MCN Columnists
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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Klady

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“I never accepted the term contrarian. I think that’s offensive, frankly. And my response to that is: if I’m a contrarian, what are other reviewers? What I strive to do is be a good critic, not somebody who simply accepts the product put in front of me. I guess it scares people to think that they don’t have any originality; that they don’t have the capacity to think for themselves.

“There’s a line a lot of reviewers use that I don’t like at all. They say ‘accept the film on its own terms.’ What that really means is, ‘accept the film as it is advertised.’ That’s got nothing to do with criticism. Nothing to do with having a response as a film watcher. A thinking person has to analyze what’s on screen, not simply rubber-stamp it or kowtow to marketing.”m

“To me, everything does have a political component and I think it’s an interesting way to look at art. It’s one way that makes film reviewing, I think, a politically relevant form of journalism. We do live in a political world, and we bring our political sense to the movies with us – unless you’re the kind of person who goes to the movies and shuts off the outside world. I’m not that kind of person.”
~ Armond White to Luke Buckmaster

“One of comedy’s defining pathologies, alongside literal pathologies like narcissism and self-loathing, is its swaggering certainty that it is part of the political vanguard, while upholding one of the most rigidly patriarchal hierarchies of any art form.”
~ Lindy West