THE SWEET EAST 2023
Smack in the middle of a high school trip to our nation’s capital, self-possessed teen Lillian (Talia Ryder) breaks off from her classmates, kicking off a journey straight down the rabbit hole of the New Weird America. In the rollicking feature debut for both director Sean Price Williams (known for his grotty-beautiful cinematography for films by Alex Ross Perry and the Safdie brothers) and critic-turned-screenwriter Nick Pinkerton, the Eastern seaboard becomes the site for a deranged and hilarious autopsy of contemporary U.S. life in which Lillian becomes an indifferent sounding board to all manner of loquacious, callous oddballs, including a sexually numb, white supremacist pedant (Simon Rex) and a pair of wildly excitable indie filmmakers (Ayo Edebiri and Jeremy O. Harris). Tying it all together is a performance of remarkable poise and confidence by Ryder (memorable in Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always), who provides the tender center to this cockeyed exhibition of all-purpose mockery. (AM Cinematheque)
Director: Sean Price Williams
Starring: Talia Ryder, Jacob Elordi, Simon Rex, Ayo Edebiri, Jeremy O. Harris
Runtime: 104 min.
Friday, March 8
Saturday, March 9
RIDDLE OF FIRE 2024
Take a ride with the Three Immortal Reptiles, a prepubescent gang of rascals who zigzag their dirt bikes through the woodsy realm of Ribbon, Wyoming, in pursuit of freewheelin’ fun. For Hazel (Charlie Stover), Alice (Phoebe Ferro), and Jodie (Skyler Peters), nothing promises more fun than the latest video game from Otomo, but when enjoyment of their successful (if illicit) procurement of a hallowed game console is stymied by a password-protected television, their mother tasks them with a quest to retrieve a blueberry pie in exchange for the magic words. The deceptively simple task compounds with complications, and the trio find themselves whisked away through woodlands dark, running afoul with the Enchanted Blade Gang, an enigmatic coven led by an honest-to-Lilith witch (Lio Tipton).
Writer-director Weston Razooli's dreamlike first feature conjures a neo-fairytale that evokes the sensation of tuning into a late-night broadcast of an obscure and wackadoo children’s film from another dimension. Amblin’ through a menagerie of esoteric genres and cult-film references, and unified by a precise, nostalgic mise en scène that might be described as “Wes Anderson’s Gummo,” its charisma crystalizes in the raw, unpracticed performances of its young cast. The sweet air of artifice to their gleeful recitations of Razooli’s charmingly verbose dialogue paradoxically assumes an endearing kind of meta-naturalism. Intermittent line-flubs are preserved, as are the winning infectious grins of kids having the best summer of their lives. (TIFF)
Director: Weston Razooli
Starring: Charlie Stover, Phoebe Ferro, Skyler Peters, Lio Tipton.
Runtime: 113 min.