Thursday, April 28, 2005


May film releases seem to have a common theme: rebellious youth. From the re-release of the genesis of the genre, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, to Greg Araki's MYSTERIOUS SKIN, spring arrives with a waft of rebellion in the air. In fact, even the latest instalment of the camp horror franchise starred by Chuck, the killer doll (THE SEED OF CHUCK) makes reference to Rebel Without a Cause. So there you go. Enjoy May before the summer blockbuster season starts. Now, that's something that can bring out the film rebel in us!
Antonio Pasolini, editor


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Zen cinema: the dog scene in Five

Kiarostami confirms his position as one of the most poetic film-makers in current activity. Five is a film that defies every fad or trend in current cinema in many ways. First, it’s made up of five long takes made with a still camera staked by the shores of the Caspian Sea. Second, it is almost entirely devoid of human presence, except for the second take, which shows people walking across the frame during their afternoon walks on the promenade.

Kiarostami makes the viewer contemplate scenes that are classically beautiful – a piece of driftwood tossed about the waves, ducks moving across the frame, dogs gathered by the water’s edge and the moon reflected on a pond – but which we tend not to linger on. He adds to this seemingly simple imagery carefully mixed sounds of nature which reach their cacophonic climax in the last sequence, rich in nocturnal sounds of croaking frogs and a storm.

This is the type of conceptual moving imagery we have grown used to see in art galleries, via the often complex paraphernalia of video installations. Kiarostami rescues a type of film that had been lost to the transient and less concentrated space of the gallery. By watching this film in the dark space of a cinema theatre, we have to absorb the imagery, let ourselves be hypnotised by it and allow ourselves to go into a zen, meditative state of mind. True, it takes some effort, but it pays off. Five is a masterful antidote to the accelerated culture we live in, the obsession with narrative and mise-en-scene and the superficiality of excess.

FRIDAY 6 sees the re-release of screen classic REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955, dir: Nicholas Ray) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film’s star James Dean’s death. Dean died in a car crash on 30 September 1955, 27 days before the film premiere, at the age of 24.

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Mad about the boy: Sal Mineo (left) and James Dean

The film also stars Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo as the angst-ridden youths grappling with their existential problems in the stifling atmosphere of 1950s America. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE is far from being a perfect movie. Dean’s acting method looks somewhat contrived and the storyline a little convoluted. But this is what makes it quite attractive as well. You get the sense there is an undercurrent of lunacy permeating the film. Besides, watching it is like watching a documentary about its stars, all of which met an early, tragic death. Wood is particularly good as the girl desperate for fatherly attention, bordering on incest. Rumours are that director Ray, who was a bit of an middle-aged rebel himself, had an affair with the 16-year-old Wood, then a child-star trying to prove herself a serious, grown-up actor. If a cultural artefact can be called iconic, this is one of them. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE is a requiem to the 1950s, an anticipation of 1960s rebelliousness and the concept of ‘youth alienation’.
The other highlight of the week is Todd Solondz’s new film PALINDROMES, a fable that takes a Fassbinderian sensitivity to the heart of American suburbia. It also marks the return to the screen of indie doyenne Ellen Barkin, after a five-year absence. PALINDROMES tells the story of a girl, Aviva, who wants to get pregnant at any cost and when she does it, at the age of 13, her mother forces her to have an abortion. She reluctantly submits to it, but then escapes home, falls in love with a trucker and finds refuge with a group of Christian fundamentalists who shelter children who have been rejected by the world. Solondz borrowed from Luis Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire the idea of using several actors to play the same character. Avida is played by seven different actresses, all different physical types, including Jennifer Jason Leigh. This narrative device works the trick and highlights Aviva’s different emotional states to great effect. A superb film with great ideas and beautiful cinematography that is redolent of the best of European 1970s art cinema.

Fassbinder in American suburbia: Palindromes

FRIDAY 13:Camp horror fans can celebrate Friday 13th with SEED OF CHUCKY, the fifth instalment of the series which picks up where Bride of Chuck (1998) left off. SEED OF CHUCKY see the dolls Chuck, his bride Tiffany and the new addition to the family, the gender undefined Glen (or Glenda) heading for Hollywood for some high-octane, hood-winking, referential horror kitsch. The real star of the film is Jennifer Tilly, who starred in Bride… and was called back to the job by the creator of the series Don Mancini (who also directs Seed…) and producers David Kirschner and Corey Sineaga. Tilly plays herself (she also lends her squeaky voice to Tiffany) as the star of the film being made about Chuck, who is regarded to be the object of an urban legend. Of course, the dolls come back to life and wreak havoc with Tilly. It’s hard to resist the series’ irreverent humour (there’s even a cameo by John Waters as a paparazzi) and knowing humour, although the dolls look too realistic this time – they did a very good job at giving them more facial muscle movements. SEED OF CHUCKY is glossy, demented and very Hollywood. Tilly is a great comedian and it’s a shame that we don’t see more of her.

