Restores vision to those blinded by summer cinema doldrums
By Scott Marks | SDUN Film Critic
Just in time to restore vision to those blinded by the summer cinema doldrums, the San Diego Latino Film Festival’s annual “Cinema en tu Idioma” series showcases new Latin American, Mexican, and Spanish Cinema.
From the people who two summers ago brought us “Tony Manero,” one of the darkest and most pleasingly disturbing self-reflexive cinema-politco black comedies it’s ever been my pleasure to experience, comes another crop of films not likely to pass this way (at least on the big screen) again.
Designed with an eye toward smaller films from the festival circuit, and a something-to-please-everyone attitude (after all, it is summer), “Cinema en tu Idioma XII” is poised to once again transform the UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas at Hazard Center into a week-long mini-film festival. The series runs from Aug. 5 – 11, with additional monthly screenings through November.
The series title, which literally translates into “film in your language,” was originally intended as a spoof on Landmark Theatres’ old “the language of cinema” ad campaign.
The August offerings include a romcom starring Eva Longoria and Christian Slater (“Without Men”), a teen coming-of-ager (“All She Can”), Bigas Lunas’ tale of an aspiring Hollywood star (“Di Di Hollywood”), a hard R-rated cop melodrama (“Blue Eyes”), a drama centered around four men who meet up at a fleabag Hollywood hotel (“When the Road Meets the Sun”), and a father/son relationship ripped apart by the murder of the child’s mother (“Forged”).
Without having seen all this year’s entries, there’s half a movie and one of this year’s most complex characterizations to be found in “Blue Eyes.” The darkest, far-reaching, and easily most personal performance you are likely to see at this year’s Latino Film Festival series comes courtesy of a 66-year-old white guy from St. Louis.
Even where I come from (and in spite of his accomplishments) David Rasche is far from a household
name. The character actor assumed John Belushi’s spot at Chicago’s Second City when the comedian headed east to join the cast of SNL. In 1974, Rasche was one of the co-founders of the world-renowned Victory Gardens Theatre, now located in the equally illustrious Biograph Theatre, the backdrop for John Dilinger’s last picture show.
One glance at his face, and it’s a cinch that several of his multitudinous television and movie characters
will immediately spring to mind. In my case, it’s Robert Wellesly, Libby Wolfson’s political nemesis in the “Melonvote” episode of SCTV. He made his film debut in “An Unmarried Woman” (1978), and one year later Woody Allen threw him a line of dialog in “Manhattan.” Rasche is probably best known to the general population as the star of TV’s “Sledge Hammer!”
This is beginning to sound like an obituary, not a celebration of Rasche’s “breakout” performance in “Blue Eyes.” Why spend so much time on some obscure bit player instead of pulling out the scalpel and performing my usual cinelostomy? Because I love it when dependable performers are allowed a chance to burrow
out from beneath shadowy background roles to savor, if only for a moment, the glow of leading man or lady status. (The same goes for Brendan Gleeson who gives the best performance of the year in “The Guard,” also opening today.)
After years of playing politicians, lawyers, lawmen, double-agents, and priests, the time was right for Rasche to distill these characters’ worst qualities into Marshall, the racist Chief Immigration Officer at JFK Airport. It’s Marshall’s last day on the job and the thought of mandatory retirement has left him a bitter, broken alcoholic.
He decides to spend his closing hours harassing one final group of potential terrorists (and other assorted persons of foreign origin) trying to gain access to American soil. His loyal underlings, Officers Evans (Erica Gimpel) and Estevez (Frank Grillo) reluctantly agree to start the day toasting Marshall’s sendoff with a shot of Jack.
“Blue Eyes” (“Olhos Azuis”) could just as easily have been called “Vaqueros y Extranjeros” (“Cowboys and Aliens”). After a game of pick-a-passport arbitrarily allows six displaced persons to enter the country, the remaining “five little Indians all in a row” fall subject to various games of provocation designed to pass the Chief’s time in as amusing a manner as possible. Something happens to one of the detainees that kicks into play a secondary plot involving Marshall and a young prostitute (Cristina Lago), scouring the bowels of Brazil in search of one of the victims of his ill-tempered behavior.
Left to his own devices, Racshce could act rings around his fellow castmates. Director José Joffily is not quite as lucky with the rest of his actors. Gimpel and Grillo’s simplistic characters could have been lifted from an episodic TV cop drama.
The good-cop/bad-cop scenes inside the interrogation office quickly dissolve into predictable canned theatre. Having a black and Hispanic join the white man in his persecution of minorities is forced and obvious. The flashback structure, artlessly arranged to break up the monotony, can’t help but bring moans each time Joffily cuts away from the palpable on-screen chemistry between Rasche and Lago to scenes staged in accordance with one of the actor’s inaugural productions at Victory Gardens.
Tickets for “Cinema en tu Idioma” range from $10 for the general public to $8 for students, seniors, and Media Arts Center members. Below is a complete list of titles and showtimes.
“Without Men”: Fri. 8/5 8:30 p.m., Sat. 8/6 8:30 p.m., Sun. 8/7 4:00 p.m., Mon. 8/8 4:00 p.m., Tues. 8/9 4:00 p.m., Wed. 8/10 8:30 p.m., Thurs. 8/11 8:30 p.m.
“All She Can”: Fri. 8/5 6:15 p.m., Sat. 8/6 6:15 p.m., Sun. 8/7 8:30 p.m., Mon. 8/8 8:30 p.m., Tues. 8/9 8:30 p.m., Wed. 8/10 6:15 p.m., Thurs. 8/11 6:15 p.m.
“Di Di Hollywood”: Fri. 8/5 10:45 p.m., Sat. 8/6 10:45 p.m., Sun. 8/7 6:15 p.m., Mon. 8/8 6:15 p.m., Tues. 8/9 6:15 p.m., Wed. 8/10 10:45 p.m., Thurs. 8/11 10:45 p.m.
“Blue Eyes”: Fri. 8/5 11:30 a.m., Sat. 8/6 11:30 a.m., Sun. 8/7 10:45 p.m., Mon. 8/8 10:45 p.m., Tues. 8/9 10:45 p.m., Wed. 8/10 11:30 a.m., Thurs. 8/11 11:30 a.m.
“Where the Road Meets the Sun”: Fri. 8/5 1:45 p.m., Sat. 8/6 1:45 p.m., Sun. 8/7 11:30 a.m., Mon. 8/8 11:30 a.m., Tues. 8/9 11:30 a.m., Wed. 8/10 1:45 p.m., Thurs. 8/11 1:45 p.m.
“Forged”: Fri. 8/5 4:00 p.m., Sat. 8/6 4:00 p.m., Sun. 8/7 1:45 p.m., Mon. 8/8 1:45 p.m., Tues. 8/9 1:45 p.m., Wed. 8/10 4:00 p.m., Thurs. 8/11 4:00 p.m.