Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 20.Feb.05
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The Keys to the House Le Chiavi di Casa   4/5
This lyrical and emotional Italian drama tells an astonishing story of parenthood and childhood at the moment of connection--when a child becomes an independent person who needs his own set of house keys. It's a beautifully made film--raw, engaging and deeply haunting.
  Gianni (Stuart) is a young man who's about to meet his teen son for the first time, escorting him on a train trip to a hospital in Berlin. Paolo (Rossi) has some strong birth disorders--physically and emotionally he's like a precocious young boy. Gianni is won over immediately by Paolo's wit and spirit, but it's not smooth sailing. At the hospital he confides in Nicole (Rampling), whose daughter (Faerovich) has cerebral palsy. Together they gently prod each other, exposing hopes, fears and real frustrations. Then Gianni decides more drastic action is needed.
  This is a film about bonding, and director-cowriter Amelio tells the story with a silent stillness that belies the intense emotions that churn under the surface, erupting now and then with real force. It's also not remotely simple. The complex characters are rich with meaning that extends far beyond the circumstances of this story. Paolo's disability is not the point here; it's about dealing with past mistakes and taking a chance at redemption when it's offered. If it's even possible to achieve it. It's also about opening up to someone, to see who they are and what they really mean.
  But on the surface it's an almost meek film, gentle and warm. And the performances are strikingly unaffected. The three central actors--Stuart, Rossi and Rampling--are so natural that they're breathtaking to watch. We really believe their inner turmoil, tentative connections, hopefulness and anger. Emotion oozes out of them, and their interrelationships feel almost uncomfortably real, especially when Nicole slices through Gianni's hesitance and guilt with penetrating observations and confessions. In the end, the film is almost impossibly touching--sweet and painful. This is a moving love story between a father and his son ... with a startling sting in its tale.
dir Gianni Amelio
scr Gianni Amelio, Sandro Petraglia, Stefano Rulli
with Kim Rossi Stuart, Andrea Rossi, Charlotte Rampling, Alla Faerovich, Pierfrancesco Favino, Manuel Katzy, Michael Weiss, Ingrid Appenroth, Dimitri Süsin, Thorsten Schwarz, Anita Bardeleben, Camilla Erblich
stuart and rossi release Italy 10.Sep.04,
UK 1.Apr.05
04/Italy 1h45
PG adult themes
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It's taken the incarceration of the former president for Chile to finally make its own movie about the US-sponsored 1973 coup that plunged the country in to 30 years of horrific injustice. And Wood is clearly the right guy for the job, telling his eloquent story from a child's non-judgemental point of view.
  Gonzalo (Quer) is an 11-year-old at a posh Catholic school in Santiago, where the American priest (Malbran) is determined to counteract centuries of European prejudice by allowing indigenous boys from a nearby shantytown to attend for free. Gonzalo befriends one of them, Pedro Machuca (Mateluna), and together they embark on several pre-adolescent adventures, including kissing their first girl (Martelli). Meanwhile, the country's political situation is coming to a boil.
  This is incendiary subject matter, and Wood inventively tells the story from the boys' neutral perspective--they're literally from opposite sides of the tracks, with no idea what that means. But as the film progresses they begin to understand the awful truth of the world they live in. The result is one of the most startlingly effective political films in memory--gripping, entertaining, devastating. Wood takes us right to the edge between hope and hopelessness, then pushes us over it with the sound of a single gunshot.
  The film is impeccably shot, with a beautifully dusty 1970s style that captures much more than the surface textures of the period. The social-political situation builds up gradually in clear focus, with artful touches that bring it powerfully to life and add a strong emotional resonance. This is done subtly, such as when the "No to civil war!" graffiti eerily transforms when the word "No" is blacked out. And Wood adeptly highlights the differences between the boys through simple things like their swimwear. While Gonzalo's Lone Ranger obsession is echoed in his rich-boy bicycle--his Silver, as it were.
  From the actors to script to production, there's not a false note anywhere. This is complex, compelling, engaging and extremely artful filmmaking. It's also so timely that it's terrifying. As one character cries out: "When will we dare to do things differently?"
dir Andrés Wood
scr Roberto Brodsky, Mamoun Hassan, Andrés Wood
with Matías Quer, Ariel Mateluna, Manuela Martelli, Ernesto Malbran, Aline Küppenheim, Tamara Acosta, Federico Luppi, Francisco Reyes, Luis Dubó, Gabriela Medina, Tiago Correa, Alejandro Trejo
quer, martelli and mateluna release Chile 5.Aug.04, US 19.Jan.05,
UK 6.May.05
04/Chile 2h01
15 themes, language, violence
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New Town Original   2.5/5
This independent drama was produced, filmed and distributed--completely outside the British film industry--by three Essex boys. It's a rather amateurish movie in many ways, but it shows considerable skill as it captures the real rhythms of life in England's new towns.
