Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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More mainstream art films have their own pages.
Other offbeat films are at: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | SHORT FILMS
last update 9.Jun.04

back to the top FALCONS
dir Fridrik Thor Fridriksson scr Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Einar Karason
with Keith Carradine, Margret Vilhjalmsdottir, Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson, Fridrik Fridriksson, Magnus Olafsson, Petur Olafsson, Margret Olafsdottir, Marisa Calcagno, Ramin Yazdani, Axel Prahl, Hark Bohm, Zack-Volker Michalowski
release Iceland 27.Sep.02, UK 9.Jul.04 02/Iceland 1h35 3/5
This hesitant, minimalist road movie has a beguiling tone that draws us in, even when it feels somewhat awkward and contrived. After spending much of his adult life in prison, Simon (Carradine) heads back to his mother's native Iceland. He feels that his life has been pointless, and he's decided to end it all when he meets quirky performance artist Dua (Vilhjalmsdottir), who's caring for her sick uncle's dogs, as well as the valuable Icelandic falcon he rescued. But a thuggish local cop (Sigurdsson) is after both of them, and they end up on the run, catching a trawler to Germany, where Dua's earth-mother sensibilities and irresponsibility with money starts to push Simon around the bend. But by then he's convinced she's his daughter from a one-night stand 30 years earlier.
  Fridriksson works in that bracing Icelandic filmmaking style--sharp light, bold colours, idiosyncratic characters and scenes that contain long stretches of either utter silence or rambling dialog. It's so refreshing that we overlook the story's over-constructed plot as well as a general sense of awkwardness, which may be intentional. Carradine is such an offbeat presence on screen that we're not sure whether he's good or not, but he's so fascinating and magnetic that we're gripped by everything he says and does. And in her new-age nuttiness, grounded with an honest intuition, Vilhjalmsdottir is his perfect counterpart.
  Watching these two social outcasts find comfort in each other is remarkably insightful and entertaining, but Fridriksson never hurries it along. They're both connecting with each other and discovering truths about themselves that they've ignored all their lives. Fridriksson lets this develop organically on screen, gentling prodding things along and continually finding visually amazing angles on each scene--funny, ironic, emotional. It's an engaging odyssey that continually surprises us--it's so original that we never really have a clue where it's going next, although the emotionally startling conclusion doesn't come as a surprise. [15 themes, language, innuendo, violence] 19.May.04
back to the top INFERNAL AFFAIRS II
ng and yue
dir Andrew Lau, Alan Mak scr Felix Chong, Alan Mak
with Edison Chen, Shawn Yue, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Francis Ng, Carina Lau, Yu Chiu, Kelly Fu Hu Jun, Chapman To, Liu Kai-chi, Roy Cheung
release HK 1.Oct.03, UK 6.Aug.04 03/China 1h59 3/5
INFERNAL AFFAIRS (2002) opened with a prologue set in 1991 before jumping ahead ten years to tell its story about a cop and a mobster deep undercover in each others' worlds. Now we see that missing decade in an energetic, slickly produced film that's even more complicated and confusing than the original.
  Yan (Yue) is a young cop secretly chosen by Inspector Wong (Wong) to go deep undercover in the mob. His family connection forces him to confront the skeleton in his closet, especially as his half-brother (Ng) assumes control of the empire. Meanwhile, the young mob thug Ming (Chen) is instructed to enrol in police academy and work his way into a position of authority so he can keep his boss (Tsang) one step ahead of the cops. But Ming has a crush on the boss' wife (Lau)--bad idea! And both young men are going to discover that there's no one they can trust.
  After the events of the first film, it's especially fascinating to see where the characters were beforehand. Yue and Chen played Yan and Ming in the prologue of the original film, and here they get to flesh out the roles and make them their own, while the cast around them add astonishing back-stories to characters who were already quite vivid but now take on additional resonance. The performances are excellent across the board, and combined with the assured filmmaking style they bring the story and characters to life beautifully.
  This is extremely clever filmmaking--maybe too clever, as it's very difficult to follow, jumping between the vast cast of characters and continually twisting and turning the story, changing liaisons and adding dramatic wrinkles that constantly redefine characters. It's witty, sharp and very classy filmmaking--gorgeously sleek cinematography with a lush soundtrack and elegantly staged and edited action. Telling details hit us from every side, and every character is so intriguing that we almost wish this was a 20-episode series rather than a frenetically paced two-hour movie! Complicated and disorienting, but also remarkably intelligent and emotional. [15 themes, language, violence] 25.May.04
hetfield on film
dir Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
with James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Bob Rock, Phil Towle, Robert Trujillo, Jason Newsted, Dave Mustaine, Torben Ulrich, Cliff Burton
release US 9.Jul.04, UK 1.Oct.04 04/US 2h25 3.5/5
This film about the biggest headbanging band of all time is not your normal rockumentary. Not even close! The members of Metallica give filmmakers Berlinger and Sinofsky (Paradise Lost) unfettered access during an important transition period. After bassist Newsted quits, the remaining trio (vocalist-guitarist Hetfield, drummer Ulrich and lead guitarist Hammet) goes back into the studio after a long break to record in a completely new way. Hetfield is finally relinquishing control over the lyrics; everyone would contribute, including producer Rock, who'll play bass on the record. Then they hire performance coach Towle to oversee group therapy sessions.
  What person in their right mind then hires a film crew to capture every soul-searching moment on tape? Someone with nothing to hide, obviously, and this film is an astonishing gift to Metallica fans--and music fans anywhere--showing the inner workings of a band, the creative processes, the clashes between art and commerce, and the strains of growing up while maintaining creative integrity. It's so revelatory that at times we feel uncomfortable watching it! Especially when Hetfield has a complete meltdown and ends up in rehab for more than a year.
the fans go wild   Yes, what started as a simple doc about a band returning to its roots becomes a three-year epic about facing up to inner demons and moving on to something new. The material is so honest that the filmmakers clearly had trouble whittling it down; it's far too long, like watching an entire TV series in one setting. And it isn't even padded with performance footage (which means the film will engage a much broader audience than just Metallica fans).
  It's also thoroughly entertaining, although most of our laughter comes from the inane psychobabble spouted by Towle and echoed by the bandmates. Hetfield emerges as a control freak desperately trying to be a better man. Ulrich is the lively spark (his battle with pirate music site Napster takes place during this period), constantly changing his appearance and saying exactly what's on his mind. There's so much here that it can't be written off as just a Metallica publicity-tool documentary. Because it's also a superb examination of long-term relationships. [15 themes, strong language] 8.Jun.04
back to the top MY ARCHITECT
louis with nathaniel
dir-scr Nathaniel Kahn
with Nathaniel Kahn, Louis Kahn, Frank Gehry, IM Pei, Edmund Bacon, Philip Johnson, Teddy Kollek, Jack MacCallister, Harriet Pattison, Anne Tyng, Alex Tyng, Sue Ann Kahn
release US 12.Nov.03, UK 13.Aug.04 03/US 1h56 3/5
This engaging documentary is about a son's search for the father he barely knew. Nathaniel Kahn was only 11 when his father, top architect Louis Kahn, died suddenly in a train station. Lou wasn't the most prolific architect in the world, but he was one of the most influential, combining classical forms with modern styles to create buildings that sit in harmony with their elements and settings--using bricks, concrete, water and most importantly light. But his personal life was a different story. He was married with a daughter, and also had two secret families on the side, including Nathaniel and his mother (Pattison).
  In the film, Nathaniel travels to each of his father's buildings--from his hometown Philadelphia to California, Texas, Israel, India and finally Bangladesh, where Lou designed the nation's astonishing capital building. Along the way he talks with Lou's colleagues, friends and lovers, has a reunion with his two half-sisters (Sue Ann Kahn and Alex Tyng), and begins to understand the enigma of his father through the architecture itself.
  This is a beautifully made film, infused with the emotion of a now-adult son trying to sort out his confusing past. The filming style is artful and lovely to look at, while Nathaniel's narration digs deep to capture his feelings and observations. Interviews are natural and open, and there's a wealth of archival footage that brings Lou to life right before our eyes, down to telling details like the charcoal stains on his hands. The film is broken into chapters that focus on various elements of Lou's life and work, which helps us make sense of it as well, even though some segments feel a bit off-topic. Where it wobbles is in its attempts to define Lou's spirituality; Nathaniel tries far too hard to read something into his father's Jewishness, pushing it on us rather than letting it emerge organically through the material. As a result, the film feels overlong. We are powerfully gripped by Lou's life and work, but we're never as moved by Nathaniel's quest as we clearly should be. [PG some themes, language] 25.May.04
back to the top A TALE OF TWO SISTERS [Janghwa, Hongryeon]
moon and lim
dir-scr Kim Ji-woon
with Lim Su-jeong, Mun Geun-yeong, Yum Jung-ah, Kim Kap-su
release Korea 13.Jun.03, UK 13.Aug.04, US 17.Dec.04 03/Korea 1h55 3.5/5    
Here's another gonzo Asian horror film in the vein of The Ring or Audition, with haunting presences, inexplicable cutaways, overwhelming suspense, deeply disturbing sub-themes and a general willingness to leave things unanswered. Fantastic!
  The eponymous sisters are Soo-Mi and Soo-Yeon (Lim and Mun), who are still recovering from the death of their mother when their father (Kim) remarries. Maybe it's part of the adjustment process, but there's something scary about the stepmother (Yum)--harsh looks, biting comments, extremely stern discipline. But more is wrong: A presence in the house is haunting the girls. Is it their stepmother trying to drive them crazy? Or is there really a ghost?
  Firstly, this film looks amazing. Writer-director Kim has a startling visual sense that combines stark whites with specific colours against the house's claustrophobically flowery wallpaper and dark-wood panelling. This cleverly combines the evil stepmum and haunted house genres, and it nods to Hitchcock, Nakata and especially Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist. It also keeps us completely unsettled as Kim builds an overpowering sense of foreboding--referring to "that day" and talking about "that woman", all while using comforting images and music to undermine our sense of security. We never have a clue what's going to happen next; we're too busy trying to figure out what just happened!
  Kim also uses the sound mix masterfully. Sudden silences jar just as strongly as loud chords of music and things going bump in the night. The narrative is complex and tricky. Just when you think you know how to "read" it, something catches you off guard--freaky nightmares, telling flashbacks, eerie images (the first appearance of blood is harmless, the last certainly is not!). Like The Shining, the house itself comes to life as everyone becomes increasingly erratic. Then Kim pulls the rug out from under us with his first plot-defining twist. But beyond the horror, this film actually has a strong sense of emotion, from grief and fear to mistrust and nostalgia. And it's a provocative examination of mental imbalance as well. It may be too much in the end--too many set pieces and cutaways--but the truth beneath the chaotic surface is startlingly moving. [15 themes, violence, suspense] 19.May.04
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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall