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As IndieFest proves, making movies is a bitch

Wednesday, Feb 4 2004
As long as there are independent film festivals, there will be independent films about how goddamn hard it is to make it in the film business. Our sixth IndieFest opens accordingly with Break a Leg, whose title isn't the cleverest double-entendre, but is a perfectly aimed one. It's what actors tell each other instead of "good luck," because saying "good luck" supposedly brings bad luck. It's also what struggling actor Max Matteo (John Cassini) does to get a leg up, as it were, on the competition. In true indie tradition, Cassini co-wrote the script, in part to show some chops and in part to give Hollywood the finger.

Another convention-shrugger-offer, Andrew Bujalski's Funny Ha Ha, was made a couple of years ago and has since earned much praise, but no distributor -- which gives it indie cred. The movie also has no production values, no professional actors, and just about no story. It does, however, have a real sense of lived life, and solace to offer if you feel you didn't accomplish much when you were 23.

In Smog and Thunder, about a civil war between Los Angeles and San Francisco, links two great, if easy, targets: the bitchy provincialism of California's urban foci and the buttoned-up pomp of a Ken Burns documentary. Sean Meredith's spoof succeeds for enjoyment alone, never mind the meaty, spicy details it rolls up in "the giant burrito of history."

With Revenger's Tragedy, Alex Cox -- the genre-bending genius behind Repo Man and Sid & Nancy -- transfers Thomas Middleton's play of the same title to a post-apocalyptic Liverpool. The tale is a cousin to Hamlet, and is itself an apocalypse, strangely suited to Cox's neo-punk anarchism.

The list, self-conscious and subversive, goes on. Whatever your luck, these filmmakers seem to say, making movies is a bitch; it's best to make them your own.

About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.


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