2011 Philadelphia Film Festival
Half-time Report

I received an e-mail earlier this week that began:
“Hi, I know you guys sometimes enjoy reporting about the failures at the film fests…”
The author went on to describe the “technical disaster” that was a screening of Losing Control held at the International House this past Saturday (the film reportedly stopped and skipped multiple times until a solution was worked out, paging Herbie…).  While it’s true that I (I’m foregoing the “we” that usually represents Cinedelphia as a whole since I’m in this one alone) heavily reported on the failings of this past spring’s Cinefest in a series of posts that remain some of the site’s most-read items, I don’t, by any means, “enjoy reporting the failures at the film fests”.  I want to see things go as smoothly as the organizers themselves and I’m well aware of the amount of work that goes into these events as well as the inevitable technical difficulties that all film exhibitors face, especially in this time of rapid technological advancements.  And yet I’m compelled to provide our city’s filmgoers with a place where they can let their frustrated voices be heard.  The Film Festival itself stated in a tweet this past weekend that “We welcome constructive critiques! That’s how we build a stronger Fest. Thanks for caring enough to help!”.  And as you know, no one cares more than Cinedelphia…

The vast majority of complaints that I’ve received have to do with projection or framing issues, particularly at the Prince Music Theater.  A lot of people don’t take notice of these things, my girlfriend for instance who sat beside me and watched The Artist at the Prince with no awareness to the fact that, between the top and bottom framing, a full ¼ of the image didn’t make it onto the screen.  The film that followed, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, also had some strange framing issues, but I lucked out from what I hear as the Sunday screening of the same film at the same venue abruptly cut to Friday Night Lights at one point.  As for the other venues, every issue that was sent my way was reportedly fixed within minutes (like the screening of Underwater Love that I attended last night) so I’ll leave it at that.

I won’t get too in-depth as far as the other complaints I’ve received as I don’t want to sound too gossipy so let’s just run through a quick list:
• I know little about the seemingly simple concept behind the “6-Pass”, but apparently it’s caused some people grief due to technological limitations that prevented them choosing their films online.
• The print of Europa that the Festival screened didn’t have subtitles for the German-language bits, but these things happen.
• Some “press” people have contacted me regarding their confusion as to why some people were granted press badges while others weren’t…none of my business.
• There was a whole to-do that I won’t even hint at as it would cause unnecessary grief and work for others.  So why do I even bother mentioning it?  Merely to illustrate that the Friends of Cinedelphia are an appreciated many and that I am indeed a trustworthy shoulder to cry on (though sometimes my shoulder is blocks away from where the crying is taking place…).  And I take that whole “This is off the record…” thing seriously, which is funny as I take very little seriously.

And one more thing before I move on…I came across this post on a Facebook page for a film called Jersey Justice that I’m assuming was submitted to the Festival, but not selected:

Congrats to the Philadelphia Film Society for screening only 6 Philly based films at the week long festival…. 6 movies in a whole week….. Why not just call the Philadelphia Film Festival “F&^%ck You Philly Film Makers”….. I wish I could attend but there are so few films from my fellow Philly moviemakers that I can’t figure what to do…. I have an idea…. Occupy Philly and don’t buy tickets!

You can taste the bitterness.

I’ve barely had time to put a dent in the festival as I’ve been rather busy lately (keep your eyes on the site in the coming weeks to find out what I’ve been up to), but here’s what I’ve had a chance to see, in chronological order:

The Artist and its silent film gimmick turned out to be the cute love letter to classic movie making that I expected.  I highly recommend the writer/director and star’s previous collaborations on the OSS 117 films (the first one is fantastic, the second is just okay).  The Artist screens again tonight at the Ritz East at 7:20 (10/27).

Jeff, Who Lives at Home may not successfully transcend its quirky confines, but it’s another enjoyable outing from the Duplass brothers who have proven that indie films can still feel pure despite the presence of known actors (Jason Segel and Ed Helms in this case, Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly in their previous film).

Hospitalite uses the home invasion format to explore familial relationships as well as Japan’s xenophobia in this inexplicable era of world-wide appreciation for the island nation.  It’s a fun watch that’s not entirely successful, but the ending leaves plenty of room for interpretation/the dispelling of criticism.  It screens again on Sunday, October 30 and Thursday, November 3.

Michael illustrates the everyday life of its titular pedophile who comes complete with a young boy locked in the basement.  The going is slow and the payoff may be frustrating for the less Haneke-inclined (the director formerly worked as a casting director for the Funny Games filmmaker).  Immediate tension is built and maintained merely from the topic at hand, which is brilliant in a way considering that all you do is watch the guy go shopping, skiing, and roller skating.  Surely a disappointment for some attendees.

Life Without Principle is the latest film from Hong Kong’s highly-regarded Johnnie To and is easily one of his smartest films thus far.  Set against Greece’s debt crisis, the film explores how there’s a fine line between all forms of modern money management, be it investment bankers, loan sharks, or gangster heavies.  It’s a character study in which the plot threads of disparate professionals come together in a metaphorical manner rather than an annoying Crash-like collision.  Highly recommended, it’s playing again this Saturday, October 29.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is that film about the young cult survivor that everyone is talking about…my proper review will be posted tomorrow.  Not a fan.

Attenberg concerns a Greek Laverne & Shirley who act like they’re eternally bored to the sounds of Suicide and Daniel Johnston.  Nonsense (yes, I know that there’s a somewhat interesting subtext, I just can’t dwell on this insufferable experience).

Underwater Love was the musical Japanese pink film that it promised to be.  I never would have guessed that Christopher Doyle shot it.

We also saw the beat-up 35mm print of Naked Lunch, which I personally found to be a real treat.

So a great festival thus far, at least for me.  Feel free to e-mail me feedback or post in the comments below, I’ll try to do a post-festival wrap-up next week.

Official site.

Author: Eric Bresler

Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of Cinedelphia.com whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.


  1. We were at the Jeff, Who Lives at Home Sunday screening, and while it was really annoying to have FNL break in randomly, if Mark Duplass didn’t run out of there screaming, I figure I probably shouldn’t either. I do, however, hope the Prince has things all figured out for this weekend, though!

  2. Just to let you know… not submitted to the Philly Film Fest, and what I said is true. Not bitter because I know many Philly film makers who said the same thing. The fest is a hackfest.

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