SFIFF: A Hijacking and a Working-Class Prince

I quit work early on Friday, and headed across the Bay to enjoy more of the San Francisco International Film Festival. I caught two films; both very much worth catching.

A A Hijacking
This isn’t your typical, fun, swashbuckling pirate movie. One truly harrowing thriller, A Hijacking puts you on a Danish cargo ship captured and held for ransom by Somali imagepirates. You experience most of the harrowing experiences through the eyes of the ship’s cook (Pilou Asbæk), a decent fellow and happily-married man who finds himself an expendable pawn in high-level negotiations. The film cuts between the ship and the offices of the company that owns it, where the CEO (Søren Malling) unwisely decides to do the negotiating himself. A work of fiction, A Hijacking feels like the real thing.

I caught the festival’s last screening of A Hijacking. However, Magnolia Pictures has picked it up, and it will open in San Francisco next month.

After that experience, I needed something lighter. I found it.

B+ Prince Avalanche
This meandering, character-driven comedy follows two men painting lines in the middle of a seldom-used country road. Alvin (Paul Rudd) loves the outdoors and imagesolitude, and sees himself as wise and in touch with nature. He also sees his younger partner, Lance (Emile Hirsch), as a hopeless idiot who only wants to party and get laid. They’re sort of related– Lance is Alvin’s girlfriend’s kid brother. The two argue, fight, meet an old trucker, get drunk, and bond. That’s pretty much it. But the scenery, the humor, and the warmth make that enough for a very pleasing entertainment.

After the film, writer/director David Gordon Green came on stage for some Q&A. He talked about why he chose to adapt the Icelandic film Either Way (yes, Prince Avalanche is a remake), and how the location inspired his decision to make the movie. He discussed his casting, the music, and the joys of working with a small crew: "We realized that if you don’t pay people, nobody comes."

I asked him about the title, which has nothing to do with the story. "I had a dream that I made a film called Prince Avalanche. It doesn’t really make sense for the movie, but it looks cool [written out]."

Once again, I caught the last Festival screening of this film. Like A Hijacking, Magnolia Pictures has picked up Prince Avalanche for American release. However, their Web site does not yet list any Bay Area dates. Let’s hope that changes.