When I arrived at Hollywood and Highland on Sunday morning, there were some people on the street organizing a march about sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry. News in recent weeks has been full of stories about the issue and social media filled up with “me too” comments. It is indeed a serious subject that needs to be addressed. I hope bringing this out into the open will facilitate healing and changes in a culture that allows such behavior.
One of the films that I’ve been looking forward to at AFI Fest was M*A*S*H, part of the Robert Altman retrospective at the festival. I first saw the film when it was released in 1970 while I was in college. Most people are familiar with the TV series, but the film is a darker comedy than the TV series was. Set in the Korean War, the film is really a commentary on the Vietnam War that was underway when the film came out. The film is satire that has an irreverent take on all institutions, especially the military and religion. The wonderful ensemble cast included Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerritt, Elliott Gould, Rene Auberjonois, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, and Gary Burghoff (the only actor to also be in the TV series). Of note, given the protests going on outside, is the objectification of women in the film. That, too, was a part of the zeitgeist. In some ways we may have grown past that, but in other ways, it is still a work in progress. I may have to put together a TBT review of this to consider how it plays today versus when it came out.
Since I was already in Korea for that film, I stayed for Park Hoon-Jung’s V.I.P. (Midnight section). This is a very dark and often disturbing film about a serial killer who has murdered young women in both North and South Korea and in Hong Kong. The killer is the scion of a North Korean official and may have information about hidden bank accounts. A no-holds barred police detective, a by-the-book Korean federal agent, a North Korean defector, and the CIA battle amongst themselves over how to treat the case. When the programmer introduced the film, she said “It really resonated with me, because I want to kill people every day.” That reflects the corrosive effect of anger and hatred on all of those involved in the story.
Fits & Starts (American Independent) is the feature directing debut for Lara Terruso. The comedy focuses on two married writers. David is struggling with his career, but his wife Jennifer’s career is skyrocketing. When Jennifer’s publisher invites them to a salon at his home, their journey turns very strange. They eventually become separated en route, with David making it to the party looking for his wife, while she is stranded some ways behind. They discover things about themselves, but more importantly about their relationship that will allow them to grow closer than they have been of late.