Sarasota Film Festival truly has something for everyone.
Two of my favorites this year were the ones I saw Friday night and Saturday night, “Halston” and “Phil,” the closing night film.
I selected “Halston” because I thought a film about an iconic America fashion designer might be something different and possibly even interesting. It was all that and more. Not only visually stunning, it was thoroughly researched. It contained ample vintage footage from television and films of the man who came from a middle class mid-western background and rose to the top of the fashion/entertainment industry to put American fashion on the map alongside the historic Paris designers’ work.
Directed by Frederic Tchang, who has directed films on other fashion gurus — “Dior,” “Valentine” and “The Last Emperor” — Halston chronicles the life of the man who would put American fashion on the international map and then sell his soul for even more money and ultimately the end of his reign. With clips of such superstars as Liza Minelli plus interviews with her and others whose lives intermingled with his, this film proved riveting from beginning to the final wrap, which featured a model in a wrap dress. Sounds corny but it was the perfect way to wrap this film.
It will be released nationally a year from now, the director said. I doubt it will ever be at Franks in Venice but that is our loss here. True film buffs will find this film fascinating in its creation and direction, even if they could care less about the subject.
Also visually stunning although in a much different way was the festival’s closing night film, “Phil.” The topic is suicide, making this a film that is not for everyone.
Suicide touches the lives of one out of 10 Americans and does not discriminate by race, religion or any other means. Sometimes it can be prevented, other times, not.
“Phil,” played by Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Greg Kinnear, manages to reach nearly every potential audience member on some level. He portrays a dentist who is divorced, semi-estranged from his daughter and so unhappy that he actually parks his car in the middle of a bridge and climbs to the edge of the railing.
Fortunately he changes his mind and sets out to find out why some people seem to go through life with no problems in their happily-ever-after world. What he learns shakes him to the very core when one of these perfect people does the unthinkable and commits suicide. Turns out that man was not so happy after all.
What makes this film so fine is the way the substories form the whole and takes the audience along on Phil’s voyage of discovery.
Whether this could be a true story or not, it leaves one with the feeling that it could be and that is a good thing, for it leaves us with hope that even for someone so desperate as Phil, there is hope.
It is a fine film, with fine acting and perhaps even a few lessons. This film will be at theaters all over the country when released after its round of film festivals. Watch for it.
Sunday, the festival offered conversations with Greg Kinnear, Blythe Danner and Anne Heche, honorees and featured stars at this year’s festival.
The festival turned 21 this year. If you have not attended the Sarasota Film Festival, make sure you will be in this area in April 2020 and make plans to go to at least a few of the films. Whether you choose main-street major films or documentaries or even cartoons, the festival offers something for everyone.