  Mick (Jordan) is a young professional in Basildon who lives in a comfortable housing estate, works in an industrial park and hangs out with his friends in a leisure centre that contains bars, clubs, cinemas and even a bowling alley. But Mick's life is shaken up when he falls for a girl (Peachey) whose ex (McNeilly) is a local thug. Now Mick is paranoid that the thug is out to get him, so he turns to friends and colleagues for advice. But they're not very helpful.
  It's a very slim storyline, but it allows the filmmakers to really examine life in what could be any new town in Britain. There's no sense of history in the anonymous architecture; the micro-dramas feel like things everyone experiences. And writer-director Ford observes this tellingly, without over-dramatising the action and only briefly resorting to editing trickery. He nicely maintains this low-key vibe--relaxed, funny, authentic. Jordan gives the film an engaging centre; he's like a composite of Orlando Bloom and Jude Law, with a scrawny, boyish charm that reminds us he's really just a kid out on his own. The novice cast is fresh and engaging, although their inexperience shows in a few scenes that feel overacted and somewhat cliched.
  Ford tells his simple tale cleverly, with a generous streak of humour that's balanced by an oddly heavy violent turn of events and a serious point underneath it all. Where it exceeds expectations is in the way he captures the imagery and pace of life in this environment. The camera work is excellent--sharply framed and lit--and the editing is sharp and telling. It looks like a fully budgeted movie, and this helps capture the laddy machismo that fuels this subculture, as well as the tentative yearning and the everyday boredom that just needs a bit of a jolt to the system. Intriguing and promising.
dir-scr Jason Ford
with Elliott Jordan, Katharine Peachey, Nathan Thomas, Paul McNeilly, Richard Gooch, Kal Aise, Jamie Palmer, Lynn Verral, Laura Pennycard, Steve Gibbs, Terry Bird, Vic Vigna Rajah
jordan and peachey release UK 15.Apr.05
04/UK 1h28
2004 New Talent Award:
15 themes, language, sexuality, violence
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Only Human Seres Queridos   3.5/5
Using the structure of a freewheeling Spanish farce, filmmakers DePelegri and Harari confront one of the world's most impossible conflicts head on. Well, from the side, maybe. It's an astonishing feat that they're able to actually examine the issue with honesty and depth, all while telling a hilarious cross-cultural love story.
  Leni (Aguilera) is understandably terrified about taking her Palestinian boyfriend Rafi (Toledo) home to Madrid to meet her Jewish family, even though they're agnostic liberals. As dinner approaches, she gets the nerve to talk to her domineering mother (Aleandro); meanwhile in the kitchen Rafi inadvertently causes an accident that might have killed someone passing on the street below. And the victim might be Leni's father (Martin). Fortunately everyone is too self-absorbed to notice.
  In addition to the naturalistic acting style, the dialog has such an organic feel to it that we can tell English-Spanish husband-wife team Harari and DePelegri are writing from experience. Everything is so character-based that each interaction comes to life with real comedic force. The script is a non-stop barrage of hilarious jokes and asides, tiny details that capture the inner workings of this group of completely different people. Unlike broader ethnic family comedies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, these gags have authenticity--from the big laughs to subtle jabs to close-to-the-bone cultural humour. Everyone makes it part of their business to interfere in everyone else's life and relationships, simply because they're related, so they have the right.
  As a result, the serious issue underpinning the film is allowed to gurgle meaningfully beneath the surface. Some of the observations are perhaps a little forced (such as Berliner's deaf grandfather, who boasts about shooting Arabs during the war). But they sure hit a nerve. While other things (such as Ramallo's suddenly zealous young brother or Botto's trampy single-mum sister) are much more accurate than we care to admit. There are moments that are thoroughly silly and perhaps a little too farcical. But in the end this engaging film wins us over with its sharp humour and surprising warmth. And its brave timeliness.
dir-scr Teresa DePelegrí, Dominic Harari
with Guillermo Toledo, Marián Aguilera, Norma Aleandro, María Botto, Fernando Ramallo, Max Berliner, Alba Molinero, Mario Martín, Emiliana Olmedo, Balbino Acosta, Paco Martinez, Manuel Rodal
the mad dali family
release Spain 9.Jul.04,
UK 20.May.05
US 9.Jun.06
04/Spain 1h29
15 adult themes, sex, language
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall