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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“Well, actually, of that whole group that I call the post-60s anti-authority auteurs, a lot of them came from television. Peckinpah’s the only one whose television work represents his feature work. I mean, like the only one. Mark Rydell can direct a really good episode of ‘Gunsmoke’ and Michael Ritchie can direct a really good episode of ‘The Big Valley,’ but they don’t necessarily look like The Candidate. But Peckinpah’s stuff, even the scripts he wrote that he didn’t even direct, have a Peckinpah feel – the way I think there’s a Corbucci West – suggest a Peckinpah West. That even in his random episodes that he wrote for ‘Gunsmoke’ – it’s right there.”
~ Quentin Tarantino

“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima