Film: 2012 American Film Institute Film Festival

by H. Clent Bowers

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Written by H. Clent Bowers for THE ARTISTS FORUM MAGAZINE
Edited by
Courtesy of the films: Electrick Children, Starlet, Cafe de Flore, and Sun Don’t Shine

4 out of 5 stars


LOS ANGELES (November 9, 2012) The American Film Institute Film Festival (AFI Fest) presented by Audi was held November 1-8 in Los Angels, California. Established in 1971, The AFI Fest is LA’s longest running international film festival. Below is are but a few reviews of films I think you will enjoy.

From left to right: Starlet, Besedka Johnson, and Dree Hemingway in “Starlet”

5 out of 5 stars
Director: Sean Baker
Writers: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
Stars: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, and James Ransone

This beautiful story is ultimately about survival and companionship. Jane (Dree Hemingway), a quirky beautiful free spirit, and her dog named Starlet (real name), work to make it in Hollywood. Jane wants to become a star. She meets an older woman named Sadie (Besedka Johnson), a classic beauty, who lives alone in her home, tending her flower garden and trying to hold on to life’s memories. Jane, working as a porn star for the moment, loves to go to yard sales in her spare time, and lives with a young couple who are also in the porn industry.

Sadie meets Jane and her dog Starlet when they come to Sadie’s yard sale. Jane purchases an old thermos. When Jane gets home and cleans out her latest find she sees Sadie has forgotten something valuable inside — a large sum of money. Jane returns to tell Sadie but doesn’t as Sadie insist that nothing bought is returnable. Jane allows that to be a good reason not to disclose the money. She then proceeds, for whatever reason, to befriend Sadie and help out where she can. She helps her shop for groceries. She visits to keep her company. She goes to the bingo center and plays along side of her. The story develops and as we expect nothing hidden stays in the dark forever and the missing money is disclosed. Then something amazing happens in the last few minutes of the movie. There is hardly any dialogue and yet here the most important communication about humanity is revealed.

Starlet is a delightful story. It is sure to bring a tear or two to the eye. I must warn you that this film is, for several brief moments, raw and xx rated. Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch have done an exemplary job with the writing, directing, and casting of this movie. Dree Hemingway and Besedka Johnson have wonderful chemistry on screen and off. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with the five, including Starlet herself. Dree spoke of how Sean trusted them to explore and find special moments like the scene I mentioned at the end. She drew from her high school girlfriend experiences to develop her character. Although she didn’t really do the sex scenes, the film is so well edited that people from the porn industry tell her how well she did.

Sean’s favorite scene is when Jane and Sadie are having coffee and two gentlemen admirers pass by, recognize, and nod to Jane. Afterward, when the two women’s eyes meet again, Sadie gives Jane a look that only a mother would give and Jane laughs uncomfortably. To that note, Dree wanted to show the normal life styles of these girls. She wanted the public to see that pornography is their work and not their definition. The extraordinary Besedka didn’t talk much, but agreed to many of the statements. She has the ability, as do most seniors who have had informative and rich lives, to speak volumes without saying a word. Her work in the film is clear as glass, and she has never taken an acting lesson!

From a bric-a-brac story about two people who meet at a yard sale mixed with their experience working around MTV, sketch comedy, and porn actors, our creators got the idea to mix these elements in the telling of this delightful story. Sean didn’t want to show the darker side of being in the porn industry, but more about the relationship that comes about with the meeting of the two ladies. Not unlike Sweet Charity and Oscar, this is a cathartic experience between two people who will forever be of great assistance to each other. Beautiful.

Scene from Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Cafe De Flore”

CAFE DE FLORE (Canada/France 2010)

5 out of 5 stars

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Writer: Jean-Marc Vallée
Stars: Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent and Hélène Florent

One of the best foreign films of the year, Cafe De Flore does what Cloud Atlas failed to do in comparison. Cafe De Flore, from the moment it begins begs questions of you. It is beautifully written, directed, with great cinematography, and a handsome, incredible cast all of whom turn in first rate performances; especially the children… amazing. We begin with a loving couple who have a child with Down’s Syndrome. Apparently this is too much for the husband, who is half his wife’s age.

The couple, now separated, is headed for divorce. His wife, Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis), is still so hopelessly in love with her husband that she can not let him go. The Husband, Antoine (Kevin Parent), still loves his wife but has fallen in love with a woman closer to his age. Good so far? Well it gets better.

Antoine is a hard working artist who travels much of the time. He has headaches and crazy dreams while on the road. We wonder what is it that makes him so restless. Is it the child, the age difference, or the guilt of having another woman?

I will not say more as to not spoil your experiencing the film. Cafe De Flore is a wonderful suspense drama with lots of heady action. So intense at times you may get over anxious for the climax. Hang in there — the finish is worth the wait. If you like wonderful twists of mystery and a good story with lots of little clues along the way, run, don’t walk and enjoy this gem.

From left to right: Julia Garner, Rory Culkin, Liam Aiken, and Lenny DePaul in “Electrick Children”


3.5 out of 5 stars

Director: Rebecca Thomas
Writer: Rebecca Thomas
Stars: Julia Garner, Rory Culkin and Liam Aiken

The film Electrick Children is about a young 15 year old Mormon girl named Rachel (Julia Garner), who believes she got pregnant by listening to the music on a tape recorder in the basement of her family home with another young friend, 15 year old Mr. Will (Liam Aiken). She believes she conceived from the man’s voice singing a rock song on the tape recorder. She wonders if she had immaculate conception. When she tells her father she is with child by the tape recorder, he immediately calls her a liar and a disobedient child.

Her young friend, Mr. Will, is to be outcast from the Mormon community. Rachel is then promised marriage to a young man of a fine family and good standing in the congregation. Angry, frightened, and confused, the strong willed Rachel, with her mothers help, takes off in the middle of the night in the family truck with Mr. Will tagging along for the ride. They travel to Las Vegas where she hopes to find the man singing on the tape recorder. She meets a rock group on the Vegas strip. One of it’s members, Clyde, played masterfully by Rory Culkin, is also a runaway. Clyde immediately falls in like with strange pregnant Rachel. Rachel makes the world answer her questions. Lead by her pure faith and drive, Rachel eventually meets the man on the recorder and finds answers she never imagined. Through her need to understand, Rachel’s eyes are now wise and open and she knows what she must do.

Kate Lyn Sheil and Kentucker Audley in “Sun Don’t Shine”


3.5 out of 5 stars

Director: Amy Seimetz
Writer: Amy Seimetz
Stars: Kate Lyn Sheil, AJ Bowen, and Kentucker Audley

OKay. The director would like folks who have seen this film to keep “the secret” so that the audience can have the experience or discovery. I agree however, after five minutes into the film anyone can see that this young ladies elevator doesn’t go anywhere near the top floor. Nope. It lingers somewhere between her “grass roots” and her flirty childlike eyelids.. but top floor? Nope! Hitchcock-ian by nature, Sun Don’t Shine has an eerie nostalgic style thanks to director of photography. I have always said that horror movies can never come close to the horror that lives in some of us human beings. You will be shocked, frightened, and strangely hopeful for this couple.

Like Blanche in Tennessee William’s Street Car named Desire, we want to understand how this young spirit has been fractured. As we watch the couple taking this road trip through the roads of rural Florida we see right away that these two young adults are deluded. They live in a confused state of an assumed right of privilege and when they do not get what they want… they react most often irrationally. In this case, however It seems that someone has gone greatly beyond the limits to push this child-like woman over the edge. While her companion, the young man, is simply a victim of youth and his heart. Sun Don’t Shine is hard, cruel, and scary good.

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