Mill Valley Film Festival - 1996 (1)

"Movie Magazine International" Special Report

(Air Date: Week Of 10/2/96)

By Monica Sullivan

The Mill Valley Film Festival was the topic of conversation at a party I attended Sunday Night. Tomorrow night at the Sequoia with two eagerly awaited films, Mike Leigh's "Secrets & Lies" and Scott Hicks' "Shine". Also playing at the Sequoia 1 tomorrow bight at 9:35 is Richard Spence's "Different For Girls", a love story with a twist. It's the tale of Kim and Prentice (well-played by Steven Mackintosh and Rupert Graves) who develop a romance under unusual circumstances. It seems that once upon a time Prentice was friends with a classmate named Karl at a Catholic school for boys. The boy Karl evolved into the girl Kim after a sex change operation & the mutual attraction between Kim and Prentice as adults needs some sort of reassuring context as they both consider themselves to be straight. Got that?

Another quirky festival entry playing Friday night at 9:45 at the Sequoia 1 is Adrienne Shelly's "Sudden Manhattan". Shelly, the appealing star of Hal Hartley's "The Unbelievable Truth", has done a nice job writing, directing and starring in a black comedy filled with goofy supporting characters (Louise Lasser, Roger Rees) and an oddball story line. Like Shelly herself, it all looks effortless and spontaneous, but there's clearly some very careful craftsmanship at work here. Martin Duffy's "The Boy From Mercury" (playing Saturday morning at 11:30 at the Sequoia II) looks like it was shot in saturated Technicolor from the forties, but it's actually a brand-new movie from Ireland, starring Rita Tushingham, Tom Courtney and a young charmer named James Hickey as a fatherless child who's convinced he's a creature from another planet. (all those weekly Flash Gordon serials fuel his lively imagination.) Tushingham and Courtney are more animated than they've been in quite some time and Hickey is altogether winning as the little would-be alien.

Peter Jackson's "Forgotten Silver" playing Saturday afternoon at five at the Sequoia II) may be an eyelash too clever for its own good. It looks like a documentary of a forgotten New Zealand filmmaking pioneer named Colin McKenzie, but it's essentially a reconstruction of silent movie history if an obscure bloke, rather than D. W. Griffith, had been responsible for early cinematic innovations. If you've ever seen "The Missing Reel" a film by Christopher Rawlence about an authentic forgotten filmmaking pioneer named Augustin Le Prince, stranger things have been known to happen. Still, it's an obviously affectionate look at a vanished era and Jackson, Sam Neill, Leonard Maltin et al obviously had a ball making it.

Richard Franklin's "Brilliant Lies" is talky and stage-bound, feeling much longer than its 93 minute running time. Gia Carides is a definite target of Anthony LaPaglia's harassment, or is she? She asks sister Zoe Carides to back up her version of events, but Zoe recalls that some of the events her sister describes actually happened to them as children sexually abused by their father. The script buys into most of the commonly accepted myths about sexual harassment allegations: that mercenary women lie, that child molesters grow old and can be let off the hook for the sake of family harmony, that no one is truly innocent, so everyone is somewhat guilty & a lot of other rubbish that a good cast can't redeem. "Brilliant Lies" plays Saturday at 7:15 at the Sequoia 1. Greg Mottola's "Daytrippers" charts a family as they try to patch up the ailing marriage of the older daughter, played by Hope Davis. Is husband Stanley Tucci having an affair or what? The film deals more with the "or what" than the affair. What adult daughter would let herself to be dragged around by her parents, sister Parker Posey & would-be-brother-in-law? Somehow Mottola makes the characters and situations seem funny and real and it doesn't hurt that the great Anne Meara and Campbell Scott are also in the cast. "Daytrippers plays next Tuesday night at 9:30 at the Sequoia II. For more information about the Mill Valley Film Festival, call 415-383-5326.

Copyright 1996 Monica Sullivan

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