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Monday, May 28, 2007


posted by on May 28 at 9:00 AM


I tried to think of a clever title—These Boots Are Made for Walkin’, Walk (Don’t Run), I’m Walkin’ (the Fats Domino ditty)—but nothing fit. When music won’t do, I tend to turn to Nicolas Roeg. The following has little to do with his 1971 masterpiece, but I’m still waiting for Roeg to get his due, so I like to drop his name whenever I get the chance…

So, after a weekend screening of Andrea Arnold’s Red Road, I was thinking about walkabouts—er, walkouts. I only noticed two, but when one catches my eye, I always wonder what turned off the viewer so much to make them flee (assuming their reasons were film-related in the first place). My friend and I quite liked Arnold’s debut.
It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but I’m open to surprises.

At a certain point, the story transitions from a meditation on voyeurism (Kate Dickie’s Jackie is a surveillance expert) to a revenger’s tale, but the couple to our left departed long before Jackie enters the world of the trio she’s been surveilling. I’m guessing they simply found it dull. That wasn’t my impression, but I did find it increasingly hard to watch. The third act reminds me of Jane Campion’s In the Cut, in which an intelligent woman (a professor) purposefully puts herself in harm’s way. Jackie also places herself in a position where she could be raped or killed, but she retains greater control over the situation than Meg Ryan’s Frannie. If anything, Arnold gives away too much about Jackie’s motivations—I was hoping for more mystery—but the epilogue is sublime. Incidentally, though SIFF didn’t program Anton Corbijn’s acclaimed Ian Curtis bio-pic, Red Road does conclude with Joy Division (and I’ll take what I can get).


A few days before, I caught Milos Forman's Goya's Ghosts. A woman a few seats away left while Natalie Portman's character (an artist's model) is being tortured. It isn't a graphic scene, and it arrives early in the film, but I realize torture is a deal-breaker for some filmgoers. Not to give too much away, but she isn't killed (Portman also appears in Tom Tykwer's portion of Paris je t'aime, below).

As for Goya, I'm still mulling it over. I have the utmost respect for Forman, and there's much about the movie I admired, but it's unsatisfying. That doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it. With a cast that includes Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem, and Michael Lonsdale, I couldn't miss it. And all are good, but I hear that Bardem is even better in the Coen Brothers' Cormac McCarthy adaptation No Country for Old Men, which has been piling up the accolades in France. That's yet another film SIFF didn't program, but there's no way they can snag all the Cannes entries. Anyway, if torture scenes are your bête noir, don't say you haven't been warned.

Lastly, there's the Phillipines selection The Bet Collector. I sit towards the front in most theaters, so I can never tell what's going on in the back, but this film inspired six walkouts (the body count was even higher at last year's press screening of Tsui Hark's Seven Swords). The movie may be intentionally discomforting, but it doesn't over-stay its welcome. Granted, the conclusion is confusing, but these folks left well before that time. As for me, I got swept up into the world of this slum-dwelling, chain-smoking bookie. I wanted to find out if Amy would make it to the end of the picture without being locked up or injured in a raid. The Bet Collector plays like a low-budget thriller, even though the only big set piece, a rooftop chase sequence, takes place during the prologue. So, it may have won me over, but six walkouts—if not more—indicates a divider, not a uniter. The title, as it turns out, is more apt than intended.


P.S. Ten Canoes, a big favorite Down Under, features Walkabout's David Gulpilil (the gent in the image at top) along with his son, Jamie. For more Gulpilil père, see The Last Wave, Rabbit-Proof Fence, and The Proposition. Please click the links for more information about Goya's Ghosts, The Bet Collector, and Ten Canoes. There are no more SIFF screenings of Paris, je t'aime, which opens at the Seven Gables on 6/1, and Red Road, which opens at the Varsity on 6/22.

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Ideally SIFF would have a volunteer at each venue who would track down and interview the walkouts, not for the goal of eventually programming "friendlier" films, but so that those who are curious about the walkouts can finally get some good answers. Maybe they hated the content, the pacing, or maybe they just had some bad fish earlier in the day.

I went to Red Road after hearing some good things about it and because it fit it with my schedule that day. I throughly enjoyed the film. However, I've heard that it was described/marketed as a thriller and perhaps some people who went were expecting something along the lines of The Bourne Identity.

The ticketholder to my left though became bored pretty quickly and sighed more than once. The passholder to the my right fell asleep on here and there.

At the midnight Severance showing last night a ticketholder dude in front of me walked out after 15 or 20 minutes. I'd like to know why. Maybe it wasn't gory enough or maybe there was too much humor. Not knowing the cause of walkouts is frustrating to me.

Posted by stinkbug | May 28, 2007 1:09 PM

I agree with you about Red Road. My friend Gillian said the same thing. I guess you could describe it as a psychological thriller, but it certainly doesn't fit the usual definition of the phrase. Highly recommended to fans of Lynne Ramsay, Carine Adler, and Catherine Breillat.

Posted by Kathy Fennessy | May 28, 2007 1:34 PM

I saw Life in Loops on Saturday. Six people walked out in total, and determining why wasn't hard. The first couple left during a scene in bloodily slaughtered chickens. The second couple left during a sex show (filmed in either Mexico City or Brazil, I'm not sure which). The third couple left during a scene where a young Japanese man is showing off his manga-porn video game (CGI female ejaculation: hilarious!). Maybe these people didn't see all this graphic content coming, but they missed out on a lot of great scenes after those!

Posted by Justin | May 28, 2007 9:44 PM

Thanks for your comment, Justin. I'd love to know what other films are causing walkouts—or standing ovations (I haven't encountered the latter so far this SIFF). Some of my favorite fest selections of years past have sent audience members packing right from the start. Case in point: Happy Together, which begins with a rather aggressive sex scene (starring Leslie Cheung! and Tony Leung!). I thought it was pretty sexy...

Posted by Kathy Fennessy | May 28, 2007 11:38 PM

Hiya Kathy,

Greetings from an old friend who grows wistful for Seattle this time every year. I'm always glad to see your SIFF reflections -- they tend to come in handy six months later when a few selections trickle down to Atlanta!

One of these years I'm going to make it there for the festival, and I'll hope to see you there. In the meantime, keep up the great work, and drop me a line if you get a chance.

Posted by Sam Bass | May 30, 2007 9:26 PM

There were a number of walkouts at Hong Sang-Soo's Woman on the Beach last night. This was slightly surprising, as it is far less demanding than anything else Hong has done (not a criticism--I loved the movie, and for once the central female character is not simply an object of male desire--I mean, she's that, but much more). But the only reason I mention it is that towards the end, "Director Kim" storms out on the titular woman with the words "I'm leaving!" at which point the couple in front of me got up and muttered, "we're leaving" and were met with laughter and applause that accompanied them all the way out of the theatre! Actually the biggest response anything in the movie received. (There was less than 10 minutes of the movie left, too. I guess it was over two hours long, but it felt much shorter to me--I think it's his fastest paced movie, as well.)Hong has always expired walkouts, but since the audience was rather small, I expected that most of the people there knew what they were getting themselves into.

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