Yes, that's me you hear slapping my hands together. I'm starting to realize I'm losing interest in dealing with the Palm Springs festival write-ups - though I did want to say at least a few words on each. So here we go...quick and to the point.
Stone of Destiny (Canada/UK) - Interesting for the historical angle. Based on a true story about the successful plot to recapture the stone used as part of coronation ceremonies for the King of Scotland - taken by the British and housed in Westminster Abbey. If you're interested in this area of history worth a look. Decent enough as a caper flick, fun performances all around. Nothing to kill yourself getting to see in my view. But pleasant enough.
The Market - A Tale of Trade (Germany) - One of my favorites of the festival, and really deserving of a much bigger writeup. Set in Turkey it follows Mihram a wheeling and dealing trader who thinks he's found a big, legitimate business opportunity but lacks the capital required to make it work. Then he's asked to do work that's more about the honor (getting replacement medicine for a clinic) than about the money. Both the slice of life watching him make his living aspect as well as the later moral dilemmas had me enjoying the experience all the way through. Fairly highly recommend.
Captive (Bulgaria) - Set in Chechnya - two Russian soldiers are told to kidnap a local to help them get their unit out of a tough spot. They do so and then spend the better part of the film dragging the young man back across the bleak landscape. Really engrossing to watch, with a none too subtle message that both sides are doing the same horrible things to each other. There's also a homoerotic element thrown in (slight, but not much more subtly) crossed with an ending that flashed me back to one of the less funny (on purpose) episodes of MASH. It's Russian, so you didn't really expect a happy ending did you? Worth seeing.
The Rest is Silence (Romania) - Story of the making of the first Romanian feature length film (interestingly enough preceding Birth of a Nation by several years). Based on a real movie though the director pointed out he pretty quickly deviates into fantasy. Fun for film buffs who get to see (among other things) how even in the beginning the artists get screwed. Interesting sense (though don't know how real it is) of the conflict between the stage and screen actors of the day. Bonus points for anyone who can guess which character gets burned alive and how many minutes into the script the Jews get blamed for something. I know, I know - as explained in a book I was flipping through today we're an industrious, intelligent group, whose entire reputation is sullied by a taste for the blood of Christian babies. Tough habit to shake.
Mommy Is at the Hairdresser (Canada) - I've heard some mixed opinion but I quite liked this coming of age story set in 60's Quebec. It follows a family, mainly thorough the eyes of their daughter
over the course of a pivotal summer. Dad's in the closet, the "weird" local deaf guy is a great influence and Mom skips town. Yet oddly enough not a depressing story. With a soundtrack so good I've got to believe it's never going to make it into the theatrical release (based on my new Sita Sings the Blues pessimism about festival film music). I do recommend this one.
White Night Wedding (Iceland) - I went to check this out because the director had also done Jar City,
a gritty Icelandic police procedural. According to the festival blurbs it was (at least loosely) based on a play by Chekhov- which most regular readers will not be surprised to learn I am completely unfamiliar with. A man is looking is getting remarried to a much younger woman and the story shows his history in flashback with a prior wife as in the present he wrestles with what's next. Set on a tiny island he's also dealing with some financial problems as his inlaws are quite insistent that he pay back rent on some land he's never really used. Interesting enough while I watched it, not exactly a positive upbeat tale by the end. Though the pretty sketchy business planning that underpin some of the comedy take on a new meaning given Iceland's recent banking troubles. I thought it was OK, and nice to see a different part of the world. I'd put it in my "pretty decent" category for this festival
I believe that concludes all the film related news from Palm Springs. At least for now.