169 – LA Film Fest Day Eight

club sandwich still

As we learned yesterday, connection can be very important. Without substantial relationships, a human life might feel less than human. But it is possible for a relationship to become too close. Sometimes we have to learn to let go. Day Eight of the Los Angeles Film Festival was a lesson in moving on. club sandwich

As we get ever-closer to letting go of the festival in general, my opportunities to see movies dwindle. And I have to come to terms with that, much in the same way that Paloma (María Renée Prudencio) must come to terms with the maturation of her son, Hector (Lucio Giménez Cacho) in Club Sandwich. The Mexican film from Fernando Eimbcke is part of the International Showcase, and it is easy to see why. Club Sandwich is an honest and unflinching representation of pubescent adolescence. Plus it is really funny.

Paloma and Hector are bet friends, seemingly because they are an isolated unit. As the only two members of their family, they have formed a tight bond that remains strong, despite Hector’s burgeoning puberty. We see small cracks in the form of standard teenage angst, but it is not until Hector meets Jazmin (Danae Reynaud) during a vacation, that the Velcro holding Paloma and Hector together begins to seperate. The film is shot mostly through Hector’s perspective, but as he becomes more and more interested in Jazmin, we find ourselves left alone with Paloma, a loneliness she experiences without the knowledge that an audience is watching her. So it’s understandable that Paloma fights back, eschewing her favorite bikini for the one her son prefers, and involving herself in their alone time. Hector is all that she has, after all.

Eventually Paloma is faced with a choice: hold even tighter to her son, or slowly release her grip on him. One approach may drive him away even further, so her choice must be a well-considered one. It is a dilemma that Prudencio realizes on-screen incredibly effectively.

man from reno

I wish I could have loosened my grasp on my expectations for Man From Reno, but after Sunday’s fiasco – when I was unceremoniously shut out from the theater due to lack of space – my bar was set pretty high. The film, co-written and directed by Dave Boyle, is a neo-noir thriller about an aging Sheriff (Pepe Serna) and a Japanese crime novelist (Ayako Fujitani) who both become mixed up in investigations that ultimately make them collaborators.

Serna’s Sheriff Paul Del Moral is in his 70’s and well past his prime, while Fujitani’s Aki has become disillusioned with her chosen genre, and furthermore isn’t a very good detective to begin with. They are an unlikely pair, which is one of the film’s more charming conceits. It was never going to live up to the standard that all of the hype set for it, but Man From Reno manages to be very entertaining, regardless. Boyle and his co-writers, Joel Clark and Michael Lerman, have a good grasp on the emotional side of things, but lack a little in the plotting half of the equation. In that way, Aki’s feeling-driven half of the story is much more effective than Paul’s logic-driven side. In the same way, the story begins to stumble as it approaches it’s conclusion, but rallies a little in terms of tone by the end.

Aki and Paul both resist the temptation to let go, much like Paloma (and myself). Aki grows weary of writing novels starring her Poirot-esque detective, but she cannot abandon the clichéd investigation practices she writes so often. And Paul is well aware that his time is passing, but he can’t bring himself to hand things over to his daughter and deputy, Teresa (Elisha Skorman). Hopefully both clue-smiths have enough left in them to get to the bottom of their latest case.

Day Eight grabbed ahold of me early this week. When I knew this would be my last chance to see Man From Reno, it instantly became a fixture of my week. I arrived an hour early for the screening; something I needn’t have done, as at least one ticket rusher got in. I skipped a screening of Caterpillar to ensure I got in to Man From Reno, and while I don’t regret the decision, maybe I should have considered putting so much pressure on the picture. I don’t think Man From Reno is my favorite movie at the Los Angeles Film Festival (more on that tomorrow), but I’m very glad I saw it. Now I can let it go. Who knows, maybe it will come back to me.

Be sure to read Steven’s impression of Day Seven, featuring his thoughts on human interaction, Joy of Man’s Desiring, and The One I Love. Also available? Well I’m glad you asked. You can also find Steven’s coverage of Days Six, Five, Four, Three, and Two on this very website. He wrote a review on Day One, but it has very little to do with the festival.

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