The cerebral moviegoing experience

Carnegie Mellon offers a dollar movie four or five times a week, but only once a year does the city of Pittsburgh host the annual Three Rivers Film Festival, a celebration of film new and old. The festival, now in its 25th year, showcases films more closely linked to works of art than mainstream blockbusters, which thus require a bit more attentiveness to appreciate their ingenuity and avant-garde quality. This year’s films are no exception.

The two-week festival, held November 2–16, features over 40 films. Movies made in Pittsburgh by local filmmakers, shorts, independent films, documentaries, and international works will be played in various theaters around the city. The films range from current hot topics — such as the documentary Home Front, which chronicles the life of United States soldier Jeremy Feldbusch, an amputee from the Iraq war — to artsy films like La Moustache — a psychological thriller about a man who has worn a mustache every day of his life, only to one day shave it off and find out that no one remembers him ever having facial hair in the first place.

“Three Rivers is a well-run festival with an interesting, eclectic selection of films — it’s a great opportunity for students to see films they would have difficulty seeing anywhere else,” said creative writing professor Jim Daniels, who has written and co-produced two films. Daniels’ film Dumpster, about the unlikely relationship between a janitor at an elite university and a student who lives in a dumpster, was selected for last year’s festival and has since been selected for eight other festivals around the country.

Jeffrey Hinkelman, who teaches a film studies course at Carnegie Mellon, worked as crew and as an extra on the film When Tyrants Kissed, showcased at the festival in 2004. At this year’s festival, Hinkelman recommends the films Speedy and Pandora’s Box.

“There is not a lot of opportunity to see silent film the way it was intended,” Hinkelman said, referring to the fact that both of these silent films will be accompanied by live musicians, who improvise the music according to the action on screen. Philip Carli, who, according to the festival’s website, has composed piano accompaniments for over 50 films and has toured throughout North America and Europe, played at yesterday’s showing of Pandora’s Box. The Alloy Orchestra will add a unique sound to the feel-good comedy Speedy, starring Harry Lloyd, on November 16 by utilizing household items such as garbage can lids as instruments and sound effects to accompany the film.

In addition to the two silent features, Hinkelman recommends The Chelsea Girls, an Andy Warhol film that is not often shown because it requires the use of two projectors. Slightly ambiguous instructions must be followed describing the approximate time to turn one monitor off and the other on, so every presentation of the film is slightly different.

“People should be willing to watch anything, but the Three Rivers Film Festival brings films that are that much harder to see,” Hinkelman said, “[and] here it’s all in one place.” Although the films played at this year’s festival will require a bit more thinking than, perhaps, making a batch of popcorn, they will most certainly enrich one’s future film experiences as they enlighten the viewer to the artistic qualities of film.