It's too much.
It's never enough.
It's the 16th annual Philadelphia Film Festival, a fortnight of film fanaticism, two weeks of reel revelations, and no matter how you do it, you can't.
Even the most diligent and seasoned festgoers - the ones who put in for vacation, fork over the big bucks for the all-access badge, and map out their days and nights with the precision of a military strategist - will come to the end on April 18 knowing that they missed out.
Maybe it was that buzzed-up German thriller, or the Chinese coming-of-age tale, or the chillingly impressive Scottish directing debut, that Japanese anime, or the Iranian mobster melodrama - missed 'em, not there, was in the dark in a theater at the other side of town.
Do the math: 149 features and 102 shorts from 42 countries, and only 13 days (from today) to see them. It's hopeless - and exhilarating.
At first glance, PFF16 - presented by the Philadelphia Film Society, and overseen by artistic director Ray Murray - seems less glam than previous years. Fewer stars are coming to town (one honor is going to Dermot Mulroney, the chiseled indie vet whom some people still confuse with Dylan McDermott) and there's less depth and breadth in the international entries.
But this is, nonetheless, an exceptionally strong year. Roy Disney, the living link between the old Walt Disney Studios (founded by his uncle) and the new global media corporation, will be on hand to receive an Inspiration Award. The Disney salute includes showings of the 1940 animation gem Fantasia (music by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphians) and a collection of rare vintage Disney shorts.
Philly cineaste Irv Slifkin has unearthed a beautiful print of the forgotten noir classic The Burglar - a taut 1957 caper shot in Philadelphia and environs, and starring Dan Duryea and sex-bomb-to-be Jayne Mansfield.
Movies that are certain to be recognized when critics' prizes, Spirit Awards and Oscar nominations collide in that hyped-up logjam starting at the end of the year are here to see now, including Marion Cotillard's extraordinary performance as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose; director Andrea Arnold's Red Road, a haunting study of Big Brother surveillance in grim Glaswegian housing projects that won last year's Grand Jury Prize at Cannes; and Taiwan filmmaker Tsai Ming-lian's Malaysian melting-pot masterpiece, I Don't Want to Sleep Alone.
Wrapped inside the sprawling PFF - which this year expands to seven venues, including the Bridge Cinema Deluxe in University City, the Kirby Auditorium at the National Constitution Center in Old City, and the Bryn Mawr Film Institute on the Main Line - are a number of mini-festivals.
The thriving Festival of Independents (also known as FestIndies) highlights work by Philadelphia- area filmmakers, animators and documentarians. The 48 Hour Film Project, now in its fifth year, offers a collection of breakneck shorts written, shot and edited in one weekend's time. The Greater Philadelphia Student Film Festival boasts winning entries culled from a pool of area colleges and universities, in categories of drama, comedy, documentary and experimental shorts.
And Scribe Video Center, the community-based video cooperative, presents a 100-minute program of shorts that celebrate the cultural diversity of Philadelphia neighborhoods.
Not to mention the 16-title-strong "Danger After Dark" program of over-the-top horror, gore and sex (yes, the festival's own grindhouse bill!), and the five-flick "Asian Gangsters" series.
Throw in some parties, the cine cafes (courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania's Cinema Studies), the "Set in Philadelphia" screenplay events and award ceremony, the closing-night bash (which includes the East Coast premiere of Adrienne Shelly's Sundance hit, Waitress), and you have, well, more than one wild-eyed, sleep-deprived, speeding-from-here-to-there movie geek can handle.
For the latest info on times, theaters, events and whatnot, pick up the 16th Philadelphia Film Festival guide, go to www.phillyfests.com, or call the festival hotline, 267-765-9700.
Tickets can be purchased in person, by phone or online.
In person: TLA Video Stores (open 11 a.m.-10 p.m.) 1520 Locust St., 215-735-7887; 517 S. Fourth St., 215-922-3838; 1808 Spring Garden St., 215-751-1171; 7630 Germantown Ave., 215-248-4448; and 763 Lancaster Ave., 610-520-1222.
By phone: Credit cards only, call 267-765-9700, Ext. 4 (open 10 a.m.-9 p.m.).
Online: Credit cards only at www.phillyfests.com.EndText