Ready! Set! Screen!

The 10th an­nual Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val

Pasatiempo - - Art In Review - Robert Nott The New Mex­i­can

The Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val is surely that rare en­tity that cel­e­brates “hump day” as the first day of its work week. Wed­nes­day, Dec. 2, marks the kick­off of the 10th an­nual film fes­ti­val, a five-day love af­fair with cin­ema.

The event of­fi­cially be­gins with a screen­ing of the fest’s Open­ing Night Gala fea­ture, Ev­ery­body’s Fine, in which Robert De Niro plays a wid­ower who goes on a cross-coun­try trip to re­con­nect with his chil­dren. The Cow­girl BBQ hosts the tra­di­tional open­ing-night party at 8 p.m. (open to pass hold­ers and any­one who has pur­chased a ticket to one of the open­ing-night screen­ings), and then it’s an­other four days of movies, par­ties, panel talks, and work­shops.

The Mi­la­gro Awards Cer­e­mony, in which the fest hands out its “best of” tro­phies and hon­ors its in­vited guest trib­u­tees, takes place at 7 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 5, at the Na­tional Dance In­sti­tute of New Mex­ico’s Dance Barns. This year’s trib­u­tees are ac­tors Tommy Lee Jones andWes Studi, cin­e­matog­ra­pher Ellen Kuras, and di­rec­tor Mark Ry­dell.

The film line-up is heavy on doc­u­men­taries, but it also fea­tures the usual as­sort­ment of in­die nar­ra­tive films, in­clud­ing come­dies, dra­mas, hor­ror, and stuff that’s just too weird to cat­e­go­rize. Fol­low­ing the belt-tight­en­ing trend of the rest of the coun­try, the fest is cut­ting back— from about 210 movies last year to about 135 this year— but there is still plenty to do and see.

Next Fri­day’s Pasatiempo will fea­ture in-depth cov­er­age of the fes­ti­val and the trib­u­tees. In the in­terim, here are some films to check out. Note: sev­eral of th­ese screen once— and only once — be­fore our next is­sue comes out. Au­to­mor­pho­sis Amer­ica’s ob­ses­sion with the au­to­mo­bile gets out­landish in this 2008 doc­u­men­tary by Har­rod Blank about peo­ple who treat their ve­hi­cles as four-wheeled can­vases. The film­maker lives in Dou­glas, Ari­zona, where he is build­ing a mu­seum called Art Car World. In this film, he ex­am­ines the mo­ti­va­tions, in­spi­ra­tions, and ob­ses­sions of about two dozen car-en­hancers. There’s a ze­bra car, a love bus, a plaid car, a car cov­ered in Mon­drian paint­ings, a shark car, and a high-heeled-shoe car.

Blank gives Elmer Flem­ing, the Spoon Man of New­berry, South Carolina, some screen time. Flem­ing plays the spoons— here he is, shak­ing his over­alled booty for the cam­era and singing his spoon song. He also has spoons cov­er­ing his truck. Some peo­ple love it; some ask him why he messed up his ve­hi­cle with all that flat­ware. “It’s the only thing I got my name on, and I reckon I can mess it up if I want to,” is Flem­ing’s re­sponse. In Lon­don, we visit Uri Geller, the fa­mous spoon-bend­ing psy­chic. He also has a car cov­ered with spoons (and forks), in­clud­ing the uten­sils of the stars. One was James Dean’s, and oth­ers were given to Geller by John Len­non, Elvis Pres­ley, and Sal­vador Dalí.

There are cars cov­ered with pen­nies, li­cense plates, cig­a­rette butts, tele­vi­sion sets, and plas­tic lob­sters. One man who spent most of his life re­pair­ing vacuum clean­ers has en­crusted his van with brass stuff like masks, coins, and horns. The hood alone weighs 270 pounds. Re­becca Cald­well of Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, who ad­mits she has a melan­cholic na­ture, drives around in her “Carthe­dral,” a Su­per Bee­tle welded on top of a 1971 Cadil­lac hearse, all adorned with dark spires, fly­ing but­tresses, stained-glass win­dows, and gar­goyles.

