Leaving the Bear Tooth Theatre Pub on Friday evening after the screening of "Camille," a man who seemed to be in his late 30s was heard to say, "This is as close as movies come to making me cry."
Which well sums it up.
"Camille" is a sweet, funny and pleasantly crazed love story whose endearing quirks keep it from getting too sticky. It's a good choice to open the Eighth Anchorage International Film Festival, 10 days of films of multiple types, sizes and styles that in the aggregate can't be characterized as anything but entertainment sorely needed by a wintry city.
The title character is a newlywed played by Sienna Miller, who's had roles in "Casanova" opposite Heath Ledger, as Edie Sedgwick in "Factory Girl," and in other films.
Camille dies in a crash just as her honeymoon is beginning. But that's far too early in the story for the heroine to stay dead. Besides, her husband, Silas (James Franco of the "Spider-Man" movies, who's also in the current "Milk") is a troubled man with a chip on his shoulder as large as the mushy place in his heart. He needs his new wife to show him how to show her the love.
Camille may be dead, but darned if she'll lie down. Therefore, the honeymoon continues, they stay on their journey to Niagara Falls, the police keep up their chase (Silas is one of those guys who make trouble everywhere no matter how decent they are at heart), and we're off to the races in a kind of road movie, meeting a few odd but lovely characters on the way, buoyed by occasional silliness and a soundtrack of rock 'n' romance.
It is Silas on whom it first dawns that his wife, who's beginning to smell bad, is a corpse, if a darling and still somewhat vivacious corpse. Camille herself is soon hip to the awful news, especially when a bullet tears through her shoulder and she doesn't feel it. But when it comes to the difficult art of accepting death, and finding liberation in doing so, that truth is Camille's to teach.
Franco and Miller are first-rate, and so are Scott Glenn as Camille's uncle and David Carradine as Cowboy Bob.
Gregory Mackenzie directed in his feature-film debut, from a script by Nick Pustay.
Peter Porco catches movies in Anchorage and blogs at adn.com/greenroom.
THE ANCHORAGE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL runs through Dec. 14 at various Anchorage venues. Link to the schedule from our reviews -- and a place for your comments -- at adn.com/artsnob.