| October is the time when the leaves
change color to indicate the arrival of the colorful autumn
season in most parts of the world, except few places like
the Bay Area—there is no changing color in leaves here
in October. Instead, October is when the
Valley Film Festival (MVFF) takes place, to indicate the
beginning of a different season—Oscar campaign.
Last year MVFF's opening night film "The
King's Speech" won the
Oscar, didn't it? Will the history repeat this year? We
shall see. However, one thing seems to be certain is that
multiple films in
year's program will be serious Oscar contenders.
Mill Valley Film Festival opens on
October 6 with a period drama "Albert
Nobbs" (Ireland 2011 | 113 min.) and a goofball
comedy "Jeff Who Lives at
Home" (USA 2011 | 84 min.).
Set in the mid-19th-century, in "Albert
Nobbs," Glenn Close
plays a English woman who poses as a man in order to work as a
butler in a hotel. We already hear plenty Oscar buzz for her
performance in this title role. The question is which
category Glenn Close
might be nominated: best actor or best actress?
fans will enjoy his title role as a 30-something
pot-smoking "Jeff Who Lives
at Home." It is an over-the-top comedy that touches
your soft spots if you do not guard them carefully.
On Oct 16, the festival closes with a delightful silent
Artist" (France 2011 | 100 min.). Its story
timelessly resonates the entertainment industry's never
changing harsh reality faced by generations of struggling
In between, the festival pays tributes
Yeoh, and Gaston
Kaboré, and shines spotlight
Miller and Elizabeth
Olsen. The festival also presents a centerpiece
Week with Marilyn" (UK 2011 | 100 min.).
Surprisingly, films from Japan and South Korean are
noticeably absent from this year's program, except one
of the River" (川の光 | Japan
2009 | in Japanese | 75 min.) in MVFF34
However, the festival goers will be
delighted to see two terrific films from
(赵氏孤儿 | China 2010 | in Chinese
| 124 min.) and "The Butcher's
| China 2010 | in Chinese | 119 min.). Both films tell
tragic stories, only thousands of years apart.
(赵氏孤儿 | China 2010
| in Chinese | 124 min.)
Renowned Chinese director Chen
Kaige (陈凯歌) is well known
for his masterpiece "Farewell
(霸王别姬 | China 1993),
that tells a heartbreaking story. In his
another grand tragedy, he transforms a classic in
Chinese literature into cinema.
You (葛优), the most prolific actor
in China today, plays a physician Cheng Ying about
2500 years ago in State
of Jin (晋国). During a rival
cleansing, the entire family of Zhao is wiped out,
except one infant, who is saved by Cheng Ying with
his own son. (The direct translation of the film's
Chinese title would be "The Last Orphan of Zhao.")
Buried the devastation and hatred deep inside,
Cheng Ying patiently waits and plans his vengeance.
The stunning visual, the gripping storytelling,
and the superb performance make this
beautiful film unforgettable.
Ideal | China 2010 | in Chinese | 119
In the booming economy of modern China, not everyone
is finding a seat on a high-speed train heading to the
prosperity and a better future. Many are left behind,
but they are not giving up hopes. They are still
desperately chasing their dreams. They want to catch
the last train fading away from their sight.
Based on a novel by Wang Xuemei
(王雪梅), director Gao Xiongjie
(高雄杰) tells a poignant tale in
Butcher's Wife." His film's
protagonists, a tenderhearted butcher in a
rule village in
Province Wang Liang (Fang
Ye) and his younger wife Li Qiao
Huihua), are among those who miss the train.
Despite repeated failures in the national college
entrance exam, Li Qiao continues to try because she
believes that attending a college is the only way
for her to get out the village, to start a new life,
and to reunite with her old boyfriend who attends a
college. She marries Wang Liang is purely for the
economical reason and finds excuses not to sleep
with him. Meanwhile, Wang Liang accommodates Li
Qiao's demand to leave her alone until she
finishes the exam, hoping that one day he will be
able to start a normal family life with Li Qiao.
When things are not happening according to plans,
and seeing their dreams are vanishing, both Li Qiao
and Wang Liang become desperate to hold on to their
Unfortunately, there are too many Wang Liang and Li
Qiao in today's China. They are not willing to
settle with what is laid out in front of
them. However, sometimes the price is too high to
pay for pursing that dream. Gao Xiongjie's film
takes a focus on this often invisible group of
people. Let's hope eventually there will be another
train coming to pick them up.
The 34th Mill
Valley Film Festival takes place at CinéArts@Sequoia
Throckmorton Theatre in Mill
Valley and Christopher
B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San
Rafael, just across the elegant Golden
Gate Bridge from San Francisco, October 6-16, 2011.