Watching the evolution of film festivals determines a perception in good management, understanding of community and adequate programming. Knowing your audience but also being able to perceive the use of counter intuition in the programming of foreign films also serves to broaden the depth of what is being shown.
The Newport Beach Film Festival continues to broaden the perspective, though the dispersal of the actual festival experience was a little more spread out than normal in terms of the venue structure which for years had been primarily at the Fashion Island Theater compound which this year is enjoying a renovation.
Unlike years past, the opening night was enjoyed in texture at the Regal Big Newport flagship theater which is located right across the street and, like its cousins in Hollywood proper, can appropriate a distinct number of patrons.
The Opening Night film, “East 5th Bliss” is a continuation of the diatribe of Generation X finding the balance within the mllennial push. What is distinctive in this film is its unapologetic perception of the stalwart structure of the American male. While this might have been the case during the Great Depression, the differences range in the idea that mostly everything now is done by computer or machine with little use for manual labor.
Michael C. Hall, best known as “Dexter” on the Showtime series, peels away the notion of a man who doesn’t quite know his way. He projects this with a similar naturalism that embodies most of Joaquin Phoenix’s performances without actually realizing it. His character is stuck between jobs and knows his place. As Hall put it at the Q&A after, “this is probably the most action this guy has seen in a while”. That presupposes a window of life and, while his younger paramour tries to seduce and creates a bit of a moral disposition, it is actually Lucy Liu as a jilted wife that offers some much needed chemistry despite a lack of depth to the character. Peter Fonda rounds out the cast as Hall’s father who doesn’t quite understand his son’s lack of motivation.
The Opening Night after-party, hosted in the courtyard of Fashion Island across from Bloomingdale’s, built on a more style-based perception as local models strutted up and down the runway as festivalgoers sipped on Stella, Absolut and Perrier with a notion of levity and coolness mixed with consistently flowing juices.
The Newport Beach Film Festival, though brief in this experience, allowed a window vision of a balance of life, art and the cohesive breathe of a community gathered.