Friday, October 12, 2007

Fantastic Fest - Nacho Vigalondo and TIMECRIMES

Every film festival has a breakout hit (or at least thinks they do), a little unheralded film that take everyone by surprise to become the hit of the fest and for this year's Fantastic Fest it was Nacho Viglalondo's TIMECRIMES, which was celebrating its world premiere here prior to its much bigger unveiling at this year's Sitges Film Festival in its home country of Spain. This was another title that Tim League had tipped me off to previously, but I wasn't really listening hard enough because I passed up my first opportunity to see it on opening night in order to see FINISHING THE GAME (which I enjoyed) instead. Once it was all said and done, the buzz kept flowing and TIMECRIMES' second screening the following Tuesday was becoming one of Fantastic Fest's hottest tickets. More than that, Nacho (a 2004 Academy Award nominee for his short film 7:35 IN THE MORNING) was in attendance and proving himself to be one of the festival's best guests, too; a funny and charming guy who obviously didn't take himself too seriously and was as much a fan as anyone else there. Then there was his killer karaoke rendition of "I'm Too Sexy", but let's talk about the movie first.

What's interesting about TIMECRIMES is also what keeps me from going gaga over it like a lot of others have. With a title like that, you've got to guess that TIMECRIMES is about time travel, and you would be right, bucko. Like a lot of people, I'm a bit of a sucker for time travel stories, as they're a great way to combine sci-fi/fantasy with human drama, since that whole "what if?" aspect to it is undeniably intriguing to most everyone. What if you could go back in time and kill Hitler, or what if you could go ahead it time and see the future, all that kind of stuff is usually a great hook for an audience and most time travel stories are like that, attempts at tackling the big questions with big spectacle. Even some of the smaller, more intimate time travel stories, like BACK TO THE FUTURE, have that human interest part down pat. What makes TIMECRIMES different is that it doesn't play into that, as it's the story of an accidental time traveler that doesn't go too far into either the past or the future. It isn't about the fate of the world or changing history, it's about one man who makes some mistakes he needs to rectify and finds things getting more and more difficult. I'm not going to give you any more than that, since it's best to walk into the film without much of an idea of what to expect, but no one steps on a butterfly during the prehistoric era, you dig?

So while it's an intriguing hook, I also found it to be problematic because it seemed to me like there wasn't all that much at stake with this little time travel adventure. Certainly, Vigalondo piles on a lot of obstacles in the way and the film doesn't exactly end with everything wrapped up in a tight little bow, but I wasn't sure I was able to identify with one guy's time travel problems. He certainly goes through a lot and much of it is dramatic in nature, but I wasn't super intrigued by all of it. I'm thinking one of the things that's holding me back is a lack of identification with the lead character, who's played very well by Karra Elejalde; I applaud Vigalondo for casting a regular Jose like Elejalde, but I never felt like I knew the guy well enough to care all that much about the corner he was being painted into. Relate, sure, because no one would like to end up in a fucked-up time travel situation like this guy is, but I wasn't quite as sucked in by it all as I feel I should have. Probably says more about me than it does the movie or Nacho's abilities as a filmmaker, but I just felt that there should have been something more (too many notes...). TIMECRIMES is a clever mousetrap, no question, a well-made and intelligent little movie that at least doesn't insult the audience with any kind of stupidity, but I feel like something's off. Doesn't mean I didn't like the movie, because I most certainly did, but it wasn't the best film of the fest for me. But Nacho Vigalondo, the human being, I love dearly.

Throughout the fest I kept seeing Nacho and his girlfriend/producer, the oh-so-lovely Nahikari IpiƱa, and would say hello and make small chit-chat, but after Monday night's now-famous Fantastic Feud trivia competition (won by some pathetic loser) and karaoke event, Nacho proved himself to be quite the boon to humanity. He was one of the very first to rock the mic, stunning the crowd with his Spanish-accented version of Right Said Fred's ode to self-appreciation, "I'm Too Sexy" ("I'm too sexy for my hhhhcat/Too sexy from my hhhhcat/What you think about thhhhcat?"), followed by his now-legendary "Swastika Dance", he was the hit of the after-show and the man everyone wanted to duet with. It was an insane session of karaoke and drinking and to say it was the true hit of the fest is the understatement that turns all other understatements lame. The following day, I began to see Nacho as the man who made Fantastic Fest 2007, and a mutual appreciation society briefly grew, briefly only because he was leaving the following day. Although I'm missing Sitges right now (it ends on Sunday), I'm hoping to see him again on these shores at another fest, be it AFM, Philly, Fantasia or someplace else soon. Fantastic Fest may have discovered TIMECRIMES, but more importantly it was Nacho Vigalondo who was also discovered here and I'm hoping he lives up to the talent he's displayed thus far.

(Nacho and Tim League)

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