Continuing on with the films experienced at Santa Barbara International Film Festival, international structure continues with a sense of character’s notion of purpose and the ideal of conscience versus survival of both the psyche and the physical in the modern world.
Holy Camp! The two ends of this sardonic and, at times, farcical musical balances the ideas of a changing world. In a way many musicals don’t it reflects the push and pull of young people in modern society, pretty or not, but especially the pretty ones…that sense of expectation but following other people’s intentions. This is true of all the characters but especially the two young women, troublemakers in their minds and others, as they are stuck at a religious camp over the summer. Now while the construct in flimsy, certain elements plain through. Now God singing Whitney Houston to this young girl who doesn’t understand English is an interesting paradox. Now while some people have certain connections to the songs, one that connects this writer is the song “I Have Nothing” which works here in the context of the story but I (as an extra) saw Whitney lip syncing it on the set of The Bodyguard at the Fountainbleu during an intimate theater scene more than 25 years ago. That day she was having some issues in terms of performing and Kevin Costner (one of the biggest movie stars at that time) talked to some of us and kept the mood up. In movie it is when Whitney is wearing what looks like blue tinsel in her hair. Since her death and obviously the underlying religious tones of some of her songs, it does have resonance. However in terms of this story, interestingly enough it is a nun who is questioning her commitment that connects the idea of God and the young girls through a coupling that bridges the scenes. The final redemption although campy as the title suggested is a hopeful one, albeit one a bit too cheery maybe for American audiences.
The Line [Ciara] Continuing the aspect of the crime sidebar, this entry from Slovakia/Ukraine angles more for the dark than the seductive. The idea of honor and “an eye for an eye” populates this idea of a mid level crime head who wants both the best for his family and maintaining the status quo without selling out in his mind. He runs tobacco over the border in what used to be the Communist Balkan States before the border was open. Everyone is seen as corrupt with various motivations informing their decisions whether it be a daughter getting pregnant with a boy that the father doesn’t approve of or a son being incarcerated for what would be considered a minimal offense. The story has working class “Godfather” underpinings but also with a matriarchal twist. Ultimately the triggered idea has to do more with the balance of loyalty, trust and fair play winning out over backhanded dealings which is ultimately true to life because one cannot maintain an empire unless there is a sense of order behind it in some way shape or form. The lead Adam as played by Tomas Mastalir has the right essence of darkness and compassion that both scars and redeems his leader despite setbacks with either comdemning or condoning his actions.
The White Orchid Having met both writer/director Steve Anderson and actress Olivia Thirlby at the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in Key Largo, Florida when they were about to shoot this gives a better understanding of what an accomplishment this is. Bogart, as an artist, always keyed into these types of noirs and his son Stephen, whose mother was Lauren Bacall, understood this element as well. The movie is made underneath the element of Santana Films (Bogie’s company) along with Anderson. From what I remember, the texture is that it was in the style of Bogie’s films but not necessarily off a previous script. But if it was, the translation and structural set up works well. Thirlby’s transformation in the film is quite riveting but keeps with the old school ideas while understanding the new school liberalism of today’s movies. The film feels like an old film yet still very modern. It is very sexy but also without revealing too much of the characters but just enough. The backdrop of San Luis Obispo is an unusual one but harks to films like “Basic Instinct” but without the necessity of too much gore or nudity. The inherent psyche of Thirlby’s character moves back and forth in rhythm though at times her actual motivations are a bit muddled which is likely a conscious motion of the plot, especially when the reveal begins. The White Orchid remains a mystery while her impact continues. Much like Bogie’s legacy.
By Tim Wassberg