Shadows @ Film FestsShadows: Arthouse Films ’03

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last update 3.Nov.03

back to the top ANA AND THE OTHERS [Ana y los Otros]
toker and uslenghi festival
dir Celina Murga
with Camila Toker, Ignacio Uslenghi, Juan Cruz Diaz la Barba, Natacha Massera
release UK Nov.02 lff • 03/Argentina 1h20 3˝ out of 5 stars
This gentle, nostalgic journey is a short story type of film--it's all in the characters and set-up, and it basically ends just as something starts happening. But the people and their interaction are skilfully observed. Ana (Toker) is returning to Parana for her class reunion after years living in Buenos Aires. Her pal Nati (Massera) is now happily married with a cute little girl. And as she catches up with her classmates, she begins to think about her school boyfriend Mariano, who seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. But no one seems to know where he is now. Mariano's best friend (Uslenghi) isn't even sure--they fell out over their feelings for Ana and rarely keep in touch. Now it's up to a young boy (La Barba) to finally give her the nerve (and the means) to confront her past.
  Beautifully shot and played naturally by the cast, the film has a wry observational style and warm humour that make it deeply engaging. There's a lot going on under the surface as everyone talks about expectations and life paths, which haven't been predictable for any of these people. They're all still as obsessed about relationships as they were back in school; and Ana realises that those past emotions maybe weren't as shallow as she thought. Some things have changed ... but others haven't! Murga's filmmaking is relaxed almost to the point of deconstruction. Ana ambles around in seemingly unconnected scenes, encountering all kinds of people. She talks vaguely about finding The One and settling down, old crushes and the fragility of friendships; mostly she listens to the others talk. But there's a force of will growing in her--the nerve she needs to find Mariano. This is cleverly filmed and played out on screen, making expert use of the settings and never letting a plot take over. Yes, it's rather elusive and internal, but there are lovely scenes throughout the film that really get under our skin. [themes] 2.Nov.03 lff
back to the top INHERITANCE [Herencia]
witzke and adjemian festival
dir-scr Paula Hernandez
with Adrian Witzke, Rita Cortese, Julieta Diaz, Martin Adjemian, Hector Anglada, Cutuli, Carlos Portaluppi, Graciela Tenembaum, Ernesto Claudio, Damian Dreizik, Oscar Alegre, Martin Ricci
release Argentina 20.Jun.02; UK Oct.03 lff • 02/Argentina 1h34 2˝ out of 5 stars
This light drama from Argentina is a charming examination of travellers discovering their true homes in the least likely places. Peter (Witzke) is a 24-year-old German who's given up his job and travelled to Buenos Aires to rekindle a romance with a woman he hasn't seen for two years. He has no intention of going back to Germany, so it's rather terrifying when he arrives to find that she's moved and left no forwarding address. After being robbed and left desperate and homeless, he's adopted by Olinda (Cortese), a motherly Italian who moved to Argentina under similar circumstances years earlier and now runs a neighbourhood restaurant. In exchange for room and board, Peter helps out in the cafe while searching the city for his lost girlfriend. Then he meets the lovely Luz (Diaz), and his quest doesn't seem quite as important anymore.
  This is a lively and colourful comedy with heavy shades of Amelie in its use of fate, friendship and romance to bind a group of disparate characters, each of whom has a charming idiosyncrasy. Filmmaker Hernandez has a great time with the language chaos (German, Italian, Spanish and English all merge hilariously), while her script gently pushes each character out of what they expected for their lives into something much better. Yes, it's all extremely cute and tidy, and not terribly thrilling (the one sex scene is possibly the most boring cinematic depiction of lovemaking ever put on film). The script also drifts heavily into wistful nostalgia and soggy sentiment. But the characters are vivid enough to keep us entertained, nicely played and blessed with wacky details. The concluding message isn't too bad either: If you don't find what you're looking for, take a chance! Not exactly earth-shattering, but very sweet. [themes, language]30.Oct.03 lff
back to the top LIFE MARKS [La Vida Mancha]
coronado, sanz and nuba festival
dir Enrique Urbizu; scr Michel Gaztambide
with Jose Coronado, Juan Sanz, Zay Nuba, Yohana Cobo, Silvia Espigado, Cesareo Estebanez, Sandro Polo, Gabriel Moreno, Alfonso Torregrosa, Enrique Martinez, May Pascual
release Spain 9.May.03; UK Oct.03 lff • 03/Spain 1h47 3 out of 5 stars
Stylish and involving, this Spanish drama is entertaining even if it's never terribly exciting. Fito and Juana (Sanz and Nuba) are a happy couple with an adorable son (Polo) when, after years abroad, Fito's big brother Pedro (Coronado) comes to stay. Fito obviously worships his big brother, and quickly catches him up on his life, which is a bit of a mess with gambling debts and an iffy job as a truck driver. While Fito is young and sexy, Pedro is suave and slick. He's also up to something suspicious involving a handful of diamonds. Sensing Juana's frustration with Fito's rootlessness and their general financial desperation, Pedro makes a move on her. And he's not used to taking no for an answer.
  The cast and crew establish the characters beautifully--they let us see into them, and build tensions slowly in the warm but wary relationships between these three very different people. Where it goes isn't remotely predictable, thanks to sharp direction and terrific performances all around. Urbizu's camera slinks through the sets fluidly, prowling around the characters and building a kind of Hitchcock-lite atmosphere as Pedro's mysterious dealings become increasingly creepy. The chemistry sparks between all three characters--brothers, spouses, in-laws. And we're intrigued and engaged enough to stick with the story even when it gets repetitive and draggy, and when it continually refuses to give us answers to our questions. Several aspects of the plot are underexplored, including Pedro's motives for going after Juana (every woman in the film throws herself at him!) and the complex strangeness of a nosey neighbour (Cobo). Then it all boils over in an oddly contrived wet-shaving scene between Pedro and Juana, followed by a gentle dose of Spanish surrealism, which is interesting but not terribly inventive. The final message is almost shockingly simple for all the complexity that went before. [themes, language] 29.Oct.03 lff
back to the top MAMBO ITALIANO
miller and kirby 18th llgff festival
dir-scr Emile Gaudreault
with Luke Kirby, Paul Sorvino, Ginette Reno, Claudia Ferri, Peter Miller, Mary Walsh, Sophie Lorain, Tim Post, Lou Vani, Tara Nicodemo, Pierrette Robitaille, Dino Tavarone
release Canada 6.Jun.03; US 19.Sep.03; UK 1.Oct.04 • 03/Canada 1h32 2 out of 5 stars
The inspiration is so obvious that you could call it My Big Gay Italian Wedding. And that pretty much tells you everything you need to know. Angelo (Kirby) is a first-generation Canadian whose Italian parents (Sorvino and Reno) brought the Old World ways with them when they immigrated to Montreal. Angelo and his sister Anna (Ferri) are both rebelling against their cultural heritage, especially the way their mother continually tries to find suitable mates. Well, Angelo has a dark secret he's keeping from his parents, who think his cop boyfriend Nino (Miller) is just a flatmate. And Nino is even more closeted than Angelo. But it's all about to erupt into farce as Angelo finds it hard to keep his mouth shut, while Nino wants increasingly to deny his sexuality. If their parents found it difficult to allow their 27-year-old sons to move out of the family homes, how will they react to this news?
  There's a good premise here, and amid the wackiness there are some startlingly powerful scenes as characters grapple with expectations and feelings for each other. But the film is annoying in its cheap attempts to get a laugh as well as a general dishonesty in the way it flippantly deals with serious themes. While there are some very funny bits, writer-director Gaudreault seems way out of his depth with the story and characters. None of the romantic entanglements work at all--terrible dialog, badly directed encounters and no chemistry whatever (the two romantic-interest actors, Miller and Post, never get to be anything more than pretty faces). It doesn't help that there are no romantic or sexy scenes at all! That said, Kirby is very good in the central role, as are Sorvino and Reno, who somehow manage to avoid the worst cultural cliches in their performances. Otherwise it's basically just Italian nuttiness on parade. And while it's endearing and watchable, with some meaningful touches, there's a nagging self-hating tone at work that undermines the central message of tolerance and familial love. And it leaves you wondering what Gaudreault's really saying here. [15 themes, language, innuendo] 3.Nov.03 lff
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
David Haviland, London: 3.5/5 "Like Strictly Ballroom, this film features a parochial community threatened by new ideas; in this case, a small Italian community in Canada. Like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this film revels in the friction between immigrant communities and the societies they inhabit. It also has a sure comic touch, dealing comfortably with stereotypes without being predictable. The plot is intricate and surprising, with a third act which cleverly confounds our expectations. The cast make the most of some excellent dialogue, particularly Sorvino, who delivers a surprisingly moving turn. The film is shot in bright primary colours and pastels, to give a wonderfully bright, tacky feel, and the story moves with fluidity and pace. What I found particularly charming was the film’s warmth and liberalism. Some of the characters are quite monstrous, such as Angelo’s neurotic pill-popping sister (Claudia Ferri), or the brassy, avaracious Pina (Sophie Lorain). In another film these characters might have been simply unpleasant, but the writers take such care to justify their idiosyncracies that we are able to empathise with them." (17.Feb.04)
back to the top TWENTYNINE PALMS
golubeva and wissak festival
dir-scr Bruno Dumont
with David Wissak, Katia Golubeva
release France 17.Sep.03, US 9.Apr.04, UK 29.Jul.05 • 03/France 1h59 4 out of 5 stars
There are almost two films at work here, jostling for the audience up until one brutally destroys the other in the shattering conclusion. It leaves viewers badly shaken--much like Gaspar Noe's similarly themed, but oppositely told Irreversible. David (Wissak) is a photographer heading into the California desert to scout for shooting locations in and around the town of Twentynine Palms. His girlfriend Katia (Golubeva) is with him, and it's fairly clear that they have little actual work planned, since David has no photographic equipment with him! Instead they have noisy sex virtually everywhere they go--in the sand, in the hotel pool, while rock climbing naked at Joshua Tree! Maybe he's planning a porn shoot? Whatever, their energetic lovemaking is only interrupted by the business of relationships--tensions and misunderstandings, a gentle tug of war for power and a growing, awkward sense of trust. But there's also an increasing menace in the world outside their little cocoon.
  It's this impending doom that finally takes the film somewhere. Up to then, it's just a series of astute relational vignettes. Dumont uses every stereotype known to man and woman, but he does it in a natural way that's almost shockingly true, contrasting love and lust, practicality and sensuality, thoughtfulness and thoughtlessness, physicality and conversation. Back and forth, male and female, sand and water--this is extremely clever filmmaking that never takes a simple path through a scene. It's so honest that it makes you wonder how men and women ever get together. And how they can survive apart. The cinematography is both lush and raw, capturing scenes with long, flowing takes and wrapping the awesome desert scenery around the intimate human action. Dumont's direction is exceptionally astute; there are gobsmackingly beautiful images everywhere, an almost Adam and Eve sensibility that's like Gus Van Sant's Gerry with rampant sex ... and an ending. And it's this final 15 minutes that will cause the controversy, mostly because it seems to come right when things are as safe as they'll ever be. And in the end the film's both so well-made and so expertly manipulative that it'll haunt you for years. You have been warned! [18 strong themes, sex, nudity, violence, language] 1.Nov.03 lff
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© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall