By Juan Barquin
By Amy Nicholson
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Travis Cohen
By Juan Barquin
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Amy Nicholson
By Juan Barquin
It's Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival time again: Time for more than 100 movies from dozens of countries. Time for screenings at locations from southern Palm Beach County to Miami-Dade's South Beach. Time for foreign and domestic features, documentaries, and short subjects, along with the affiliated parties and other festivities.
And time for my familiar complaint that the festival, now in its fifteenth year, has gotten pretty much out of hand. As a veteran of at least ten previous festivals, I've long lamented the festival's transformation from a more intimate, focused affair into the sprawling extravaganza it has become in the past few years. I'm not about to change my tune, despite the festival's proud claim that, at nearly four full weeks, it's now included in The Guinness Book of World Records as the world's longest film festival.
Such is the festival's growth that it now includes preview “minifests” in Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, South Beach, Sunrise, and Boca Raton, along with one specifically geared to children. In fact it's possible to see dozens of films in the seventeen days before the festival's official “opening night,” November 3. (The official “closing night” of November 11 is similarly, illogically, followed by another full day of screenings.)
Obviously there's no turning back. So do what I do: Arm yourself with the festival's hefty program, which now runs nearly 100 pages, and try to make some judicious selections, hoping you'll strike gold occasionally. Check out www.fliff.com for phone numbers, showtimes, and more detailed information. Here's an abbreviated summary of this week's offerings.
The setting is the offices of Skirt, a thinly disguised clone of Vogue and its ilk run by some extremely obnoxious people, including an imperious editor (Peggy Lipton of The Mod Squad and Twin Peaksfame) who looks suspiciously like Vogue's Anna Wintour and a megalomaniacal creative director (Joan Rivers, hamming shamelessly), among others. They're surrounded by a staff of sycophants and hangers-on, one of whom is the naive title character, Jocelyn (Dominique Swain, who also starred in the recent remake of Lolita).
Jocelyn is less odious than most of the other people in this threadbare story, but only slightly. First-time feature filmmaker Michael Lange would have us believe that she lives in this glitzy fashion milieu but is not necessarily of it -- that she somehow remains purer than her environment, even though she ends up ascending through the ranks at Skirt by means almost as devious as those of her cohorts.
The picture is sprinkled with mostly pointless cameos, including fashion celebrities such as designers Tommy Hilfiger, Diane von Furstenburg, and Kenneth Cole, and editors from magazines like Vogue, Marie Claire, and Harper s Bazaar. Gwyneth Paltrow puts in an inexplicable appearance as herself, and André Leon Talley, the flamboyant editor of French Vogue, has a few grand moments as himself. (The presence of so many of these people in such a mediocre unflattering movie suggests a certain cluelessness.)
No less a filmmaker than Robert Altman has already braved this territory, in his disastrous Ready to Wear. Lange brings nothing to it here other than more tired stereotypes and obvious gags, and the Cinderella-style ending is completely unearned. (Screens 9:00 p.m. Thursday, October 26, at Shadowood, Boca Raton; 1:00 p.m. Friday, November 3, at Galleria, Fort Lauderdale; 9:15 and 11:15 p.m. Saturday, November 4, at Galleria; and 9:00 p.m. Sunday, November 5 at Galleria. Ninety minutes.)
Unfortunately it takes Siv another hour and a half to reach the same conclusions. By then she has married the dullard doctor and moved into his home, where she's surrounded by things that constantly remind her of his ex-wife, not the least of which are a sullen son and an intractable young daughter.
But even that's not enough: An accident leaves the ex-wife wheelchair-bound, and before you know it, the doc agrees to let her move back in. Faced with these indignities, poor Siv is still deep in denial, even when the mysterious tuba player makes his feelings for her clear.
All this is set against the backdrop of Siv's job, where she peeks out from her little booth at the edge of the stage. The company for which she works is in rehearsal for a production of Verdi's Aida, and there are some heavy-handed attempts to draw parallels between Siv's and Aida's tribulations -- which, in case you need warning, means we get exposed to a lot of opera.
The best scene is near the end, at the premiere performance of Aida. When the opera's leading lady, a true diva, continues to flub her cues, the exasperated Siv climbs out of her booth and storms on to the stage to correct her. It's a priceless moment in an otherwise unexceptional film. (Screens 7:00 p.m. Thursday, October 26, at Shadowood, Boca Raton; 3:15 p.m. Thursday, November 2, at Galleria, Fort Lauderdale; 5:00 p.m. Sunday, November 5, at Westfork, Pembroke Pines; 5:15 p.m. Monday, November 6, at Galleria; 3:00 p.m. Tuesday, November 7, at Galleria. Ninety-seven minutes; in Norwegian with English subtitles.)
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