Tuesday, February 26, 2008

CINEQUEST08—Around the Bay

I'm going to date myself. Back when I was a kid there was a popular TV commercial for homemade pizza. It mimicked the Listerine commercials of the period by starting out with a full frontal shot of a woman saying, "You have bad pizza, BAD pizza!" Then the camera pulled back to reveal two matrons sitting on a sofa. The one, critical of her friend's homemade pizza, reaches into her purse and pulls out a large box of some brand of homemade pizza which I can't remember the name of, even as I clearly remember the spoof.

To confirm how brain-damaged I am by childhood television, this is the first thing I thought of when I met Alejandro Adams at a YBCA screening of Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light and he mentioned to me that he was a filmmaker who had just completed his film Around the Bay and might I be interested in taking a look at it? I was just about to offer my mailing address when he quickly turned to his satchel with an "I just happen to have…."

You have to admire Alejandro Adams for knowing how to promote himself and his own work. Young DIY filmmakers should take note. Alejandro's film Around the Bay hasn't even had its world premiere at Cinequest yet and it's already been reviewed by the likes of Phillip Lopate (who describes the film as "a chamber drama in the sunshine"); Nick Rombes of Digital Poetics (who praises the film's stylistic "interplay of diegetic and non-diegetic sound" that serves "to deepen the mood and capture the fragmented relationships"); and Hell on Frisco Bay's Brian Darr (who takes note of the film's "delightful interplay between narrative clarity and ambiguity. It makes for very challenging, almost confrontational, viewing").

Gearing up for its Cinequest premiere, Around the Bay has generated further interest from local press, including a half-hour radio interview with Robert Emmett of KFJC and an in-depth discussion of Around the Bay by Cinema Scene critics Morton Marcus and Richard von Busack followed by an interview and further discussion. Von Busack has likewise reviewed the film for Metroactive, as has Lincoln Spector for Bayflicks and Sara Schieron for Rotten Tomatoes. And I'm aware that Alejandro has taped a segment for SF360 to be broadcast in the near future, as well as an interview with aforementioned Brian Darr.

There's hardly need for me to say anything more. Alejandro has covered his local bases quite consummately. And yet, I can't resist adding praise for Around the Bay, which is quite evocative and lovely. The way Alejandro has blended visual compression with sound design is thoroughly enthralling and technically masterful. There are moments of such spare beauty in this film that they register in the body like pebbles dropping into the deep waters of grief. Is there anything sadder than the fragmentation of the family? In plumbing its psychological depths, Around the Bay reaches the mythopoetic and reminds of the barren kingdoms where wounded monarchs can no longer feel and where a single tear—if it could be achieved—would restore the water of life. Steve Voldseth excels in his sympathetic portrayal of an unsympathetic character: a father who does not know how to communicate, let alone love, his children. As Darren Hughes at Long Pauses has commented, Katherine Celio is fully charismatic; you can't stop watching her. And Connor Maselli delivers one of the most nuanced and natural child performances in recent memory.

In an impressionistic narrative of assembled visual episodes Alejandro Adams articulates the dysfunction of a fractured family with eloquent precision and exact focus. The effect is polished and lapidary, but not without warmth and hope.

Around the Bay will be screening at Cinequest come Saturday evening, March 1, 7:45PM at the San Jose Repertory Theatre, followed by encore screenings on Tuesday, March 4, 4:15PM at Camera 12, and finally on Saturday, March 8, 7:45PM, again at the San Jose Repertory Theatre.

Cross-published on Twitch.

03/03/08 UPDATE: Brian Darr interviews Alejandro Adams for Hell On Frisco Bay.

03/10/08 UPDATE: More press for Around the Bay. Richard von Busack, who unabashedly has emerged as the film's main champion, follows up his review and TV spot with a print interview published in Metroactive. Equally significant, is Charlie Olsky's writeup for indieWIRE.

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