Shadows @ Film FestsShadows: Arthouse Films ’03

Send Shadows your reviews!On this page: EAGER BODIES | MORTADELO & FILEMON’S BIG ADVENTURE |

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last update 27.Oct.03

back to the top EAGER BODIES [Les Corps Impatients]
denarnaud, smet and duvachelle festival
dir-scr Xavier Giannoli
with Laura Smet, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Marie Denarnaud, Catherine Salviat, Maurice Antoni, Julien Bouvard
release France 23.Apr.03; UK Oct.03 lff • 03/France 1h34 3 out of 5 stars
This quietly realistic French drama captures its characters and situations beautifully, even if it never comes to life in a very meaningful way. Barely in their 20s, Charlotte and Paul (Smet and Duvauchelle) are a happy young couple whose life is shattered when Charlotte is diagnosed with cancer. Both are sent into wild jags of emotion and thoughtfulness that take on a strange twist when Charlotte's cousin Ninon (Denarnaud) comes to visit. She and Charlotte have an oddly close/wary relationship that's complicated when she and Paul discover a mutual attraction. But maybe they can all three live together as a "happy" family.
  There's an authenticity to the film that helps us put up with the agonised dialog and deep selfishness in every character. It's like a sexy, French version of Dawson's Creek in which each person talks endlessly about everything, screams at each other in a kind of muted way, then does what they know they shouldn't do anyway. But Giannoli also captures the skin-to-skin physicality beautifully, as well as the anguish of a young person struggling with a terminal disease. Smet is very good, painfully portraying a woman dealing with the failure of both her body and her romantic dreams. Her growing bitterness is horrible to watch! This is an introspective, emotional subject filmed without the overt histrionics--it's hushed and gentle, almost banal in its organic approach. The sense of guilt and pain is real--we feel it along with the characters, even if their relationships never really come to life on screen. The film is just too mopey to draw us in, and the characters are far too unsympathetic to engage us (Charlotte's cruelness, Paul's confusion, Ninon's vagueness). Subtle and sometimes touching filmmaking, but it's so aloof that it leaves us cold. [adult themes, language, nudity, sex] 26.Oct.03 lff
[La Gran Aventura de Mortadelo y Filemón]
venancio and topera festival
dir Javier Fesser; scr Guillermo Fesser, Javier Fesser
with Benito Pocino, Pepe Viyuela, Dominique Pinon, Paco Sagarzazu, Maria Isbert, Mariano Venancio, Berta Ojea, Janfri Topera, Emilio Gavira, Eduardo Gomez, Javier Aller, Janusz Ziemniak, Jose Manuel Moya, Pablo Pinedo, Andres Gasch, German Montaner
release Spain 7.Feb.03; UK Oct.03 lff • Warners 02/Spain 1h42 3 out of 5 stars
Absolutely and utterly nuts, this crazed Spanish film is based on the beloved Ibañez comics and rather astonishingly transfers them to the big screen with all the mayhem in tact. It's similar to the live-action Asterix & Obelix films, but far more outrageous. Mortadelo and Filemon (Pocino and Viyuela) are bumbling super-spies for the top secret TIA, but when their ineptness loses the agency's super weapon--a gun that will demoralise enemy troops--they're sacked and the hot-shot Fredy (Pinon) is brought in to infiltrate the government of the Dictator of Tirania (Sagarzazu) and get it back. But Mortadelo and Filemon aren't giving up without a fight. And neither is Filemon's feisty mum (Isbert).
  To describe the plot almost makes it sound like a quaint little comic adventure. But no, this is full-on madness! Each frame is jammed with little jokes, many of which remain untranslated because there isn't space on screen for both the sight gags and all the subtitles needed to make sense of them for foreign audiences. Everything is a pun (for example, Tirania means tyranny) and every scene has a cartoonish gag in which someone gets squashed, thrown through the air, dropped from a high place, has their teeth knocked out ... only to reappear seconds later ready for more. The dialog is fast and furious, as are the digital effects. And the sprawling cartoon-like cast seems to have been hired for its ability to bend in physically impossible ways. As the plot gets increasingly complicated, the film gets rather annoying; the characters shout and scream even louder as the pandemonium reaches epic proportions. Most of this is inspired and fiendishly clever, but by the end it's frankly too much and too long! Yes it's fun while it lasts, but it sure feels good to escape the cinema for a breath of calm air outside. [themes, language, vulgarity, violence] 23.Oct.03 lff
back to the top RECONSTRUCTION
kaas and bonnevie festival
dir Christoffer Boe; scr Christoffer Boe, Mogens Rukov
with Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Maria Bonnevie, Krister Henriksson, Nicolas Bro, Peter Steen, Ida Dwinger, Malene Schwartz, Helle Fadralid, Isabella Miehe-Renard, Klaus Mulbjerg
release Denmark 26.Sep.03; US 10.Sep.04, UK 15.Oct.04 • 03/Denmark 1h29 3½ out of 5 stars
This ethereal Danish drama gets seriously under the skin even though it's virtually impossible to nail down in any solid way. And while the gifted filmmakers have a great time confusing us, what emerges is startlingly powerful. Alex (Kaas) is a young man who feels like he's in a rut with his girlfriend Simone (Bonnevie). Then he meets Aimee (also Bonnevie), who's married but up for a fling. As he begins to fall for Aimee, he realises that he, quite literally, cannot go home again. His flat doesn't seem to exist anymore, and his friends no longer recognise him. Unable to figure out what's going on, he plans to run away with Aimee. Perhaps the key to all this is actually held by Aimee's husband August (Henriksson), a writer who seems to be controlling the story like some sort of god.
