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cowboys & samurais

By 12:52 PM ,

I've magnificently skipped a month of blog posts.

This is the longest lapse I've had since starting this blog. I won't explain why now, because I have to squeeze in one May day post to get back on the saddle. This metaphor is especially apropos today, as I started the day with a terrific film about the original horse whisperer, Buck Brannaman; he teaches folks how to saddle a horse and then get on that saddle – and the lessons he teaches reach far beyond horse-handling & ranches.

Buck was this year's Sundance Audience Award Winner. After seeing it, I have to unequivocally agree with the Utah attendees. Ironically, it's not even part of the SFIFF, but rather a surprise screening sprung onto Film Society members at the last minute; only die-hard members got up early on a gorgeous Sunday morning to slip into a dark theater without knowing what they're seeing. Nope, they wouldn't tell us the title of the film until the lights went down – but as the world knows, San Francisco specializes in die-hard members of all kinds.

I've buried myself in movies for the past 11 days. I tried to pace myself, because I realized many film fests ago that I can only enjoy one screening/day, especially in San Francisco, since this is where I live and work. It's stressful running around town. And a film fest is unlike going to a regular film, since you have to line up way early (up to an hour in advance) and stay for Q&A's, that is, if you're interested and still awake. So a 100 minute film could eat up four hours of your time. But every now and then I end up with two, or if I'm really masochistic, three films. Like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet, it seems like a good idea at the time, but you end up regretting it.

If the films are good, I don't have enough time to revel in the afterglow before the next one comes along to overwrite it. And if the films suck, it's like being spit in the face over and over again. Either way, I emerge from the theater feeling like a disoriented mole-rat at the end of it all.

So today was potentially that double-feature day. Luckily, my second screening, 13 Assassins, was at the end of the day. I had a full day to soak in the first film, which was extraordinary. And Meg and I took our time to come down from the high together with a nice long lunch out in daylight with the rest of the world.

I came close to skipping Buck, because I was taking a chance by lining up for a "surprise" film on a Sunday morning. But thank god Meg is more committed than I am in her film-viewing. And I almost missed 13 Assassins, because I mistook the start time by an hour and I hadn't even left the house as people were being seated.

Daniel texts me: We're in line.
K: U hella early. I'm leaving home now.
D: Giddy up KT, the line's moving.
(I check my watch, oh sheet.)
K: I fucked up, I thought it was at 9:30.

But it was at 8:30 and it was 8:30 right then. I still had to get to the theater, park, get my tickets and find them.

He told me it was a packed house and there was no parking, so to park anywhere, even if it's 5 blocks away. I almost turned around. I was happy having seen Buck. I didn't need another movie today. But I remembered my horoscope. It said "there's a good chance that you'll be juggling more than one event on Sunday...". Oh, astrology is such a crock.

I somehow found a spot, ran so fast that my pants were dangerously slipping off my body, while texting and demanding my tickets at will call, I dashed up the stairs and into the theater, right as the lights were going down. Daniel saved me a seat, but I couldn't spot him in a packed house, nor could I keep texting him, so that's how I ended up in back row, Siberia. But sat down in time and didn't miss a frame.

You don't want to be a shadowy figure stumbling around aimlessly and texting in the dark at the Castro. The audience is full of hardcore bitches. That's the only theater where I still hear people hissing when they don't like someone on screen. A few latecomers were getting skewered by hecklers.

"Boy that sure is a nice glow from your smartphone!"

"Find a seat. Sit down!"

Adrenaline pumping, I say, and the movie hadn't even begun.

For 13 Assassins, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. It was a classic genre film with a few modern nods, but I also had to sit forward largely due to my seat being in the nose-bleed section of the Castro, or specifically, the very last row in the balcony where the film cans are stored. I couldn't have been any closer to the projection booth; I could hear the flick flick flick of the film tail hitting the projector in the booth as it was nearing the end of each reel. Anyway, I didn't care, because I love chambara films, always have; it's a good thing that I didn't need the subtitles 'cause I couldn't see a goddamn word.

This was a crowd-pleasing samurai film. Much in the vein of a good shoot'em-up Western. This slice'em, dice'em, cut'emup bloodbath of a genre film actually paired rather well with the quiet documentary about a lone cowboy, kinda like Johnny Cash singing Nine Inch Nails' Hurt.

But even after 12 hours and a balls to the walls chambara film later, I still can't seem to extricate myself from Buck's world. I'm in awe of his story. Buck was the most moving film I've seen during this year's festival; this is a testament to its strength for outliving a hyper graphic film with a 45 minute long showdown.

"You can't live in two places at one time." he says. He had to leave the past behind in order to become the man he was supposed to be. It may be a while before I can digest all the wisdom imparted by Buck. You just have to experience the film and you'll be a fan, no doubt; I was taken with him in the first 30 seconds of the film.

I know I'll cheapen it if I attempt to describe any more of it, so I won't.

As I was driving myself home after 13 Assassins, I learned that US forces had successfully located and killed Osama Bin Laden.

To step out of a theater where we watched and cheered a group of men assassinate a sadistic tono and be faced with the news that people are watching and cheering a successful assassination that took place the same night (an hour or two) across our nation and around the world was beyond meta.

I doubted my eyes and ears even after sitting through Obama's speech three times.

Life and art are always parroting each other, because they're two sides of the same coin. But I'm becoming increasingly concerned that I'm more likely to buy what's being served to me in a theater over what's being broadcasted as news. They're both scripted, fashioned and edited to convey a point of view, but out in the real world, I'm more like a Castro audience, hissing and jeering at the screen and telling people to sit down.

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  1. Surprisingly (or naturally), you're the pretty observing film critic. Glad you are back to your own blog.

    Looking forward seeing your future writing. Pa

  2. I think you'll really love Buck.