SFIFF ’08: Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts and Medicine for Melancholy

To round out my San Francisco International Film Festival 2008 coverage, I have a couple more movies I saw in the last days

Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts (which I somehow missed in my music-related film overview, but I caught on thanks to the Deli SF) is obviously a film about modern composer Philip Glass.

I’d heard a reasonable amount of Glass’ stuff. I was always sort of more of a Reich person, at least among minimalist or repetitive phrasing composers, so I thought I might not like the film because I wasn’t a big fan of his music. As it turns out, that was turned out to be wrong.

It’s a very well put together film in 12 parts, each acting as somewhat of a vignette about a specific event or topic, but there are characters and themes that carry through many of them giving it an overall story arc instead of entirely an episodic feel.

Glass came across very interestingly. He appears down to earth and straight forward except he thinks and speaks on an entirely different level than everyone else. The editing is really fantastic. At times it appears they left in mistakes or things other directors would have cut, but these extra bits reveal Glass’ and other people in his life’s humanity.

Despite expecting that the film may not be for me, I found it interesting and compelling, even at it’s 125 minute length.

If you aren’t able to catch the film and want to know more about Glass, I recommend checking out this great feature in the Guardian from a few years ago.

Medicine for Melancholy starts out with a familiar plot: ill-thought-out one-night-stand threatens to turn into something more. That’s what you have on the surface. Below that there is a lot of racial tension and discussion between the two African-American-but-that’s-all-that’s-similar leads. One sees her race as one part of their life and the other sees it as the primary part. I liked the movie a lot, in the end. It was endearing and engrossing. There was a nice balance between the two sides of this film: the discussion of race and the romance.

Medicine was filmed in and around San Francisco in a style that was one of desaturated color–sort of like halfway between color and black and white. It was a cool style and seeing recognizable landmarks from your town gave the audience a further connection to the characters. On the #38 bus the other day, I realized I was passing one of the main characters’ apartment, which was across the street from the Angel Deli and Cafe on Geary.

The movie isn’t about music, really, but it does have a great soundtrack. The use of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s “New Years Kiss” in the moments after the initial post-one-night rejection is just perfect. Further along in the movie, there’s a wonderful moments with Octopus Project, Oh No! Oh My! and other indie favs.

The other somewhat-music-related point of the movie is the brief discussion of race in the indie scene, about how, essentially, indie music is primarily a white pursuit. I think there could be further discussion on this topic.

Though they’re entirely different, I’d recommend both of these films.

Other SFIFF ’08 coverage:

See you next year, SFIFF!

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