Watching Paprika (2007-05-25)

I vividly remember an experience from one summer in college. I was living with a friend's parents and working a night shift. Early one afternoon I awakened and walked sleepily into their dining room for breakfast. In their dining room I looked up and noticed that the walls were now covered in colorful Arabic tapestries. In fact, the walls were wider than before. It looked like I was inside a Bedouin tent. I placed my hand on my chin in thought, and then shook my finger at the tapestries. "This is a dream!" I said. Shortly afterward I truly awakened.

This experience of false awakening may be the closest experience I've had to reality testing lucid dreaming. As I mentioned before, I like stories and movies in which it is difficult to distinguish appearance and reality. The first film with a dream theme I remember seeing was Dreamscape, but I liked Richard Linklater's rotoscoped Waking Life better. In fact, I recommend Before Sunrise, Waking Life, Before Sunset, and A Scanner Darkly by Richard Linklater. As I noted elsewhere, the first three films in this list have a lot of conversation. The first three films also have Ethan Hawke as Jesse and Julie Delpy as Celine, although they have only a cameo appearance in Waking Life. (The relationship between Jesse and Celine in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset is one of the most realistic romances I've seen in film, including the awkward silences and conversational corrections that happen when two people are getting to know one another. Equally interesting is the decade between the two movies, in both reality and the lives of the characters.) Both Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly address the differences between perception and reality, Waking Life through conversation and A Scanner Darkly through action.

A Scanner Darkly is also the latest I've seen in a similar series of movies influenced by Philip K. Dick short stories or novels--a series that includes my favorite Blade Runner as well as Total Recall, Abre Los Ojos and Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, and Paycheck. Of the associated stories--Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Ubik, Minority Report, Paycheck, and A Scanner Darkly--I remember reading all but Ubik.

False awakenings, lucid dreaming, difficulty distinguishing dreams and reality, animation (although not rotoscoping), and dreams driving reality--all these themes are present in Paprika as well. We saw this film--the second for us in SIFF 2007--at 21:30 at the Neptune Theatre with friends and what appeared to be anime fans. (I'm glad I got our tickets from Will Call before the printer broke!) While we enjoyed the film and the effects of dreaming, I was somewhat confused by multiple false awakenings and collective dreams.


At Opening Night Gala (2007-05-24)

The SIFF Opening Night Gala is not merely a movie. It's an entire evening event, from disorganized line to interminable introduction to delightful screening to dancing reception.

Disorganized Line

The back of my Gala Pass says, "Passholders will be allowed preferred entrance into theaters up to 20 minutes prior to showtime, or until passholder allotment is reached." Usually this means separate pass holder's and ticket holder's lines, the former entering first. The staff at McCaw Hall were not aware of this convention, however.

As a group of pass holders gathered, I explained the existence of pass holders who hadn't upgraded to VIP to a half-dozen people: to McCaw Hall staff guarding the door upon my arrival, to SIFF staff directing foot traffic inside, to SIFF staff entering the building, to SIFF staff about to clear the area for ticket holders, to two McCaw Hall additional staff directing foot traffic inside. Finally feature programmer Maryna Ajaja approved our entrance.

Interminable Introduction

Once inside our friends guessed how long the introduction would require, from "Good Evening" to the dimming of the lights for the film. Would it be 13 minutes? 17 minutes? 20 minutes? In "The Price Is Right" format I chose 21 minutes, confident from previous opening night experience that the introduction would require more than 20 minutes. The proceedings began 15 minutes late and lasted longer than 35 minutes.

Surprisingly, parade of sponsors by Gary Tucker (Director of Communications and Community Programming) was one of the more enjoyable parts, complete with a picture of a cat with a bottle of vodka. In lolcat style Ryan and I were working on the caption "I Bought You Vodka, But I Drinked It" when a person behind us said, "I Can Has Vodka?". (Later "i'm in ur likker, drinkin ur vodka" occurred to me.)

Delightful Screening

SIFF opening night films often premier elsewhere; Son of Rambow showed at the Sundance Film Festival. This screening was a crowd-pleaser like The Notebook or The Illusionist rather than a surprise like Me and You and Everyone We Know.

It reminded me most of Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys from SIFF 2002, though not opening night. (As I mentioned previously, I met Jena Malone from The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys--and Saved!--when she was in town for Donnie Darko.) Both films contain animated sequences based sketches drawn by one of the film's characters. In Dangerous Lives the religious element is Catholic, while in Son of Rambow it's Plymouth Brethren. Dangerous Lives is set in the 1970s, while Son of Rambow is set in the 1980s. Dangerous Lives has mid-teen characters while Son of Rambow has early teen characters.

The improbable plot of Son of Rambow makes good comedy and tolerable sentimentality. The goings-on are goofy, especially with the addition of a French foreign exchange student. The sentimentality, most prominent in the blood brother scene and several rescue scenes, stands in the literary tradition of innocent romantic friendships among boys at English schools.

Dancing Reception

Finally, the evening ended with a reception. The reception was huge and included a dance area, long lines of food and drink, floors of different music, and films projected on the walls. We danced with friends into the night.

At SIFF Ticket Office (2007-05-24)

Each year the start of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is faster for me. Prior to this blog and in 2005 I purchased passes and tickets at the main box office. In 2006 I had purchased passes and tickets in advance and redeemed vouchers at the member box office. In 2007 I not only purchased passes and tickets in advance but I can also redeem the vouchers individually online. For my two Film Buff 20 Packs this means I don't have to determine all twenty screenings in advance. I've already redeemed 16 vouchers for 2 tickets each to 8 screenings; the tickets will be at Will Call. Consequently this year potential screenings are shared events in Google Calendar rather than public lists in Blogger.

Yesterday Ryan and I still visited the Pacific Place ticket office for my SIFF Gala Pass photograph and our Secret Festival passes--and to avoid the $3.50 service fee on Web purchases for which I can't use my vouchers. While we were there they printed Ryan's Opening Night Gala and Closing Night Gala tickets. Next year I may send in a digital photograph in advance as well and avoid the wait.