Eric Lamb of Rui­doso, New Mex­ico, spent four years mak­ing his car look like a boat. He hopes it will help him find a girl­friend. Then there’s Harry Sperl of Day­tona Beach, Florida. The Ger­man im­mi­grant’s project of cre­at­ing a re­al­is­tic ham­burger-shaped ve­hi­cle (it’s more mo­tor­cy­cle than car) cost $60,000. He also sells sou­venirs, in­clud­ing more than 500 ham­burger cu­rios. “My friends are al­ways ask­ing me why all th­ese ham­burg­ers? Why, why, why?” Sperl says. “I like to con­fuse peo­ple. It keeps me alive.” Not rated. 77 min­utes. 5 p.m. Thurs­day, Dec. 3, New Mex­ico Film Mu­seum aka Jean Cocteau (screens with Pirkle Jones: Seven Decades Pho­tographed).— PaulWei­de­man

Char.ac.ter Dab­ney Cole­man helped spear­head this af­fec­tion­ate doc­u­men­tary about what it means to be an ac­tor. The movie re­lies pri­mar­ily on in­ter­views with vet­er­ans Peter Falk, Charles Grodin— who be­lit­tles act­ing ex­er­cises in­volv­ing imag­i­nary props— Harry Dean Stan­ton, Mark Ry­dell, and Syd­ney Pol­lack to dis­cuss tech­nique, train­ing, and the other fa­mous ac­tors they worked with. It’s re­veal­ing— and fun. Shot in black and white. Not rated. 88 min­utes. 7:15 p.m. Thurs­day, Dec. 3, New Mex­ico His­tory Mu­seum; 3:30 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 5, New Mex­ico Film Mu­seum aka Jean Cocteau.— Robert Nott Danc­ing Across Bor­ders “The cul­ture of ev­ery coun­try is the soul of that coun­try,” says Roland Eng, for­mer Cam­bo­dian am­bas­sador to the U.S., at the beginning of Anne Bass’ first film. Th­ese words re­ver­ber­ate through­out the doc­u­men­tary, which is as com­pelling for the is­sues it raises as it is for the story it tells. In 2000, on a visit to Angko­rWat, Bass sees Sok­van­nara Sar, a 16-year-old stu­dent of tra­di­tional dance, in per­for­mance. She is so struck with his spirit and nat­u­ral grace that she in­vites him to New York to study bal­let— an art form, the movie tells us, that hasn’t been seen in Cam­bo­dia for 40 years. His teacher there, Madame Bo­ran, a dancer who sur­vived the mass killings of the Kh­mer Rouge regime, re­calls pre­vi­ously telling Sar’s par­ents that “they have a lucky child. He might be­come some­thing.” Sar knows his par­ents will agree to let him go, “be­cause in the long term, I will be able to help them more. I feel bad our fam­ily is so poor.” The film moves seam­lessly be­tween Cam­bo­dia and the U.S. as it charts Sar’s re­mark­able trans­for­ma­tion from un­likely stu­dent at New York’s pres­ti­gious School of Amer­i­can Bal­let— he be­gins his stud­ies when most stu­dents are com­plet­ing theirs— to com­pany mem­ber of Pa­cific North­west Bal­let. Some of the film’s most mov­ing scenes are the quiet mo­ments in the stu­dio be­tween Sar and Olga Kostritzky, his first teacher at the school— per­fect­ing a step, work­ing out a com­bi­na­tion. “There was a one-in-a-thou­sand chance that this could work,” says Peter Boal, an­other early teacher and now head of PNB. “And we found that one.” The doc­u­men­tary moves to its con­clu­sion with Sar in a beau­ti­fully con­trolled solo per­for­mance of Ben­jamin Millepied’s bal­let On the Other Side, ac­com­pa­nied by Philip Glass on pi­ano, at the open­ing of this year’s Vail In­ter­na­tional Dance Fes­ti­val. The trans­for­ma­tion to ma­ture artist is com­plete. We hear Sar’s words in voice-over. “It’s not re­ally my

Au­to­mor­pho­sis di­rec­tor Har­rod Blank with his cam­era car; inset, Steve Baker the Penny Man from Tuc­son

Sok­van­nara Sar (air­borne) and Philip Glass in

Danc­ing Across Bor­ders

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