Gael Morel’s LE CLAN taps into a French cinematic vein inaugurated by La Haine, which portrays a bleaker, multi-ethnic France usually populated with sexy, hot-headed boys in no-future small towns or suburbs. In LE CLAN we see a group of bored young men led by the super sexy Marc (Nicolas Cazalé, who looks like a Jean Paul Gaultier model), whose brother Olivier (Thomas Dumerchez) is in love with a boy called Hicham (Salim Kechiouche). Marc gets in trouble with drug dealers and then seeks revenge. Older brother Christophe (Stéphane Rideau) walks into the fray and Olivier hopes life will become more peaceful. LE CLAN, is on one hand, a typical modern French ‘indie’ film: slick, elliptical and sparse, the narrative sometimes a tad too cryptic. Its pace is likely to bore some viewers as well as the way the director never fully develops the different segments of narrative in the film. Still, those looking for some eye candy and Gallic male angst will find LE CLAN quite satisfying.
Boys who like boys... Le Clan

FRIDAY 20: American queer cinema pioneer Greg Araki reaches artistic maturity (well, kind of) with MYSTERIOUS SKIN, based on the eponymous book by Scott Heim. Brian Lackey (Brady Corbett) believes he had been abducted by aliens when he was a child because he can’t remember what happened to him on two occasions when he was eight. Parallel to Brian’s story runs the story of Neil McCormick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hustler who is brought up by a single mother (superbly played by Elisabeth Shue) and who follows his best friend to New York in her attempt to get out of the provincial hellhole they were born in. The film is beautifully photographed, sometimes stage-y like one of Cindy Sherman’s ‘film stills’ and the atmosphere eerie a la David Lynch.

It came from outer space: Mysterious Skin

The film presents two different outcomes of the experience of paedophilia from the point of view of the victims, without, however, succumbing to the medieval hysteria that often clouds the issue. Araki is no Todd Haynes – another pioneer of the New Queer Cinema that gained momentum in the early 1990s– and there are moments when he slips on his tendency towards indie clichés and bad writing. But he does show here that he’s come a long way since The Living End (1992), his overwrought Aids road-movie that put him on the film map.

Jewish humour meets Spanish screwball comedy in ONLY HUMAN (Dir: Teresa de Pelegri and Dominic Harari), an observational comedy set amongst a Madrid Jewish family. Leni (Marian Aguilera) brings back home her new boyfriend, Rafi (Guillermo Toledo), a Palestinian university professor who at first pretends to be Jewish, although the couple decide to come clean about his real identity not much longer after they’ve arrived at the family home.

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Only joking: Only Human

Besides the parents, the household includes a younger brother who’s going through a fundamentalist Jewish phase and sister Tania (Maria Botto), a fun-loving single mother who scrapes a living by belly-dancing. The matriarch (Gloria, played by the veteran Norma Aleandro) is worried that her husband may be two-timing her. When he disappears after being hit on the head by a bag of frozen soup that Rafi drops from the window, the family gets together to find out the truth. ONLY HUMAN’s major sin is to serve up the best jokes right at the beginning of the film, therefore losing some of its gas after the first half hour of the film. But it’s engaging enough and has a big heart underneath the quick-fire, snappy façade.

FRIDAY 27: Guy Ritchie goes to South Africa, gets a little bit better and comes up with STANDER (Dir: Bronwen Hughes), a caper gangster based on the real-life story of the cop-turned-bank robber Andre Stander (Thomas Jane) in 1970s Africa. The film’s initial impression is good, especially the powerful conflict sequence between black insurgents and the police, when Stander shoots a man dead. This is also a defining moment in the film, Stander’s road-to-Damascus spiritual awakening, which translates into an urge to rob banks. The film quickly becomes sillier and more ladish, with the actors increasingly resembling a group of revellers en route to a 1970s-themed party. Jane does a good job at impersonating the quintessential 1970s moustached hunk and Deborah Kara Unger is good as his unsympathetic wife who does not want to be married to a modern-day Robin Hood. And, as if to prove to Guy Ritchie reference, the film features Dexter Fletcher, who played Soap in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, as Standers’s sidekick alongside David Patrick O’Hara.

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Love hurts: The Consequences of Love
Minimalism is the word in Paolo Sorrentino’s THE CONSEQUENCES OF LOVE, a slick existentialist piece of European cinema, which is not as pretentious as it may sound at first. Toni Servillo stars as Titta, a man who lives in a hotel in a non-descript Swiss town and who smokes his days away at the hotel bar in front of the staff who have grown used to his cool, jaded presence, although barmaid Sofia (Olivia Magnani) one days breaks the ice and changes the course of Titta’s controlled feelings. This rather architectural film is meticulously calculated to create a philosophical meditation on the frailty of destiny. Servillo is excellent as the man-with-a-secret, his deadpan, cool face and avant-garde acting method giving the film a weight that could have been lost in the hands of an actor without his experimental pedigree. In two words: elegant and smart.
Coming up in June: Inside Deep Throat/Moolade/Kings and Queens

1 comment:

homem de lata said...

ei lobo!
aguando aqui em vitória com esses filmes. he he. muito bom. pelo menos ficando sabendo o q tá rolando por ai. beijo grande.
rodrigo linhales, vix. brasil.
se tiver um tempo: