The Young and the Restless

To call the story thin and episodic would be somewhat generous. It came as little surprise to discover from the film's press kit that Pompatus started out with a modest premise -- four guys sitting in a room and talking about the women in their lives -- and just sort of expanded haphazardly from there.

But despite these weaknesses, The Pompatus of Love charms. Neither as resonant nor as universally appealing as the conversation in Diner, the dialogue in this film exudes its own airy appeal. Jon Cryer (Pretty in Pink, TV's The Famous Teddy Z) brings a nerdy likability to the role of Mark, which makes the character a lot more sympathetic than he otherwise would have been; and Adrian Pasdar's Josh is convincingly shallow and self-absorbed. Both Adam Oliensis's Phil and Tim Guinee's Runyon are one-note characterizations, but the actors play that note well.

It may be a long time until another Diner-quality feast of great writing, powerful acting, and assured directing comes along. In the meantime, you could do worse than to select an appetizer like The Pompatus of Love.

While I don't usually write about film soundtracks (despite the fact that a really popular A notice I didn't say good A soundtrack can put enough backsides into theater seats to make a hit out of a crappy film such as The Bodyguard or Dangerous Minds), The Pompatus of Love merits an exception. The film's musical score includes pieces of two tunes -- "What Have You Done?" and "Miami Blues" -- written and performed by Miami's own Spencer Gibb, who, as the film's press kit notes, is an unsigned artist. It's rare enough that a film uses original songs from unsigned artists; rarer still that one of those artists calls Miami home. Way to go, Spence.

An unhappy housewife feeds her unsuspecting husband hallucinogenic oatmeal balls. A Puerto Rican teenager in Boston feigns pregnancy to get attention. A woman wakes up one morning to find she can no longer fit her tongue into her lover's mouth. A young couple try to coexist with the creepy personal trainer who rents the room above theirs. A Ukrainian coal miner and his grandson attempt to cope with the loss of the boy's parents in World War II. An elderly widower sneaks out of his house late one night to go hunting, and comes home convinced he bagged God.

You've probably guessed that these are not the plot lines of upcoming releases by major Hollywood studios. (No serial killers, strippers, gangsters, or macho cops, after all.) Welcome to the University Film and Video Association Student Film Festival, which will be exhibiting selected works at the Graham Center Ballroom on the FIU Tamiami campus on Wednesday, November 15, at 8:00 p.m. The UFVA fest offers an opportunity to sample some of the most inventive student films from around the world. One would expect a collection of quality student films to be top-heavy with short movies from the better-known film schools in movie towns New York and L.A. But what one doesn't expect are first-rate offerings from Australia and Mexico, as well as a pair of selections from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.

Twenty years ago student films tended to be long on content and short on technical accomplishment. Just getting your movie to look remotely clean, crisp, and professional was cause for celebration. With advances in technology and increased competition thanks to the explosion of motion picture curriculums at colleges and universities around the country, the curve has flattened out; today's top student films often have the look and feel of their Hollywood counterparts. The main difference nowadays is that film students haven't yet succumbed to the temptation of churning out brain-numbing, formulaic, commercial garbage. The siren call of the bottom line has yet to lure them into the usual traps. As a result, student film fests such as the traveling UFVA show afford a rare glimpse of filmmaking unfettered by the profit motive. Where else could you find a gem like Alice's Wings (Las Alas de Alice) A the story of an angel woman whose wings get stolen A which uses modern animation techniques to pay homage to the work of both motion picture pioneer George Melies and surrealist painter Rene Magritte? Or Peek a Boo, an animated, five-minute descent into the psyche of a little boy terrorized by scary dreams?

Fans of freewheeling, imaginative short films in general -- and experimental films in particular -- owe it to themselves to check out this collegiate cinema anthology. Just watch out for those oatmeal balls.

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