Thursday: The last day at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival

I saw two movies on the last day of this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival. The first one was directed by someone named Ross. The second by someone named Moss. Neither of them was a loss.

Frank & Lola

I saw this at the New Mission, and thankfully, it was in the big, downstairs Theater 1.

Director or Programming Rachel Rosen welcomed us to “the last matinee of the festival.” She explained that writer/director Matthew Ross was in town, but under the weather. There was no Q&A.

Frank & Lola is on the Festival’s Hold Review List, so I have to keep my review short:

This psychological mystery and romantic drama examines an excessively jealous man. It starts with a very hot sex scene–except that Frank (Michael Shannon) feels a little reluctant about starting a relationship. He worries about being hurt. He’s also naturally paranoid, and can’t stand to see Lola (Imogen Poots) even talking to another man. On the other hand, Lola really does seem to be cheating on him. His search to undercover Lola’s secrets takes him from their home in Las Vegas–where he’s an upcoming chef–to Paris and some exceedingly seedy pleasures, and then into his own deep fears.

I give the film an A-. It will likely get a theatrical release.

Closing Night: The Bandit

I went to the Castro for the official closing night screening of The Bandit (although five other movies started screening after this one).

After introductions by Festival Executive Director Noah Cowan, Director of Programming Rachel Rosen, and the director of the night’s film, Jesse Moss, we watched The Bandit.

Allegedly about the making of the 1977 surprise box office hit, Smokey and the Bandit, this documentary is really a platonic, touching love story between two very macho men–Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham. Reynolds, of course, was a top movie star. Hal Needham was a top stuntman. He was also Reynolds’ stuntman, until he found a new career by directing Smokey. The two men complimented each other professionally, and they were the best of friends. Even when they were rich, they shared a house for eleven years.

When Needham got the idea for Smokey and the Bandit, and decided to direct it, Reynolds used his star power to get it funded, albeit at a very low budget. The studio thought it would tank, and it did just that in the big cities. But it was a huge hit in small towns, especially in the south.

Bandit doesn’t cover the making of the movie all that much. It shows us a brief scene about shooting a stunt or arguing with Universal executives, than it cuts away to something else in the long relationship between these two men. Moss has made a charming, sympathetic, enjoyable portrait of two very successful good old boys. But both Reynolds and Needham come off as near perfect; the lack of warts makes me a big suspicious.

I give the movie a B+.

By the way, Smokey and the Bandit wasn’t the only surprise hit to come out the last week of May, 1977. Star Wars premiered two days before Smokey. The Bandit doesn’t mention this.

After the movie, Moss and two of his assistants (I didn’t get their names) came on stage for a Q&A. Rosen moderated. Some highlights:

  • On Reynold’s participation in the documentary: When we went to his house, it was a little like Sunset Blvd. Would I end up dead in his pool? He’s an incredible movie star but he’s disappeared. But Burt was surprisingly open. Really cooperative.
  • Needham’s widow told us that Hal hated documentaries. I wanted to make one that Hal would enjoy.
  • Why Sally Fields wasn’t interviewed (she and Reynold became an item while making Smokey): She works a lot. She just works. We weren’t able to talk to her. And I was much more interested in the relationship with Hal.
  • Burt Reynolds as an actor: Look at Boogle Nights or Deliverance. He really was capable of a great performance.
  • I just wanted to make a fun film with lots of car crashes. It’s a buddy movie, it’s an action comedy. I wanted to see this film.

The Bandit is not likely to get a theatrical release. But Moss promised that “It will be available on the small screen.”

I briefly attended the Closing Night Party at the Mezzanine. It was okay.