Although the title of this festival could suggest a typical night out at the multiplex, Durham's Carolina Theatre has something a little more ambitious in store, beginning this Friday and continuing through the weekend. It's a mix of current releases and relatively obscure foreign films that cuts across genres.
One of the weekend's highlights is Millennium Actress, a 2001 film from Japanese animator Satashi Kon. This film, which is a must-see for lovers of classic Japanese cinema in general and fans of such recent films as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away in particular, tells the story of a elderly film star who recounts her life for a television documentary crew. Her story takes us through decades of Japanese political and film history. Although there are echoes here of Wilder's Sunset Boulevard and Mizoguchi's Ugetsu, nothing's too literal in this rapturous, occasionally languorous, film.
Also from Japan, there's Princess Blade, recently released in elsewhere in the Triangle, and a must-see for those who have fallen under the spell of Tarantino's Kill Bill. Another Asian import, The Legend of Suriyothai, follows a very different cinematic tradition. This Thai historical melodrama is an old-fashioned, leisurely paced costume epic on the scale of a DeMille Bible epic.
There are two British films on tap this weekend as well. Long Time Dead breaks out a sinister, Cassandra-like ouija board while My Little Eye represents the inevitable next phase of reality TV, as five strangers compete for a cash prize in their effort to survive living in a haunted house.
Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt have put together The Animation Show that features their own work along with recent Oscar nominees (of which several were screened earlier this year at the Carolina). And the French are represented with a swashbuckler epic, starring Daniel Auteuil, succinctly called On Guard.
Of the festival's eight films, the only must-avoid is James Cox's Wonderland, which is reviewed elsewhere in this issue. This tale of porn star John Holmes, as tawdry and freakish as it may be, is no match for the genuine escapism promised by the rest of the weekend's programming.
The Escapism Film Festival begins Friday, Oct. 24 and continues through Sunday at Durham's Carolina Theatre, located at 309 W. Morgan St. For a complete schedule, check out www.carolinatheatre.org.