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Russia Trip: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
Best of 2002: Movies, Books, Music.
Best of 2003: Movies.
Best of 2004: Movies, Books.
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Friday, June 06, 2003

SIFF, Days 11 and 12
Just two movies this week—work is just such an inconvenience sometimes, isn’t it, though I wouldn’t be without it—but good ones.

I came home from Hard Goodbyes: My Father and immediately gave it the top ranking on the passholders’ ballot—the only movie I’d rated that highly thus far. After a day or so of reflection, I tempered my opinion somewhat, but it was certainly very winning short-term. The movie had so much going against it: the worst title ever, it’s Greek—and the few Greek movies I’ve seen in the festival over the years have been exceedingly slow and not to my taste, and it’s a boy’s coming-of-age story—something I’ve had my fill of. In practice, though, this simple film (in that not a lot actually happens) was very affecting, and the child star, Yorgos Karayannis, was amazing. Elias lives with his mother and older brother in Athens. His father is a traveling salesman whose work takes him away from the family for extended periods, which leads to tension with his wife, resentment from his older son, and confusion from Elias. After one trip home, dad takes off, leaving a note telling Elias he’ll be away longer than usual, but not to worry, he’ll be back before the moon landing. Just hours later, he’s killed in a car crash, but Elias refuses to believe it—instead he puts his faith in the note his father left him. The rest of the movie deals with Elias’ elaborate denial mechanisms, his incredible imagination, and his gradual acceptance of the truth, a sort of compromise between trusting that people will keep their promises and learning when to let go. I admit that one of the reasons I liked it was that the date of the moon landing was given as July 21, 1969—my birthday. I have a very vivid memory of staying up into the early hours of my eighth birthday to see the moon landing (tricky because the next day we were taking a birthday day trip to Blackpool, and my folks were worried I would be too tired). In the States, because of the time difference, July 20 is considered the anniversary of the landing!

The next day, Tuesday, I saw The Girl From Paris and loved it. I almost didn’t see a movie—the film I’d been intending to see, Brats, didn’t arrive in time, so The Girl was a last-minute substitution. I’d been burned by ill-chosen films Sunday, so I was reluctant, but when two of my fellow Deluxe diners (and fellow disappointed Brats-fanciers) recommended it, I changed my mind. Man, what an awesome movie. True, there were very graphic scenes of farmyard slaughter, but they were absolutely integral to the story of a 30-year-old Parisian who says goodbye to traffic jams and city living and heads out to the Rhone-Alpes to become a farmer. The story of the development of the relationship between the crusty old farmer who used to own the spread and the fancy city slicker who sells her goat cheese on the Internet and turns the farmhouse into a country inn is slightly cliché but very sweet. Mathilde Seigner was perfect for the role—she looked the part and played it beautifully—and Michel Serrault was just as perfect as the irascible old farmer who eventually comes to admire the newcomer and share the pain of his various losses.