The 22nd annual Baltimore International Film Festival kicks off at 7:30 tonight at the Baltimore Museum of Art with a selection of shorts gathered under the rubric "Director's Showcase."
The event begins with something of a coup: Organizers chose Adam Davidson's "Lunch Date" when it was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Short Subject/Live Action category. Whether festival director George Udel, who made the selections, is lucky or good we'll never know. But "Lunch Date" won the Oscar.
As well it should. It's a perfect little O. Henry short story on the theme of assumptions and expectations set in a New York train station. Filmed in a completely appropriate cinema verite style, complete to hand-held camera and
black and white film stock, it follows as a prosperous suburban woman rushes through the Grand Concourse at Grand Central, laden with Bloomingdale's bags, weary from a busy morning of shopping. But she's vaguely assailed by the menacing forms of the homeless. Catastrophe strikes when she misses her train.
With some time to kill but not a lot of money, she heads into the cafeteria to buy a salad. But when she forgets her fork, returns for it, then goes back to her table, she discovers a lunch companion happily munching on her meal.
This is essentially a performance piece, exquisitely acted. No names are given; the actress playing The Woman has extraordinary sense of spontaneity and vulnerability, achingly real to anybody who's spent a second in a suburban mall.
Another of the films is "A Little Vicious," an extremely interesting look at politics on the pit bull front. The movie, by Immy Humes, looks at the twisted and complicated relationship between humans and their sometimes best friends of the canine world. Following a case in a small Connecticut town, Humes watches as an isolated old man loses his cherished but violent pit bull at court direction. The only hope of getting the dog back is to have it "pacified" by a trainer who specializes in such exorcisms. But there's a problem: The trainer falls in love with the damned dog, too!
The big number of the night is another short story, but Chekovian in tone rather than O. Henry-esque, in that it turns on a small, vividly observed human moment with an extreme note of bittersweet grace. "In Your Own Sweet Way," which gets its world premiere tonight, is the work of director Patrick Kahoe, who was once a projectionist at the Charles. Made with a local cast (including Gary Leventhal, who was once a producer at MPT, where our paths merrily crossed during the production run of the most underbudgeted evening magazine show in television history), it's a look at jazz and heroin culture in New York, in 1953.
Other films tonight include "Only Natural" and "Touch My Lips." For more information call 889-1993.