Day 5 of the 22nd Annual Sedona International Film Festival is one of excitement. Not only will the schedule premiere new films, plus a final showing of festival favorite Landfill Harmonic this morning at 9:15am, but it will also play host to several guests in town all here to be a part of this year’s festival.
Film critic Jeffrey Lyons will introduce a film of his choice at Harkins Sedona 6. It’s an 87 minute co-production between France, Germany and The Netherlands called Francofonia. Why Jeffrey has chosen this particular film for the festival is something you can discover for yourselves; the film historian and critic introduces his special choice at 3:10pm this afternoon.
Plus, this evening in a special live performance presentation, Patricia Ward Kelly will take festival audiences behind the scenes and share stories of her late husband, Gene Kelly in a show titled Gene Kelly, The Legacy. This live presentation starts at 6pm at Sedona Performing Arts Center and promises to be one of the highlights of the week. Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to talk to Patricia where I brought up the issue of age. When Patricia first met the Hollywood icon she was 26. He was 46 years her senior. You do the math. I asked if there’s often an audible gasp from the audience when she brings up the story of how they met and the issue of their age difference. Patricia responded with a hearty laugh and said that there’s an audible gasp from the house every time. Incredibly, while the whole world knew Gene Kelly, when Patricia was first introduced, she had never heard of him.
On the movie front, look for a film called Memoria that receives its first showing tonight at 9:20pm at Harkins Sedona 6 with a repeat performance on Saturday at Sedona Performing Arts Center. Here’s a full review:
Check the word ‘memoria’ and you’ll find it’s Latin for ‘memory.’ It’s also the title of the new drama from directors Vladimir de Fontenay and Nina Ljeti, adapted from a short story written by actor James Franco.
In Memoria, the opening shot appears to be a dazzling array of what looks like the scattershot editing of someone’s home movies – they’re so quick, it’s difficult to know what it is we’re seeing – but as things develop and the film progresses, we realize they were memories, just as the title suggests; quick flashes of thought that spring to the mind of young Ivan (Sam Dillon).
After those moments have passed, the initial few minutes that follow are not altogether easy to determine, either. A young man slowly wanders across what appears to be San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The sky is thick with fog and it’s difficult to see from one end of the bridge to the other. The teenager in the green, worn jacket stops and looks down, and it’s at that moment we fear the worst: Is he going to jump? It certainly looks that way.
Cut to an earlier time when Ivan was seven and helped his stepfather with work on the family car. “My real father’s from Moscow,” Ivan narrates in a somber tone. “When I was five, he went back to Russia. All he left was his jacket, which I wear all the time.”
It’s apparent that Ivan is not a happy child. His stepfather (Matt McCoy) is not necessarily a bad guy, but from Ivan’s point of view, he’s dictatorial. When arriving home from a swim, his stepfather points out the late hour, and when late for a school test, the teacher refuses to give him those missing minutes.
In a telling scene, the new father in Ivan’s life takes the boy into the woods for a weekend of hunting. After shooting at empty cans of soda for practice and Ivan surprisingly hitting the target, dad turns their attention to a deer. “Ivan,” the man whispers. “Shoot the deer.” But the boy can’t bring himself to go for the kill. Annoyed, the older man snatches the rifle away. “You know, you’re not going to see your father again,” the stepfather tells Ivan. “You know that, right?”
Cut again to a later time. Ivan is seventeen, but not a lot appears to have changed. He still wears his real father’s green jacket, he still appears humorless and morose as if something is continually on his mind, and he’s still late for appointments. “Maybe you shouldn’t smoke so much weed,” his sympathetic teacher, Mr. Wyckoff (James Franco) tells him.
The things on Ivan’s troubled mind, the memories that flash before him, plus the relationships with his annoying school friends are all roadblocks to the teenager’s state of mind. It’s as though he walks around with constant, dark clouds hovering above, and like those memories that continually spring to mind, he can’t shake them off. In fact, he even begins to question whether his memories are now real or something his imagination has conjured; he can’t always tell the difference. And when he narrates, “When I turn eighteen, I wanna catch a bus to San Francisco and never come back,” all of a sudden that earlier scene that began the film suddenly makes sense.
Filmed with a screen ratio of 1:33 – roughly the square of early TV screens before Hi-Def made sets wider – for a film running at only a brisk, sixty-five minutes, plus credits, Memoria takes its time before you know where things might be heading, and it doesn’t always engage.
The mostly young cast of teenage actors do well in convincing they’re who they’re playing – scenes often appear authentic to the point where an audience may feel as if it’s eavesdropping on private conversations, effectively forgetting these are players following a script – and the subjects and obscenities of their adolescent dialog sound sadly genuine. Plus, once we circle back to that moment on the bridge, the outcome doesn’t necessarily surprise. But if the film doesn’t altogether emotionally engage, its slow burn approach, not to mention the brief appearances from James Franco, keep you interested. You may not particularly like Ivan, and you won’t like most of his school associates, but at the very least, you’ll want to know how it concludes. The muted appearance to Pedro Gomez Millan’s cinematography only adds to Memoria’s overall mystique.
Memoria will show tonight, Wednesday, February 24, 9:20pm at Harkins Sedona 6 with a second performance on Saturday, February 27, 3pm at Sedona Performing Arts Center.