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Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady Klady@moviecitynews.com

Confessions Of A Film Festival Junkie: LAFF 2017

The Los Angeles Film Festival begins a second year in Culver City, following stints downtown and in Westwood Village. Putting aside the dilemma of finding a geographic locale with sufficient screens to sustain a program, is location a cause of LA Fest’s declining admissions?

My gut says no. And LAFF’s new artistic director Jennifer Cochis has been on the stump about taking the event in a new direction, as well as widening its accessibility with events and screenings at the Los Angeles County Museum, the Arclights in Hollywood and Santa Monica, as well as the Ace Hotel in downtown L.A..

It doesn’t sound that radical – fewer world premieres, a willingness to slot films that have played other showcases and a focus on new filmmakers, regardless of gender or ethnicity. It also appears to have expanded its global representation after several years of cutbacks. Apart from a decision to scrap repeat screenings, it’s all theoretically sound.

The bottom line for LAFF is that it will live or die based on its film selection. LAFF is not not a film market with the industry eyeing film acquisitions and emerging talent, and it’s not a series of social events sustained by deep-pocketed patrons.

Maudie, one of the only selections I’ve seen, is superb. Detailing the life of primitive painter Maud Lewis, it rises above the genre norm in great part to the sublime performance of Sally Hawkins in the title role. But it’s playing Thursday, and in the words of Cochis, “If you miss it, you’ll be sorry.” Or, maybe not, since Maudie opens at arthouses in a few weeks.

The film landscape has changed radically since the FilmEx era of the 1970s. The city has grown from a viewer base with limited access to movies outside the Hollywood mandate, to the availability cinematic visions both grand and minute from every corner of the globe. Perhaps only Paris supercedes this town in that respect.

Only last week, there was the Dances with Film fest as well as the Greek Film week and Outfest follows on the tails of LA Film Fest. Then there are continuing programs of new and vintage movies from UCLA, LACMA, Cinefamily, the American Cinematheque, the New Beverly, etc., etc.

Keeping up with all of this requires otherworldly stamina and I suspect most Los Angelenos suffer from degrees of film fatigue. But no outlet has to appeal to every movie diehard, just to enough of a crowd to fill whatever number of seats one has.

Probably the one thing that would benefit LAFF is more razzle-dazzle. Just a bit of “look at me” as in I can do “this” and you can’t. It is admittedly an ill defined something extra but in an arena this competitive and with a jaundiced media horde, extraordinary measures are mandatory. And one thing more: deliver the goods.

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“There’s a mass belief that if you’re texting, you’re somehow not interrupting the conversation—you’re not being rude. It’s an illusion of multitasking. I started filmmaking when people didn’t expect to have a phone on set, when it would’ve been seen as unprofessional to pull out a phone. Phones have become a huge distraction, and people work much better without them. At first it causes difficulty, but it really allows them to concentrate on what they’re doing. Everybody understands. I’ve had a lot of crews thank me. With a set, we’re trying to create a bubble of alternate reality.”
~ Christopher Nolan

“I’ve always loved films that approach sound in an impressionistic way and that is an unusual approach for a mainstream blockbuster, but I feel it’s the right approach for this experiential film. Many of the filmmakers I’ve admired over the years have used sound in bold and adventurous ways. I don’t agree with the idea that you can only achieve clarity through dialogue. Clarity of story, clarity of emotions—I try to achieve that in a very layered way using all the different things at my disposal—picture and sound.”
~ Christopher Nolan