Los Angeles Film Festival


FEATURE by Harriet Robbins

LOS ANGELES -- Last month's Los Angeles Film Festival included films from around the world screened in a variety of locations. The fest broke down the entries by category: family films, cinema east, music, gay/lesbian, cineCultura and cinema soul. Film fans also had the opportunity to meet filmmakers at panels and post-screening talks.

The opening night attraction was GARDEN STATE, an American indie feature written and directed by Zach Braff, who also starred in the offbeat comedy. The centerpiece premiere was BEFORE SUNSET, Richard Linklater's follow-up to Before Sunrise (1995) and proved to be a loving, witty study of two people stumbling toward maturity and self-discovery.

Closing night offered THE CLEARING, a thriller starring Robert Redford, Helen Mirren and William Dafoe. Pieter Jan Brugge directed.

One of my personal favorites at the festival was a French film directed by Patrice Leconte, INTIMATE STRANGERS, starring Sandrine Bonnaire and Fabrice Lughini. It brought a new way of looking at the meaning of love. A case of mistaken identity starts things off when a distraught woman (Bonnaire) barges in on a tax advisor (Lughini) thinking he is a psychiatrist. This triggers off an elusive and startling series of events. INTIMATE STRANGERS begins as a comedy, but becomes a thriller and a mystery in which emotional and sexual secrets are exposed and probed. The Bonnaire/Lughini relationship develops in roller-coaster fashion but lands safely at the end.

Much of the talk at the festival concerned the recent death of former President Ronald Reagan, who began adult life as an actor. Reagan had an up and down career in film and television. Known as a master communicator, he reached out to his fellow Americans during his political career and achieved greatness in many of their hearts and minds.

As an actor, Reagan was a hero of the "B" movies. The roles he played gave him the opportunity to ply his trade in a vigorous and timely fashion. His image reflected the average man. His pedestrian career in film proved that he was capable, but not outstanding, as an actor--except for his role in KNUTE ROCKNE, ALL-AMERICAN (1940) in which he uttered the now-memorable line, "Win one for The Gipper," and for his work in KING'S ROW (1942).

Reagan went on to give his best performances in his political life and will long be remembered for this achievement.