the festival to discuss his last film The Hole 3D as well as his creative processes.
Later on we catch Faust, by Russian director Alexander Sokurov, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival this year. There are a million people waiting outside, 80 percent of which are older than 70. My travel buddy, who came to find tan skaters, wants to die and falls asleep in the first 20 minutes. I hold out for this sick adaptation of Goethe, the final part of a saga that began in 1999 in which Sokurov explores the destructive effects of Hitler, Lenin and the Japanese emperor Hirohito. No happy endings here, surprise surprise.
I haven’t taken a shower in a while. Before getting on the bus to Mar del Plata, the guy that’s lending me the apartment calls to tell me that there is no hot water and due to the bureaucracy between the buildings management and the plumbers we’ll stay dirty for who knows how long. Today we make a decision that’s some might call reprehensible: we are only going to see one film, and not until 1am. In between, we check into a hotel with real showers and then head over to Antares, the mythical artisanal brewery. After a failed flirting attempt with a nerdy bartender he recommends that we go to a trashy rock party (“Ramones trashy or Rolling Stones trashy?”, I ask. “Dead Kennedy’s trashy”, he responds and I fall in love instantly). We get off at Peralta Ramos, the avenue that runs along the coast and confirm that Mar del Plata is the prettiest of pretty cities. The sea is dark, boats in the middle with their faintly shining lights, the water breaking for the boys that surf through the night. Drunk, for variety’s sake, we arrive to the Ambassador to see Straight from Hell Returns, a restored version of the original 1987 film, a punky spaghetti western directed by Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid & Nancy) whose charm is in its cast: Joe Strummer, the head of a gang of thieves that stumble into a town they think is deserted, Dennis Hopper playing his normal nasty self. There is also Courtney Love as a dangerous prego, The Pogues lead a shoot out, and Jim Jarmusch will bust your head right open.
bff´s: me and Joe Dante
Today we have four films on the agenda. We run into Joe Dante before going to see his film Movie Orgy, a delirious 4 hour documentary (it was originally 7) that displays all of tv´s pop iconography from the 1950´s to the present. We leave in the middle and lose the contest to see who can last until the end, “I don´t have a prize but I´d like to know who can make it to the final.” We head over to Paseo Diagonal to see Slacker, a film that´s been on Cuevana for ages but that I have to see in a theater. In this 1991 classic Richard Linklater shows the day in the life of a few Austin, Texas personalities whose lifestyles would later take on the same name as the movie. There is almost no physical action, a camera skips from girl to boy, it crosses the street and goes into a concert, there´s a stoned conversation about some profound philosophical question. Bits of Daniel Johnston, Butthole Surfers and Crust make up the soundtrack. It´s a perfect movie, a generational gem, and to celebrate 20 years the producers present Slacker 2011, a sort of homage to vagrants, proto-intellectuals and places that never change. I skip out on the third film, Dragonslayer, because I´m tired of seeing skaters and forgotten youth.
As my own finale to the festival, I go to see The Future, the new film by Miranda July. For years she has occupied a key space in North American independent film and in The Future (or “love between two weaklings (myself included)”) she reaffirms her place as indie director extraordinaire and her own preferred actress. A thirty-something couple grow tired of killing time together and decide to live one atypical month. Nothing happens except that the romance slowly dissolves and that they adopt a cat that can freeze time so that everything doesn´t go to the can. Inevitably, it hurts. If I were a film critic I´d say, “excellent film, don´t go see it”.
It´s the end of my mini-vacation. It´s fucking hot outside but there´s no time to go swimming. Massacre is playing at the opening of a new skate shop. My arms and face are tanner. We sit and watch the skaters, who range between 7 and 50 years old. It always happens, when I travel to a city that´s not Buenos Aires everything looks so much fresher and sincere. The movie buffs are different, so are the skaters. I´m writing all this stuff down on little scraps of paper, any idea that pops into my head, making it harder to want to board the bus back home.