  As August says at the beginning: "Remember, it's all film. It's all a construction. But it still hurts." The obvious parallel is David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, a bewildering tale that somehow taps emotional resonance despite the fact that we're never sure what's going on. It's the same here, as scenes rewind and are seen from another perspective ... with a different conclusion. Clips and flashbacks, overhead tracking shots, camera quakes and a general dark tone keep it very confusing indeed. And yet there's something sharply coherent in the emotional through-line--the dreamlike idea that we would fall in love with the same person over and over again, even if we met them in different circumstances. At the centre, Kaas is superb as a guy thrown suddenly into the Twilight Zone, floundering for something to grab hold of. And Bonnevie is excellent in twin roles that are easy to keep track of, and both surprisingly moving. This is a beautiful, unsettling and mind-bending film that touches on ideas of attraction, identity, free will and destiny. Maddeningly elusive, but also intensely intriguing. [12 adult themes and situations, language] 21.Oct.03 lff
back to the top TRAVELLERS & MAGICIANS
wangmo and dorji festival
dir-scr Khyentse Norbu
with Tsewang Dandup, Sonam Lhamo, Lhakpa Dorji, Deki Yangzom, Sonam Kinga, Tenzin Wangmo, Sumcho Budha, Dorji Zam, Ugyen Pern, Tshoki Lham, Jigme Drukpa, Khandu Om
release Oct.03 lff • 03/Bhutan 1h48 2½ out of 5 stars
From the director of the engaging hit The Cup comes this much more ponderous and ambitious drama from the remote mountain communities of Bhutan. Dondup (Dandup), a government official in a small village, is obsessed with Western culture. When he gets the chance to move to America to make his fortune, he jumps at it ... even if he has to become a farmer there, because he can make more in a day than his important job in Bhutan pays in a month. But he misses the bus to the nearest city, and is forced to begin a long road trip, collecting travellers as he goes. Most significant is a young monk (Kinga), who tells a fable about a young man (Dorji) who wants to escape his magic studies and see the world, but the first time he leaves his village he gets lost in the woods, where he's rescued by an old farmer and his seductive young wife (Yangzom).
  Important Life Lessons about duty and destiny are the name of the game, and writer-director Norbu lays them on thickly! While the twin stories are intriguing, the film is far too serious, lacking the offhanded wit that made The Cup such a joy. And in the absence of an engaging storyline, all that's left is a fascinating look at a remote culture. Still, the cast of novice actors is quite good, and the settings are stunningly photographed. Norbu makes the odd decision to film the fable in desaturated colours, which seems gimmicky and unnecessary. But he does capture the colour and energy of a culture struggling to maintain its identity while slowly being invaded by outside influences (trainers, Western music, cars, farming equipment). What he fails to do is include much of the local culture; there are vivid scenes of sportsmen at the beginning, but once the road movie takes over it's isolated and linear. The travellers are heading for a colourful city market we never see; the figures in the fable live in a fairy tale woods. This is a good story that should pop with life and energy, but it needs to be told with a lot more passion than this. [themes, language] 21.Oct.03 lff
back to the top TATTOO
folland and garity
dir-scr Robert Schwentke
with August Diehl, Christian Redl, Nadeshda Brennicke, Ilknur Bahadir, Jasmin Schwiers, Johan Leysen, Monika Bleibtreu, Joe Bausch, Gustav-Peter Wohler, Fatih Cevikkollu, Florian Panzner, Ingo Naujoks
release Germany 4.Apr.02; US 4.Jul.03; UK 5.Dec.03 • 02/Germany 1h48 3 out of 5 stars
With extremely heavy echoes of David Fincher's Seven, this German thriller at least has style and grisliness to show for its efforts. Marc (Diehl) is a rookie cop who also enjoys his drug-fuelled after-hours club life until the veteran Detective Minks (Redl) blackmails him into joining the homicide squad. Minks has ulterior motives: He's obsessed with finding his daughter (Schwiers), who disappeared into the club scene some time ago. He's also a hothead, revenge-obsessed thug who should not be on the force! Anyway, the two eventually settle into an investigation of the underground traffic in tattoos, which often means killing the bearer so the artwork can be, erm, removed. Into this grisly world they go, and as they get closer to the elusive person who runs it they encounter a top collector (Leysen) and a sexy woman (Brennicke) who's clearly hiding something. That Marc falls for her doesn't help.
  Dark and interesting, the film looks very good and has an intriguing enough plot that we stay connected to it. Diehl is solid in the focal role--a nice enough guy we can identify with, although the script never develops his character full enough to make him truly sympathetic. In fact, a general lack of depth undermines writer-director Schwentke's several attempts to add an emotional punch. He uses some of the exact same story elements Fincher used in Seven, but without as strong an effect. All of the performances are excellent, despite underdefined characters (Schwentke was obviously going for the enigmatic vibe). And he films it extremely cleverly. But it's the gore factor that makes the film unsettling--not a scary story. We flinch away from what he might show us next, although it's never too explicit, really. And without a sense of personal tragedy it never gets under our skin, so to speak. [18 themes, strong violence and gore, language, nudity] 21.Oct.03
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© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall