Special Report By Monica Sullivan
At the 2002 San Francisco Independent Film Festival there are many intriguing films yet to see: one is sure to hit the art house circuit and that is "Alcatraz Avenue" by Tom Edgar. The puppet master of the piece, if there is one, is a slimy literary agent who presumably knows just what will sell like hot cakes. His clout is far from monolithic, when a young writer shows him her manuscript & he rhapsodizes over the title "Snow Falling On Cedars," she snaps, "You're telling me this because I'm Asian, right?" & sarcastically suggests that she change her own title to "Snow Falling On My Ass." But fledgling writer David Driscoll is far more easily led. Whatever his agent recommends, he follows to the letter: whenever his agent salivates over David's manuscript, David is driven to create more of the same. For material, David lodges with the Contreras family on Alcatraz Avenue in Berkeley, CA. Mr. Contreras is an abusive bully, Mrs. Contreras would do anything for her kids, the Contreras daughter suffers from undiagnosed Tourette's syndrome & the massively screwed up Contreras son hates his father so much that he would do anything to be free of him. He briefly finds escape in the school play & with a sympathetic female classmate, but David, always thinking about his manuscript & goaded on by his agent, starts mixing up a domestic situation that doesn't need much to shove it over the edge. Although never as creepy as it wants to be due to uneven performances by some of the cast members, "Alcatraz Avenue" represents a funny & promising start for Tom Edgar.
"Mary, Mary" benefits from good performances by its young cast, caught up in a wretched script by Joseph H. Biancaniello, who directs better than he writes. The 95m. running time seems more like listening to a misogynistic rant for a day & a half. The fact that one of the female characters yells at a guy who first idealized her, then called her a whore because she'd been with other men before him, is very small payback for all the long, long passages where the men fume in venomous silence over mostly imaginary slights from the women in their lives.
Linda Duvoisin's "You Don't Know What I've Got" will be of most interest to fans of Ani DiFranco, who sings several of her songs throughout the documentary. Duvoisin also focuses on 93-year-old artist Myrtle Stedman, housekeeper Jimmie Woodruff & two very different policewomen, Linda Finney & Julie Brunzell. The fast editing keeps their stories moving, but it also seems to take five disparate viewpoints out of context & makes it difficult to get to know each woman individually.
Stephane Gehami's Love On The Run, shot on video in Quebec, is in French with English subtitles, & is mercifully less than an hour long. Luc is looking for the meaning of life. At least his unsuccessful search doesn't take him 2 1/2 hours.
"97 Brooks" was also shot on video, but writer-director Mikon A. Haaksman does his best to make his labor of love as film-like as possible. Tragedy plagued the project when Haaksman decided to continue with "97 Brooks" after the sudden death of his mother, Yvonne Borne. He might have left the narrative as is & given Borne an onscreen dedication. Instead, he rewrote the last twenty minutes, so that he would always remember his sense of loss whenever he saw the end of the movie. The result is TWO movies: 65 minutes revealing the dark comedy of a murder investigation and an out-of-character, mystifying conclusion that hits you with a thud. I want to know how it was GOING to end, because this way it only makes sense to one person. It also dramatically demonstrates that when you create a whole new fictional world, the elements that will seem false are the ones you borrow from real life.
© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 2/6/02
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