Suzzanne and I drove up from Lowell on Friday for a fun weekend of film at the 13th Annual Maine International Film Festival (MIFF). We did make a quick pitstop in Brunswick for a sandwich at Frontier, our favorite cafe/cinema/gallery in New England (not to mention dessert at Gelato Fiasco, THE best gelato I have ever had the pleasure of consuming!), but our hearts were set on the quaint town of Waterville, where films would be screening at the Railroad Square Cinema and the Waterville Opera House.
We arrived in Waterville, picked up our weekend pass, dropped off our things at the hotel, then made our way over to the Opera House for the opening-night screening of Get Low, a film that promised huge returns thanks to its outstanding cast of Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, and Lucas Black. And huge returns we received – Duvall is absolutely spot-on as Felix Bush, an aging hermit who lives on the outskirts of a small Southern town in the 1930s. With enough local tall tales to keep even the bravest kid from venturing beyond his fence, Bush plays up his larger-than-life mythology, but in truth, he’s got a soft underbelly and a big skeleton in his closet.
When he approaches the local funeral home with an odd request – a funeral party BEFORE he dies with the townspeople who have rejected him for decades invited to attend – the home’s financially-strapped director (Murray) and his assistant (Black) take Bush up on his offer. Among the party’s attendees is widow Maddie Darrow (Spacek), an old friend of Bush’s who is closer to Bush’s hidden secret than even she realizes. Get Low is beautifully shot and perfectly acted, with enough subtle humor to offset its dark story.
Following that screening, we headed over to the Railroad Square Cinema to see Conversations with My Gardener, a wonderful French film that tells the story of a blossoming summer friendship between a successful Parisian artist (played by Daniel Auteuil) and his gardener (Jean-Pierre Darroussin). Discovering upon their introductions that they were childhood acquaintences, the artist and the gardener develop an instant bond, and their summer is spent discussing their passions, their experiences, and their views of the world. In turn, we the audience see their personalities and their complexities, quickly developing an appreciation for both of them as the human beings they are and not the stereotypes so easily assigned to them by their professions. This is a moving and incredible film that captures life as only the French seem able to.
More updates are on the way as we embark on Day 2 of the MIFF, so be sure to check back!