In this week's cover package, the Scene offers a guide to the 2010 Nashville Film Festival, which got underway last night at Green Hills with the well-received John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy. We've got capsule reviews of more than 40 films, with most of them accompanied online by trailers. We recommend getting cozy with your laptop and scouring the whole thing at your leisure.
But who has time to do that? So Pith makes it even easier for you. Below, we've picked 15 films that are among the standouts of this year's festival — comedies, documentaries, movies by local filmmakers, even a glossy big-budget musical from Russia — and provided a thumbnail sketch. For the full blurbs and trailers, see the cover story online.
In the meantime, entertain yourself with one of the most gonzo trailers we've ever seen, for Tuesday night's NaFF selection Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl. Seriously, this thing is so NSFW it might get you burned at the stake.
BLUEBEARD (5:15 p.m. Friday; also 7:30 p.m. Saturday) "Fat Girl/The Last Mistress director Catherine Breillat offers her own take on the uses of enchantment in her playful, coolly provocative rendering of the French fairy tale of the lady-killer Bluebeard. ... Far less explicit than Breillat's controversial earlier films, it's still jauntily perverse, bristling with sexual politics and capped by a WTF ending as abrupt and startling as Fat Girl's infamous close." (Jim Ridley)
SENTENCED FOR LIFE: CYNTOIA'S STORY (4 p.m. Saturday) "That any girl can be facing life in prison for a crime she committed at age 16 is mind-boggling enough. But as the circumstances of Nashvillian Cyntoia Brown's case become clear, her sentence seems even more incomprehensible. There's no denying the violence of the crime: Brown shot a john she claims she thought was reaching for a gun. As Dan Birman's documentary shows, however, it's difficult to understand why Brown was tried as an adult and how the murder could have been premeditated. Nashville's juvenile justice system allowed the filmmaker generous access to Brown, and the footage is compelling and heartbreaking." (Jack Silverman)
SOUTHERN BELLE (4:45 p.m. Saturday) "Filmmakers Kathy Conkwright and Mary Makley thought they had a dynamite subject when they were granted permission to spend a week filming at Columbia's 1861 Athenaeum Girls School. Terms like 'throwback' and 'retro' don't come close to describing the events that occur here, where young girls take lessons for a week in the traditions of the Old South. ... Without comment, the film depicts a tightly corseted world where nostalgia for Dixie reigns and slavery is quickly dispensed with." (Ron Wynn)
THE COMPLETE WORK OF JAMIE TRAVIS (5 p.m. Saturday; also 12:45 p.m. Sunday) "Since 2003, 30-year-old Canadian filmmaker Jamie Travis has completed two short film trilogies: 'The Saddest Children In The World,' a set of curious, beautiful stories about kids who get unwanted glimpses at the horrors of adulthood; and 'Patterns,' about the mysterious relationship between a man and a woman. Rich with metaphorical resonance and visual splendor, Travis' shorts swing from melodrama to suspense to musical theater, with a mix of poignancy and dry wit." (Noel Murray)
HIPSTERS (7 p.m. Saturday; also noon Tuesday) "A splashy, crowd-pleasing Soviet hybrid of Footloose, Quadrophenia, Moulin Rouge! and Swing Kids, with pompadoured, pastel-suited teens defying killjoy apparatchiks in a 1950s Communist bloc out of Baz Luhrmann's opium dreams? How can you say nyet? ... There's a powerful idea in the oppressed seizing upon the Hollywood musical (where the unspeakable bursts out as song) as a form of liberation and revolt, and even if director Valeriy Todorovskiy only partially realizes its potential, the movie's still one of the most sheerly enjoyable films playing all week — something no movie-musical fan will want to miss." (Ridley)
DO IT AGAIN (9:20 p.m. Saturday; also 2 p.m. Tuesday) "A document of Boston Globe reporter Geoff Edgers' mission impossible to reunite The Kinks, Robert Patton-Spruill's Do It Again is a must see for any die-hard rock 'n' roll fan. By telling The Kinks' story through the eyes of a super-fan — seamlessly inter-cut with archival footage and wall-to-wall audio — the movie engrosses the viewer with a three-dimensional take on rock music, encompassing themes of stardom, fandom, brotherhood and the love, hate and maddening obsession that binds them." (Adam Gold)
ONE TOO MANY MORNINGS (9:40 p.m. Saturday; also noon Monday) "Michael Mohan's endearing buddy flick almost feels like a collaboration between Judd Apatow and Jim Jarmusch, blending the former's mastery of slacker silliness and the latter's offbeat, understated mood and sumptuous black-and-white cinematography. But Mohan's film is less arty and obtuse than Jarmusch's work, and his leads, Fischer (Stephen Hale) and Peter (Anthony Deptula), experience relationships that ring truer and consequences that seem more real than in a typical Apatow creation. ... Jonathan Shockley — better known to Middle Tennesseans as Dunlap from the web comedy series Red State Update — is terrific as a dorky-cool church pastor." (Jack Silverman)
