I had the pleasure of seeing Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish vampire drama Let The Right One In, Saturday night at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Acquired by Magnolia Pictures at the Berlin Film Festival in February, the film will thankfully see an American release in coming months. I didn’t know what to expect from it: is it a genre film or a Swedish coming-of-age drama? Turns out, it’s both. Following the grade school troubles of young Oskar, the film takes a dark bent once a new girl, Eli, moves into the neighbohood with a mysterious older man. While Eli sleeps all day, her father figure ventures into the snow to retrieve fresh human blood for her consumption. Meanwhile, she strikes up a friendship with the equally nocturnal Oskar.
Alfredson’s film is crisply photographed and precisely directed. The events play out with cautious observation, building the tension up until the amazing final scene. Eli teaches Oskar how to defend himself from schoolyard bullies, but it’s familiar material handled with a fresh spin. As a viewer, you often forget that you’re watching a vampire film during the more tender moments, and vice versa. Expect this one to unite fanboys and arthouse critics, not unlike what we saw with Pan’s Labyrinth.
On Monday, I caught Sean Baker’s third feature, Prince of Broadway, having its world premiere in the strong LAFF Narrative Competition. Baker’s film follows a Manhattan counterfeit hustler named Lucky, who makes ends meet by selling imitation sneakers and handbags. One day, an old girlfriend drops an 18-month-old baby in his hands, claiming it’s his son and that he must take care of him now. More than just a remodeled version of Baby Boom, Baker’s film explores issues of class and race in modern America. Prince Adu (a non-professional first-timer) delivers a great performance as Lucky, an African native living illegally in New York. And, Baker captures the intensity and irreverence of the circumstances with equal parts sadness and humor. It’s a tough balance, and a concept that could have easily failed. Instead, Prince of Broadway is an indie must-see.