Reel World

Los Olvidados
How can you not admire a filmmaker who cuts herself out of her own movie? My favorite story about Paulina -- and Vicky Funari and Jennifer M. Taylor's complex and inspiring portrait of the Funari family's former Mexico City maid/nanny generated more than its share of tales -- revolves around editing-room ruthlessness. "I asked my parents what they remembered about Paulina," Funari recalls, "and my dad -- an intellectual and a political scientist -- launched into the socioeconomic conditions that shaped her. So my parents got booted out of the film. Any interview with me worked out about the same. I sounded like someone commenting on the situation, rather than someone implicated in the story."

The San Francisco filmmakers' debut feature has wowed 'em on the festival circuit from Havana to Sundance and Locarno to San Francisco. No surprise there: In addition to a vivacious, indomitable main character, Paulina offers an unexpectedly graceful (and exceedingly rare) integration of narrative techniques (re-creations, to use a dirty word) into a traditional documentary approach. Once you get past Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line, the list of films to successfully pull off that trick is mighty short.

Paulina begins its national theatrical release at the Lumiere next Friday, Feb. 12, in a crucial engagement that could determine the film's future around the country. Paulina herself will likely be on hand along with the directors, but you won't see Funari on-screen. "Every time we tried to edit me in, it derailed the story and took the attention off of Paulina," Funari explains. "I, as a character, was a splinter the film was trying to work out of itself. When we cut me out, the film was done."

The King of Comedy
S.F. stand-up comedian Brian Malow co-produced -- and played a lead role in -- an indie feature that debuted in the "Sundance at Midnight" sidebar, but unsurprisingly no one mugged him for his autograph. "The festival is really focused on directors," he reported, calling from a bustling hotel room. "You have to scramble on your own" for attention, perks, and agents' phone numbers. Aside from the screenings of his film, a comedy called Los Enchiladas directed by Midwesterner Mitch Hedbey, Malow's best moment at the festival was posing for a snapshot with Slash of Guns N' Roses.

Add Malow to the swelling ranks of those seduced by the movie biz: "I worked my ass off on this film and it was someone else's script. Next time I put this much work into a project I'd like it to be my own." Yes, he's already working on a script with a partner.

The Red Shoes
The next Lumiere calendar begins with Lynn Hershman Leeson's Conceiving Ada (Feb. 19) and includes Dr. Akagi (March 5), Shohei Imamura's follow-up to the Lumiere (and Cannes) hit The Eel. Also on tap: Dancemaker, a terrific documentary about NYC's Paul Taylor Dance Company that screens in early April while the troupe is performing at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. ... Congrats to the San Francisco IndieFest on its wildly successful debut. The next one is scheduled for Dec. 9-12, 1999, marking the first time in recorded history that a local film festival stages two such events in the same year. Que cojones, hombre.

By Michael Fox
foxonfilm@aol.com

 
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