On the heels of next Tuesday’s April Fool’s Day is the April 2 kickoff of the 17th Annual Sonoma International Film Festival. Though tempted, I’ll avoid cinematic satire and direct readers to the 2014 Festival Preview Guide, which can be downloaded at SonomaFilmFest.org. For your convenience, certain omissions to the guide are included below for your viewing pleasure. Please feel free to clip, print, forward and share these additions with out-of-town visitors who don’t know any better. Especially if they’re celebrities. And have a wonderful film festival experience!
Cat-tastrophe, USA, 247 min., Dirs. Mick Robbins, Henri Moreau
Just when you thought the Internet’s feline fixation had finally ebbed, a pair of local filmmakers decided to finally finish their opus, “Cat-tastrophe,” comprised entirely of cat videos ripped from YouTube. Let’s not ponder the inspiration for the endeavor (marijuana) but champion the perseverance of the filmmakers, who spent seven years assembling their film from over 750 individual cat clips. The result is the cinematic equivalent of coughing up a four-hour fur ball for four hours. Not since T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” and its infernal musical adaptation (memories!), has such a wuvable wasteland filled your mental litterbox with so little. Expect an endless barrage of purrfect puns to emanate from our local newsrooms, headlining editorials about a spaying and neutering filmmakers.
Dry, USA, 16 min., Dir. Kyle Rice
The SIFF has long supported student films, and the privileged young visionaries whose parents pay for them. Hailing from this year’s student category is local Sonoma State University film student Kyle Rice’s short film, “Dry,” which is comprised of a single shot of a freshly painted lavender-hued wall. “Dry” was intended as a statement about the banality of student film work but turned out quite the opposite after Rice set up his camera, hit record and left only to return to a hole kicked through his main subject. In his absence, Rice’s camera captured the daring escape of a bound and gagged kidnap victim from the apartment next door. The young woman busted through the sheetrock with her feet, writhed through the resulting hole and eventually managed to wriggle her hands free and ungag herself, at which point she looked into the camera and apologized for destroying the wall. Though critically heralded for the “breakthrough performance,” in class, the film received a D for defying its original premise and being interesting.
Theseus’ Ship Redux, Sweden, 122 min., Dir. Buntel Eriksson
A highlight of this year’s fest is a fully-restored, digitally-remastered edition of Swedish filmmaker Buntel Eriksson’s “Theseus’ Ship,” which boasts a complete reconception of the story matter (less love triangle, more bikini-clad espionage), re-shot scenes featuring an entirely new cast (middle-aged musings on mortality have been upgraded to the moral anxiety of juggling multiple sexual partners during Spring Break) and the swapping of the solo nyckelharpa soundtrack for a pulsing electronica score created by Euro-Pop phenom Ch3mTrailz. In fact, this release of the 1966 Eriksson classic is so utterly transformed it resembles the original version only in title, at least to the “redux” part. It begs the question, is it even the same film? An emphatic “Yes!” insist the film’s producers, who dismiss any suggestion that their version of the film is merely a remake posing as the original to avoid paying royalties. “We replaced every frame in an effort to preserve the integrity of Eriksson’s vision. So, yeah, it’s the same film, just totally different.”