LOURDES (3 p.m. Sunday; also noon Tuesday) "Devotion and humor rarely mix well, but Austrian director Jessica Hausner's wryly observed religious drama manages to examine issues of faith with a welcome wit. ... Hausner's lead character bears an odd resemblance to [Jacques] Tati's creation Monsieur Hulot: a paraplegic woman (the superb Sylvie Testud) searching for a miracle at the fountain of Lourdes. Lourdes draws both on Tati's sense of humor and ability to lose himself in a crowded frame; nevertheless, it offers a serious exploration of the possibility of miracles." (Steve Erickson)
AJAMI (6:30 p.m. Monday) "In this expertly paced Oscar-nominated crime drama, the lives of Muslims, Jews, and Christians collide in the melting-pot Ajami neighborhood of Jaffa, Israel. Good people find themselves forced into crime, including an Arab Israeli teen who must pay off a 'peace' debt to a Bedouin crime family and a Palestinian boy working in Israel illegally to fund his mother's costly operation." (Tony Youngblood)
NO CROSSOVER: THE TRIAL OF ALLEN IVERSON (6:45 p.m. Monday) "Long derided as a showboat and troublemaker on and off the court, NBA fireball Iverson has been hounded most of his career by his bad reputation. But in this thoughtful and even-handed ESPN documentary, the gifted Steve James (Hoop Dreams) suggests that Iverson may have gotten a raw deal — especially in the 1993 bowling-alley brawl that got him a sentence beyond all comprehension." (Ridley)
THE COLONEL'S BRIDE (9 p.m. Monday; also 5:10 p.m. Wednesday) "Beautifully shot and scored, The Colonel's Bride is local writer-director Brent Stewart's heartrending depiction of an austere, aging Vietnam veteran and his twilight marriage to a mail-order bride. ... Thanks to a scant 70-minute runtime, sparse but poignant dialogue and a striking performance from Nashville native James DeForest Parker, The Colonel's Bride treads the oft-trespassed grounds of minimalist drama without ever feeling affected or cliché." (D. Patrick Rodgers)
DOGTOOTH (5:30 p.m. Wednesday; also 12:15 p.m. Thursday) M. Night Shyamalan's The Village as reimagined by Luis Buñuel — the analogy's not perfect, but it may convey some of the bleakly funny surprises awaiting you at this jarring, captivatingly enigmatic (and near-hardcore) film by Greek director Giorgos Lanthimos, a major freaky talent. ... Every viewer will have his/her own suspicion of what's going on, and what it all means: I can't wait to hear the lobby conversations afterward. Of the movie's most astonishing sequence, though, I'll say only this: what a feeling." (Ridley)
FOR THE SAKE OF THE SONG: THE STORY OF ANDERSON FAIR (7:15 p.m. Wednesday; also 2:15 p.m. Thursday) "Featuring interviews and performances from Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen Jr., Guy Clark, late greats such as Townes Van Zandt and Dave Van Ronk, and countless more, For the Sake of the Song tells how community and a common passion for the intimacy of the Texas songsters' genre have kept [the Houston folk club] Anderson Fair alive, birthing legends and churning out stories both triumphant and tragic. The film is as much about the history of the art as it is about the art itself, and it's told with a palpable air of respect and awe." (Rodgers)
FREEDOM RIDERS (7:30 p.m. Wednesday; also noon Thursday) "Watching Stanley Nelson's documentary, about as essential as viewing gets, audience members born after 1980 may not know which to find more astounding: the casual institutional acceptance of racism just five short decades ago, or the courage of the black and white Americans who stood together to defy it. Nelson here marshals numerous interviews (including John Lewis, Diane Nash and John Seigenthaler), copious archival footage and telling artifacts of period pop culture to show exactly what was at stake when some 400 volunteers fought segregation aboard the South's public transportation lines — the buses that made American mobility both symbolic and literal." (Ridley)
CYRUS (7 p.m. Thursday) "John (C. Reilly) makes a last-ditch bid for companionship by going to a party. Much to his drunken disbelief, Molly (Marisa Tomei, still effortlessly embracing her mid-career hotness) actually shows an interest in him and goes home with him. When she attempts a stealth morning getaway, confounded John finds that the reason is her grown son Cyrus (Jonah Hill), with whom she still shares her home as well as an off-puttingly close relationship. ... With this broadly entertaining cringe comedy, brothers Jay and Mark Duplass emerge from the mid-Aughts' pack of lo-fi South-by-North Brooklyn filmmakers with a higher pedigree cast and an elevated grasp on their art." (Toby Leonard)