Saturday, December 7, 2013

AFI FEST 2013: Day Seven

Another year of AFI FEST is over, 83 features and 36 shorts screened across eight days. This year I highlighted 33 films as high priority, set out to see 25 and ended up seeing 17. In order to give a fair amount of coverage to all 17 films viewed, I've decided to break the festival down by day(s) including short reviews for each film. Below you'll find my coverage for the final day of AFI FEST 2013.

Day Seven:
directed by Amat Escalante
"Heli" is a brutal account of how despite having the best intentions, the company we keep can change our lives in the blink of an eye. Set in Mexico the thriller follows a family that finds themselves involved with the wrong end of the law after they are suspected for stealing cocaine. This is an experience film, one that will leave you terrified of the crime and corruption that takes place in Mexico. The film furthermore wants its audience to feel the severity of the situations taking place. Director Amat Escalante chooses to let scenes play out in long form. An approach that makes the experience unnerving and feel all too authentic. I felt myself getting uncomfortable in my seat and with no recourse other than to ride out the experience. This is a powerful story that will leave you completely frustrated with the situations. This is not a film that is looking to provide much of a silver lining either, the audience is faced with some hard truths and left with nothing but reality.

directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the Coen brothers most bleak film to date. It is fixated on paying homage to the hard times of a talented musicians who never caught a break. The drama is wonderfully romantic about folk music, so much so the film's structure even takes on the form of a folk song. Like the biggest heartbreaks, the drama stays with you for an extended period of time. In truth, this is a film that I initially walked away feeling cold towards. I respected its dedication and craft but I missed an instant attachment. I was mad it for being so deep, part of that blame comes from having festival exhaustion; this was my 17th film across seven days. Part of me wanted a simple Coen brothers comedy, instead I got a layered tale beautifully crafted with both reverence and cynicism to a genre of music and its artists. My mistake for expecting anything less from the likes of the Coen brothers.
The music and its lyricism are a vital aspect to "Inside Llewyn Davis." Credit to T. Bone Burnett for once again creating a masterful soundtrack to tell the penetrating story. This is a soundtrack you'll want to purchase after seeing the movie. The songs are addictive on a few levels. One, because they are beautiful songs that resonate the perfect emotions to match each scene. Two, because they are powerfully sung by Oscar Issac and the rest of the cast. Three, because songs like "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me," "Please Mr. Kennedy," "The Death of Queen Jane," and "Fare Thee Well (Dink's Song)" play a major part in the storytelling being done on screen. Four, the songs upon re-listening will immediately put you back into the emotions and impact of the film. "The Death of Queen Jane" in particular, I didn't realize its full weight until afterwards dissecting the lyrics and the situation Llewyn Davis is in at the time he sings those lyrics. It is heartbreaking and magical all at once. Again, "Inside Llewyn Davis" is the Coen brothers most bleak film to date but that does not mean it is not one of their most rewarding.

That's a wrap on AFI FEST in 2013. Thanks for reading and be sure to check out more coverage from Day OneDay TwoDay Three, Day Four, Day Five, and Day Six.