The Village Barbershop, Autism: The Musical, Mardik, and Mars & Venus

From the festival write-up, I expected The Village Barbershop to be more about a clash of the sexes, but it was more of a slice of life drama/comedy about people who have lost someone and are struggling to move on in their lives.

John Ratzenberger plays Art, who along with Enzo ran The Village Barbershop, a two chair, no women barbershop in the Reno area. As the film opens, Enzo has just died, and Art is trying to figure out how to get things to keep going on in the same routine as they did before.

We also meet Gloria, a young woman living in an Airstream trailer with a mostly-absent truck-driver boyfriend. She’s just learned that she’s pregnant.

It’s a good movie,and the main characters are well performed. I’ll also put in a good word for George McRae, who plays Art’s friend and reluctant customer, both because he was an interesting character and because he’s a friend of a friend. Some of the other minor characters, such as the landlord, seemed less real and even slightly cartoon-like, but generally not too distracting.

Chris Ford (the director), Shelly Cole (Gloria), Ian Montgomery (the editor), and Jason Newmark (a producer) were at the screening to answer questions. There may be minor spoilers in here:

  • It was mostly filmed in Napa since most of the actors were from San Francisco, but they did shoot 4 or 5 days in Reno
  • The barbershop at the end is the original, where the director got his hair cut as a kid
  • They shot for a total of 19 days
  • The director’s grandfather and some other male relative (I missed who) both more or less died on the couch alone, so he wanted a to imagine a different ending for them
  • The director and editor had done some advertisements together before, but nothing else
  • They took over a year, though not full time, to edit the film on a laptop, with Final Cut Pro (which the editor doesn’t like)
  • The film was shot on HD
  • This is Shelly’s third film, and she started on “Gilmore Girls
  • They are hoping it gets picked up, but have no clear plan
  • It was financed with friends and family, and in a clear sign of being new at this, they revealed an approximate budget ($300,000 as I recall)
  • This is the second screening of three at Cinequest, the first of which was the world premiere

I’ll give it a strong 3 stars out of 4 stars.

Autism: The Musical is kind of what you would expect, since it’s a heartwarming documentary about children with autism exceeding what is expected of them. While I did learn more about what these children are like, the bigger revelation was the parents. The love and devotion on the part of most of them is amazing, and the strain that their relationships are put under is even more so. Infidelity and divorces were not uncommon for them, even during the relatively short period that the documentary was being filmed.

This film is expected to show on HBO relatively soon from what I hear, so watch for it there. I’ll give it 3 stars out of 4 stars.

Mardik: From Baghdad to Hollywood is a documentary about screenwriter Mardik Martin, who is an Armenian who grew up in Baghdad. He loved movies, so when he had a chance to switch from the business school to the film school at NYU, he took it. He connected with Martin Scorsese early on, and wrote or co-wrote several of his movies, including Mean Streets and Raging Bull.

The film includes many talks with Mardik in locations on both coasts. It’s clear that it was filmed over a long period, since there were New York shots that include the World Trade Center. Scorsese and other people you’ve probably heard of also appear in the film talking about working with or learning from Mardik.

The film appears to have been shot on standard definition video, and it includes some simple cartoons, especially to depict Mardik’s early years. It’s pretty interesting, primarily on the strength of Mardik’s stories.

I’ll give it a lower 3 stars out of 4 stars.

The conceit of Mars & Venus is that the main couple’s 5 year-old son picked up a copy of the book “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” and is reading it. We hear excerpts from it occasionally as the movie progresses. The Man and Woman in question are Mathias and Ida (the latter played by Pia Tjelta from Buddy), who appear to be happily married as this Norwegian film opens. But some problems, like Mathias not finishing household projects and Ida not appreciating how he picks up the parenting slack when she’s working longer hours, start to dominate and get between them, and their Mars/Venus translation skills are not as good as they could be.

When the film ended I thought it was good but not quite as good as I hoped. The production values were very good, and the acting was fine but nothing special. But over the next day I thought of it a few times, and it raised a little in my estimation, so I would definitely highly recommend it.

This was the North American premiere, and I’ll give it a lower 3.5 stars out of 4 stars.

All seen 3/2/2008 at Cinequest.

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