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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Santa Barbara Dispatch Day One

santa_barbara_palms.jpgDue to being busy with our Sundance coverage, immediately followed by a need to spend a few days with my kids between travels, I just got into Santa Barbara yesterday in time to cover the last five days of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. I’ve never covered this fest before, but now that I’m here I’m thinking it won’t be the last.
Much as I enjoy Sundance, Cannes and Toronto, those fests are exhausting to cover. Three-four hours sleep a night, so many films a day they start to all blur together, because you know however many you see, you’ll still end up missing some great films for the sake of mediocre ones. I wish I could clone myself for those major fests and have enough time to see everything I want, write all of it up, and still get sleep.

So I love coming to these smaller fests like Santa Barbara. It’s a great way to unwind off a fest like Sundance in a beautiful, warm location, catch up on some films I’ve missed that I’ve wanted to see and discover a few I hadn’t heard of, see some tributes and panels, and not have to worry about what film might be selling tonight over late-night drinks. It’s lovely here: sapphire skies, the ocean on one side and mountains on the other, palm trees, sunshine. The cute little airport looks like a big Mexican restaurant, and the fest press office folks are delightfully warm and familiar, instantly making you feel welcome. Plus my husband came with me, and it’s nice to have him at a fest with me for a change.
Last night was the Virtuoso’s Award Tribute, featuring Viola Davis, Rosemarie DeWitt, Richard Jenkins, Melissa Leo and Michael Shannon. Someone around here was sure prescient in booking that lineup way back in September, before the Oscar noms came out.
We’ll be hitting a couple of the tributes later in the fest, but last night I wanted to catch a Japanese film, Ryoichi Kimizuka‘s Nobody to Watch Over Me. The director gave the audience some context for the subject matter, telling us that in Japan, the family of crime suspects is often considered as responsible as the person who committed the crime, and relatives are targeted for harassment and even violence in the wake of particularly heinous crimes.
The script addresses issues around Japanese societal conformity, pressure to excel, and the idea of an entire family being held accountable for the actions of one member through the story of Saori, a 15-year-old girl caught up in the maelstrom of public disdain and media harassment after her 18-year-old brother is arrested for the murder of two young sisters.. Against all this public anger and outcry, a police officer still haunted by his own inadvertent role in the tragic murder of another child is assigned to protect Saori from the mob mentality that considers her as bad as the murderer merely because she’s his sister. He finds himself a target of media scrutiny as well when his old case becomes an issue along with this new one, and has to protect both Saori and himself.
The script and director keep things moving along in spite of some minor plot holes, and the film overall is an interesting examination of blame and guilt in Japanese society. The opening scene, with no dialogue and some lovely, haunting music, juxtaposes Saori’s last few moments of normal life as a schoolgirl — playing sports, laughing with friends, flirting with a boy — against the police showing up at her house to arrest her older brother for the shocking murders, changing Saori’s life forever. It’s a beautifully shot scene that sets the stage for the rest of the film perfectly.
My one quibble with the film is that the tone shifts abruptly, a lot. Emotional meters are all over the map, and the characters’ reactions sometimes feel overly melodramatic. Also my husband, who speaks and understands Japanese, noted that some the dialogue issues that distracted from the film seemed to be the result of meanings getting lost in translation; there was at least one significant bit of dialogue he caught where the subtitles totally changed the meaning of what was actually said. Still, decent film overall, and I was glad we caught it.
After the screening, we stopped by the party for the Virtuosos Awards recipients. I saw both Richard Jenkins and Michael Shannon on hand for the festivities, and I’m told Viola Davis and Rosemarie Dewitt were there as well; we stuck around for a while before heading back to the hotel for a few hours sleep before an 8:15AM screening of Poppy Shakespeare, about which I’ve heard good buzz.
More on that later …

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon