Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
On this page: A COMMON THREAD | DON'T MOVE | 15 | HEAD-ON
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last update 1.Feb.05
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A Common Thread Brodeuses [US title: Sequins]   3.5/5
French filmmaker Faucher gives this gentle drama an engaging and thoughtful tone that may feel slow and dull to some viewers. But those who stick with it will be rewarded with a lovely story about people picking up the pieces of their shattered lives.
  Claire (Naymark) is a teenager who has left her family to make a life on her own--working at a local supermarket. When she discovers she's pregnant, she decides to put the baby up for adoption, quietly leaving her very public job and beginning an apprenticeship with an Armenian embroiderer (Ascaride) whose son has just died in a motorcycle accident. These two women--one before motherhood, the other after it--are both facing difficult futures, but together they might have a chance to get through.
  Naymark and Ascaride play these characters so vividly that we're completely gripped from the moment we meet them. Naymark's flaming red curls seem almost like an expression of her internal rage; her cheeky sense of humour balances her stubborn rebellion. And she makes Claire subtly receptive to life around her, with a willingness to both face life as it comes and take charge of her destiny. It's a clever character that's both complicated and simple at the same time. Meanwhile, Ascaride's Madame Melikian is darkly shadowed with a tiny gleam in her eye that even severe tragedy can't quite extinguish. Together these women are wonderful, conveying everything with minimal dialog and actions.
  Faucher directs the whole film this way, with quietly expressive cinematography that never shifts up a gear as it cleverly catches the minutiae of life and interaction. The film moves slowly, revealingly, with the beautifully honest rhythm of the two women. This calm pace also allows fascinating, wounded people around them the space to develop, which gives the film a rich, meaningful depth and draws us in even further. Despite the unhurried pace, the film is full of sharp wit, red herrings and compelling mysteries. But it's in the detailed observation of two desperate people checking each other for trustworthiness that the film strikes gold
dir-scr Eleonore Faucher
with Lola Naymark, Ariane Ascaride, Thomas Laroppe, Marie Félix, Jacky Berroyer, Anne Canovas, Arthur Quehen, Elisabeth Commelin, Marina Tomé, Ludivine Morissonaud, Christophe Hatey, François Noël
laroppe and naymark release France 13.Oct.04, UK 20.May.05,
US 27.May.05
04/France Canal+ 1h29
15 themes, violence
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Don’t Move Non Ti Muovere   2.5/5
This film has won awards all over the world, which seems a bit high praise for a straightforward melodrama. A well-made one, yes, but it's also rather corny and contrived.
  Timoteo (Castellitto) is a surgeon whose 15-year-old daughter (Perino) just had a terrible traffic accident. While he waits for his wife (Gerini) to arrive, and for his hospital colleagues (Giallini, De Silva and Finocchiaro) to do their job, Timoteo's thoughts go back 15 years to the fling he had with a trashy woman named Italia (Cruz) who lived in a building site--and got pregnant at the same time as his wife.
  There's a superb story in here about personal life choices, love and commitment. And while actor-director-cowriter Castellitto examines these issues without passing judgement, leaving us to reach our own verdict, he neglects to really get beneath the surface. There's a lot of on-screen emoting that doesn't resonate, simply because the film has such a heightened style to it. From the vertiginous opening shot to Cruz's slathered-on make-up, it simply doesn't seem real enough for us to get caught up in the emotions.
  But the actors go for it. Cruz is astonishingly determined to make us believe she's a dumpy slag--all bow-legged and gap-toothed, blowsy and tough. But frankly, she's more like a comedy sketch character than an authentic woman. At least she plays the scenes with wrenching emotion, which matches Castellitto's angsty performance perfectly. But neither of Timoteo's on-screen relationships feel particularly truthful, which undermines what is obviously supposed to be the film's devastating emotional kick.
  Still, Castellitto shows enormous technical talent--the film is elegantly shot and edited, with a witty tone and a nicely disjointed sensibility that keeps us on our toes even when the film starts feeling somewhat familiar. These characters are all flawed, troubled people who are impossible to like very much, so maybe they deserve each other. And while there are some lovely observations on passion and parenthood, once we sense that tragedy and irony are coming, the whole thing begins to feel rather indulgent.
dir Sergio Castellitto
scr Sergio Castellitto, Margaret Mazzantini
with Sergio Castellitto, Penelope Cruz, Claudia Gerini, Marco Giallini, Pietro De Silva, Angela Finocchiaro, Elena Perino, Lina Bernardi, Gianni Musi, Renato Marchetti, Marit Nissen, Vittoria Piancastelli
Maxence Perrin, Jugnot and the boys release Italy 12.Mar.04, US 17.Dec.04,
UK 18.Mar.05
04/Italy Cattleya 2h05
15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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15   3.5/5
This extremely raw film ran afoul of Singapore's notoriously strict censorship laws for its frank depiction of teen sex, drugs and violence. It's an extremely gripping film, hard to watch at times, and very honest in its depiction of youthful nihilism.
  Melvin, Vynn and Shaun (Chen, Soh and Tan) run with a teen gang, talking about sex, indulging in drugs, getting tattoos and piercings and filling their aimless, pointless lives with nothing but trouble. Then Shaun ditches his friends for a new gang, and Erick and Armani (Chun and Lee) bring with them a whole new kind of angst--mostly because Armani is determined to injure himself, and Erick becomes the object of Shaun's affection.
  There's an incredible energy here, both in the bravely daring cast (a lot of the actions are clearly real, such as a face piercing) and in writer-director Tan's enthusiastic filmmaking--choppy editing, kinetic motion, lots of music and witty special effects. It's a whirlwind of activity in which these boys do very little besides talk and dance with death, nursing each other through violent attacks and overdoses.
  No, this isn't exactly earth-shattering stuff. Filmmakers all over the world have been documenting troubled youth in exactly the same way; this bears a striking similarity to Gregg Araki's Totally F***ed Up and The Doom Generation. After the relatively comical first half, in which we watch the adventures of the "Stray Cats", the film shifts into much darker territory--these guys don't care if they hurt or even kill themselves, or each other. They believe that if they don't die of Aids they'll get cancer anyway, so why bother?
  And yet amid the gloom there's a surprising ray of hope. Tan balances the harsh violence and drug-fuelled grisliness with warm-hearted humour that reminds us these are just boys, after all. It's a tricky balance, but he manages to keep us watching, even though despair is the primary emotion. Visually the film is lush and vibrant, both overwhelmingly brutal and surprisingly tender at the same time. It's not easy to watch, and the characters aren't developed nearly enough for us to care about them, but the urgent filmmaking style demands attention.
dir-scr Royston Tan
with Shaun Tan, Vynn Soh, Melvin Chen, Erick Chun, Melvin Lee
erick and shaun
release Singapore 23.Oct.03, UK 4.Feb.05,
US 15.Apr.05
03/Singapore 1h30
18 themes, language, violence, drugs, sexuality
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Head-on Gegen die Wand   4/5
There's a remarkable balance in this film between brutality and compassion--it's often not easy to watch, the characters are all strongly abrasive, and yet we are emotionally gripped to their journey.
  Cahit (Unel) is a 44-year-old waste of space, living in drugged-out squalor in Hamburg when he meets the sparky 21-year-old Sibel (Kekilli), who has an intriguing proposal. Basically she blackmails him into marrying her, so she can escape the grip of her Turkish family. Cahit is a Turk, so he's just about acceptable, especially after she cleans him up a bit. As they start to get to know each other, there's a softening between them that might become love. But the tensions and brutality of their subculture make this almost impossible.
  Writer-director Akin starkly portrays life in a Turkish community in Germany as something both comforting and terrifying. These people rely on their family and friends, but it can all turn in an instant due to the deep-seated racism around them and the violent insistence on traditional values within the family. In this setting, Akin tells a lively and often hilarious tale of two lost souls. At the start both of them are suicidal nutcases, then through a series of funny and horrific situations, they find both each other and themselves. The filmmaking style is raw and jagged, never flinching away from the gruesome horrors they encounter, but it also has a sweet centre that keeps us captivated.
  Unel and Kekilli both bring a strong force of personality to their roles, which makes the wide variety of situations both telling and engaging. And there's a wonderful range of side characters who add depth of meaning to the film--Cahit's semi-girlfriend (Striebeck) and his strict Muslim pal (Kirac), Sibel's divorced cousin in Istanbul (Cumbul) and her hothead brother (Cem Akin). These and other characters weave into a varied tapestry of experiences that makes the film extremely realistic--there's nothing remotely simplistic about this examination of all sides of a culture/subculture. But at its heart, this is a provocative, wrenching, hopeful, full-on love story.
dir-scr Fatih Akin
with Birol Unel, Sibel Kekilli, Catrin Striebeck, Guven Kirac, Meltem Cumbul, Cem Akin, Demir Gokgol, Stefan Gebelhoff, Aysel Iscan, Hermann Lause, Adam Bousdoukos, Ralph Misske
unel and kekilli release Germany 11.Mar.04, US 21.Jan.05, UK 18.Feb.05
04/Germany 2h01

winner Golden Bear and Critics Prize (Berlin 04); Best Film (European Film Awards 04);
Best Film, Actor, Actress, Director and Cinematography (German Film Awards 04)
18 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall