Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
From the BFI's 18th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, Mar-Apr 04: GOLDFISH MEMORY
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last update 21.Apr.04

back to the top ANAZAPTA
headey and flemyng
dir Alberto Sciamma • scr Harriet Sand, Alberto Sciamma
with Lena Headey, David La Haye, Jason Flemyng, Ian McNeice, Anthony O'Donnell, Jon Finch, Christopher Fairbank, Stevan Rimkus, Jeffrey Nuttall, Ralph Riach, Elizabeth Marmur, Tony Aitkin
release UK 7.May.04 • 02/UK 1h50 2/5
Set in 1348 when the black death was raging across Europe, this medieval thriller has a lot going for it, mainly in the way it makes the very most of a low budget. Alas, the script lets it down badly! The story centres on Matilda (Headey), wife of landowner Walter (Finch) who owes a lot of money to the corpulent local bishop (McNiece). But Walter's been captured in battle in France, so Matilda is left to cope on her own. Then her nephew (Flemyng) comes back from the battle with a prisoner, Jacques (La Haye), who they can use as a bargaining chip to get Walter back. But there are strange goings on in their muddy parish; people are dying with religious phrases (such as "anazapta", a plea for health) carved into their boil-ridden bodies. And Jacques seems to be the key to everything.
  There's an intriguing central idea here--writers Sand and Sciamma make a bold leap with the script, connecting social and religious issues with the events of the period. Unfortunately, they seem unable to work these themes into a coherent story. It alternates as a religious melodrama, slasher flick, revenge thriller, lusty bodice ripper and slow-burning romance. There's a lot going on here, so we're never bored; but it's all so corny and arch that we don't care about anyone. And there are frequent moments of unintentional hilarity, such as the scene in which someone saves a life by accidentally (!) performing CPR. Headey is the only actor to emerge with any dignity--her performance is subtle enough to rise above the laden dialog. The rest ham it up shamelessly: La Haye is almost pathologically wan, McNiece is far too slug-like, Flemyng chomps scenery like a rabid puppy, and so on. Meanwhile, Sciamma directs his socks off--the film looks terrific, with cheap production values that look great on screen and Dan Jones' sumptuous orchestral score lending weight to the whole thing. It's also pleasingly gruesome, with grisly medievalness and incessant rain. But it's not enough to surmount the muddled, confusing story at the centre. [18 themes, violence, gore, language] 23.Mar.04
back to the top GOLDFISH MEMORY
Montgomery and McErlean 18th llgff
dir-scr Liz Gill
with Sean Campion, Flora Montgomery, Keith McErlean, Stuart Graham, Fiona O'Shaughnessy, Fiona Glascott, Peter Gaynor, Lise Hearns, Justine Mitchell, Jean Butler, Demien McAdam, Aisling O'Neill
release Ireland 5.Sep.03; UK 8.Oct.04 • 03/Ireland 1h25 3/5
This lively Dublin ensemble comedy tries to give us every conceivable permutation of relationships involving various sexes and sexualities (but not ages--they're all 20something). The result is telling and entertaining, if not terribly earthshaking. Even the central thesis seems a bit tired, that like goldfish we seem to have no long-term memory when it comes to relationships, so we keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
  It's virtually impossible to lay out the labyrinthine connections or interrelationships in a brief plot synopsis, but if there has to be a centre to the film it's in the friendship between the lesbian TV presenter Angie (Montgomery) and the gay courier Red (McErlean). Their romantic entanglements could be an entire movie all their own, as each goes through at least two partners over the course of the film. Everyone in the film does, actually! The other focal point is the narrator Tom (Campion), a hangdog type prone to bouts of stalking when his relationships don't go as planned.
  These are all energetic and realistic characters, and writer-director Gill captures their interaction with warm, colourful cinematography and sharp performances from her cast. There's far too much dialog though, especially as we try to keep everyone straight in our minds while they get together, break up and then reform in another combination. But there are wonderful moments along the way, as people find love in the most unexpected places (and never find it where they think they will). And there are clever sidelines on jealousy, monogamy, expectations and true love. Gill refuses to fall back on any stereotypes, but she also never makes the characters idiosyncratic enough to stand out on their own--it's all a little bland, really, even though it's not remotely boring. Gill continually cuts away from anything really edgy or painful--it's engaging but never moving. You find yourself wishing it could be expanded out into an ensemble TV series so we could see everything. [15 themes, language, some sex] 27.Mar.04
back to the top NATHALIE...
beart and ardant
dir Anne Fontaine • scr Anne Fontaine, Jacques Fieschi
with Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Beart, Gerard Depardieu, Rodolphe Pauly, Judith Magre, Wladimir Yordanoff, Ari Paffgen, Evelyne Dandry, Aurore Auteuil, Idit Cebula, Sasha Rukavina, Macha Polikarpova
release France 7.Jan.04; UK 16.Jul.04; US 14.Apr.06 • Canal+ 03/France 1h40
See also the remake: CHLOE (2009)
There's an intriguing idea behind this technically well-made film, but it's so dull and pretentious that it never lands the gut-punch it's so clearly trying to throw. It's the story of a jealous woman, Catherine (Ardant), who's fed up with the meaningless liaisons her husband Bernard (Depardieu) mournfully admits to. But instead of leaving him or even asking him to stop, she secretly hires a hooker (Beart) and gives her the name Nathalie, because it's more likely to help her seduce Bernard. So she can then tell Catherine every little gory detail.
  The strange relationship between Catherine and Nathalie is the best thing about he film; as it progresses, their friendship becomes increasingly illicit, in that it's based on secrets and suspicions. We see everything from Catherine's point of view, only hearing about the affair through Nathalie's lurid accounts. As a result the film feels over-talky and ponderous, with characters agonising about life but never living it! For all the talk of sex, the film is strangely sexless. And the filmmakers seem to wimp out just when they could add a very intriguing wrinkle to the story.
  That said, the dialog is tellingly written, and Fontaine directs with a lush moodiness that brings out an especially strong, shadowy performance from Beart. Depardieu gives a smooth supporting performance that adds just the right counterpoint to all the female angst. But while Ardant is always excellent, she's far too muted here. This is a problem since she's our key into the story, yet she's so unsympathetic and irrational that we don't care much. In addition, the plot's big secret is extremely apparent right from the start, if you're paying attention, so the whole thing feels rather condescending (like the filmmakers think we're as unobservant as some of the characters). As an examination of the true nature of infidelity, the film is cleverly subtle and thought-provoking. But this seems almost accidental! The filmmakers don't seem to have any point at all, and by the time we reach the end we're completely uninterested anyway. [12 themes, language, innuendo, sex] 15.Apr.04
back to the top SINCE OTAR LEFT
Droukarova and Khomassouridze
dir Julie Bertucelli • scr Julie Bertucelli, Bernard Renucci
with Esther Gorintin, Nino Khomassouridze, Dinara Droukarova, Temour Kalandadze, Roussoudan Bolkvadze, Sasha Sarichvili, Douta Skhirtladze, Mzia Eristavi, Zoura Natroshvili, Nodar Mdzinarishvili, Misha Eristavi, Gocha Darbaidze
release US 9.Apr.04, UK 4.Jun.04 • 04/Georgia 1h42 3/5
With a disarmingly natural style, director-cowriter Bertucelli draws us into this gentle, moving story of three women (and an entire country) trying to make sense of the East-West divide. It's a French-Belgian co-production, but a thoroughly Georgian film. Otar left Tbilisi for Paris two years ago, leaving three women in a country just emerging from 70 years of Soviet occupation followed by a series of devastating civil wars. Otar's feisty mother Eka (Gorintin), bullheaded sister Marina (Khomassouridze) and hopeful niece Ada (Droukarova) all have a life in Tbilisi, but they also live vicariously through Otar's exploits in the West, which he recounts in frequent letters. So when Ada and Marina learn that Otar has died in an accident, they hide the news from Eka, who gradually begins to suspect something very different. Then Eka decides to go visit her son in Paris and find out what's up.
  There's a wonderful depth that transcends the simple plot and extremely slow-paced storytelling. These are vivid, intriguing characters, and their day-to-day life is both monotonous and fascinating as we watch three generations of women learn to live without men (Marina's husband died fighting in Afghanistan; neither Ada nor Marina can commit to their boyfriends). The dialog is a blend of Georgian, Russian and French, and the rhythms of their speech add cadence to the film, as do their gentle movements through the city and countryside, punctuated by power and water outages, small scams and occasional news from the outside world. By contrast, Paris is a noisy sprawl that changes the lives of all three women completely! Through it all, these three actresses give the film a remarkable heart and soul--their journeys are powerful, frequently funny and full of quietly hopeful desperation. This lovely, astute observation of their life makes the film worth seeing even though not much happens really. The film is dull and draggy at times. And when it reaches its strong conclusion, which is heartbreaking and optimistic in equal measure, we almost feel as numbed as the women themselves. [15 themes, language] 20.Apr.04
dir Helen Stickler
with Mark Rogowski, Tony Hawk, Stacy Peralta, Jason Jessee, Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, Brandi McClain, MoFo, Brad Dorfman, John Brinton Hogan, Steve Olson, Bill Silva
release US 22.Aug.03, UK 25.Jun.04 • 03/US 1h22 3/5
Combining two documentary sub-genres (extreme sports and true crime), this entertaining film tells a fascinating and very sad story ... and gives us lots of cool skateboard action along the way! It's the story of Mark "Gator" Rogowski, who in the late 1980s shot to fame with his champion skateboarding skills. Gator had a distinct style that set him apart from the pack, as well as an arrogance suited to instant celebrity culture. He lived fast and large--travelling the world and enjoying every second of it. Then the scene shifted, and suddenly his skating style of wasn't in vogue. This change shook him deeply, and as he struggled with his internal demons he turned to religion, which alienated his friends and his long-time girlfriend (McClain). His brutally violent reaction to all of this landed him in prison for 31 years to life for murder.
  Stickler tells this story chronologically, starting with Gator's childhood and his rise to prominence in the emerging skateboard culture. Using extensive archive footage and interviews with friends and colleagues, she takes us deep inside Gator's life, examining America's culture of celebrity with a gripping blend of humour and foreboding. The interviewees vary from sorted professionals like Peralta and Hawk to the hilarious (and telling) observations of Jessee, while McClain tries to tell the story plainly, but is overwhelmed by the emotional impact. Just as we are! Some of the most powerful material is in Gator's own voice-over, via telephone from prison. He knows what he's done, and yet he seems to be just now coming to grips with the madness of a life in which he achieved the entire American dream, then in the blink of an eye lost it all and threw away the rest of his life. This is a happy story gone horribly wrong, a chilling glimpse of a serious gap in our culture where young people can fall apart without anyone noticing, simply because they're considered to be the brightest sparks in the land. [15 strong language, brief nudity] 16.Mar.04
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© 2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall