By JAVIER DOSAMANTES
The Loft Film Fest is back for its 11th annual installment after a one-year hiatus, and The Loft’s patrons are not taking it for granted.
Some film festivals and cultural events blur the lines between celebrating the arts and blatant networking, but The Loft Film Fest has been a pure celebration of film.
People attending all or most films stop to have pre- and post-movie impromptu critiques among themselves, take notes during movies and cheer before every showing.
The staff — gracious and knowledgeable — have amicable conversations with regulars, and Jeff Yanc (program director), is great at presenting movies with show host swagger.
Last week, at the festival’s kickoff and Arizona premiere of “Parallel Mothers,” the crowd cheered for the festival’s return, and Yanc introduced Pedro Almodóvar’s newest film.
“The less you know about this film, the better … prepare to have an experience,” Yanc said as a closing for his monologue. And what an excellent elevator pitch for the film that was.
In “Parallel Mothers,” Almodóvar pulls off all of his signature moves, and it’s everything you expect from the auteur — the film is sensual, full of drama, colorful (figuratively and literally) and is infused with his own brand of poignant humor.
Most of his movies center around women, and the protagonist for this one is played by longtime collaborator and muse Penélope Cruz.
Cruz plays Janis, a successful photographer that meets another future single mother in the maternity ward, and it all spirals out from there.
Almodóvar and Cruz are so good at their craft and as a team that you know what will happen, how it will happen, why it will happen and when it’ll happen. But they still manage to conjure up suspense, tension, relief and gasps from the audience.
Cruz’s superb acting effortlessly carries the audience through Almodóvar’s intense story, which allows him to portray and pace his vision with deliberately restrained camerawork.
Both Cruz and Almodóvar undoubtedly will get awards recognition, but the other star of the film is behind the scenes and camera: the set decorator, Vicent Díaz.
Díaz, another recurring Almodóvar collaborator, was an ace as the set decorator. The color palettes and set designs give the film a stylish look and a tension-filled ambiance.
“Parallel Mothers” and “Holy Frit” were the two best movies of the weekend, and the latter was the surprise of the weekend.
After watching the trailer for “Holy Frit,” I was expecting it to be a comedic look at the absurdity of high-priced art in the same vein of Banksy’s 2010 documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” Instead, it felt more like the glass art version of “The Office.”
All of its characters were enchantingly absurd, clumsy and put themselves in situations way over their heads.
Justin S. Monroe, the director, deserves praise for identifying the sitcom-y relationship between the two main characters — renowned glass artist Narcissus Quagliata and the talented young wisecrack Tim Carey.
Another great move by Monroe was making their relationship the main subject of the film, rather than the actual creation of one of the largest stained-glass windows in the world.
Their noble, yet selfish, journey to create it and the evolving dynamics between the two, provided the audience with plenty of drama, fascinating subplots and storylines, twists and laughs.
If it was the other way around, “Holy Frit” would’ve been more of a dramatic tale of human and artistic ambition with the occasional laugh. But it turned out to be a heartfelt story about legacy and friendship.