Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 13.Mar.05
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Bombón (El Perro)   4/5
There's a scruffy charm to this film that completely wins us over. Bracingly authentic performances from a non-professional cast make it feel like a documentary, although it's written and directed with an expert touch.
  After the garage where he works in rural Patagonia closes, Coco (Villegas) is adrift. He's 52, and no one wants to hire him. He tries selling his finely crafted knives, but no one wants them either. Then one day he helps a woman whose car breaks down, and to say thanks she gives him a highly bred dogo, a specialty Argentine breed. And Bombón changes Coco's life, especially when he links up with the life-loving dog trainer Walter (Donado) and hits the dog show/stud circuit.
  Even though the film feels like improv, it's shot and edited like a proper movie (The Story of the Weeping Camel comes to mind). And Villegas is truly endearing, with his wry smile and hesitant speech. And his interaction with the extremely expressive Bombón is simply brilliant--they're similar creatures, unsure of where they are and where they should be, but slowly learning. Donado is superb as well--a massive bundle of fast-thinking, warm-hearted energy. And as this threesome embark on their adventure, they're joined by several intriguing side characters.
  This is exceptionally witty filmmaking, keeping us smiling with an engaging mixture of dry comedy, genuine warmth and astute social commentary. Director-cowriter Sorin assembles the film to its own refreshing rhythm--there's no contrived story structure, even though the journey these characters travel is fully formed. It's filmed with a beautiful sense of the Patagonian countryside--expansive deserts, dusty towns, invasive commercial culture. And the script is packed with references to Argentina's economic and political situation, but not so much that it weighs the film down.
Basically this is a simple series of adventures for a man and his dog as they transform each other's life. Each sequence is inventive and disarmingly entertaining, with big laughs and small insights. And frankly, the series of sequences dealing with Bombón's coming of age (ahem!) are worth the price of a ticket!
dir Carlos Sorin
scr Santiago Calori, Salvador Roselli, Carlos Sorin
with Juan Villegas, Walter Donado, Rosa Valsecchi, Mariela Díaz, Claudina Fazzini, Kita Ca, Pascual Condito, Carlos Rossi, Micol Estévez, Rolo Andrada, Sabino Morales
bombon and villegas release Argentina 23.Sep.04,
UK 17.Jun.05
04/Argentina 1h37
Fipresci Prize:
15 themes, language
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Dog Nail Clipper Koirankynnen Leikkaaja   3/5
There's a slow, gentle tone to this drama that stands in sharp contrast to the usual quirky Finnish cinematic style. And even if its metaphorical structure seems a bit aloof, it's still emotionally resonant and relevant.
  Mertsi (Franzen) is a bright young soldier who in 1941 heads off to fight the Russians to regain land stolen from Finland more than 20 years earlier. But the battle is a disaster: Mertsi is shot in the head, leaving him unable to focus on anything. He's watched over by two friends--working with Ville (Kuoppala) on a building site, and then with Eetvi (Reimaluoto) at a remote logging camp. There must be a job he could do! Maybe he can make himself useful by trimming Ville's dog's over-long dewclaws.
  This is a beautiful story of a country rebuilding itself after the devastation of World War II and a deeply personal defeat on the Russian front. Writer-director Polonen captures the cadences of Finnish rural life with a fine attention to detail, focussing squarely on the people. Each character is carefully drawn and superbly well-played, while helps us bond emotionally with the story even if we don't fully grasp the weight of the culture or the obvious symbolism in the plot.
  It's full of references to old Finnish society--skiing as transportation, smoke saunas for bathing--as well as a sense of commerce and progress in the ambitious construction and logging industries. And more important is the old world values of loyalty and friendship, still a mark of Finnish culture. The men in this story have a fierce sense of responsibility for each other, and especially for those in need of help. The guy who refuses to show compassion is much more an outsider than the mentally disabled Mertsi.
  There are also nice surprises in characters and situations that draw out gentle undercurrents of meaning. And even if it's rather slow-moving and obtuse, it's a simple, moving film about a search for belonging and purpose, the importance of friends to help us survive, and the fact that true healing is difficult to achieve.
dir-scr Markku Pölönen
with Peter Franzén, Taisto Reimaluoto, Ahti Kuoppala, Ville Virtanen, Risto Salmi, Timo Lavikainen, Leo Lastumäki, Simo Tamminen, Vieno Saaristo, Hannu Virolainen, Riitta Piironen, Seppo Timonen
franzen release Finland 13.Feb.04,
UK 7.Mar.05 bff
04/Finland 1h45
15 themes, language, violence
7.Mar.05 bff
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Duck Season Temporada de Patos   3.5/5
From Mexico, this engaging look at youthful longings and discoveries is perhaps too artful and elusive for mainstream audiences. But generous doses of wit and a soulful tone make it well worth looking out for.
  Moko and Flama (Cataño and Miranda) are 14-year-old boys spending a day together in Flama's flat while his mother is out. A neighbour girl Rita (Perea), age 16 and full of the confidence the boys lack, comes over to use the kitchen to bake a cake. And the group is completed when the pizza guy (Arreola) camps out after the boys refuse to pay him. Together these four have a series of mini-adventures and micro-epiphanies.
  Director Eimbcke uses black and white cinematography beautifully, framing every shot perfectly, and indulgently lingering on shots longer than strictly necessary, simply because it all looks so cool. Fortunately, many of these clips are telling as well, giving us insight into the characters and reminding us of the realities of the world around them. The title refers to a painting of duck hunters on Flama's wall, the current flash-point in his parents' divorce struggle. This sparks considerable dialog between the characters as they are forced to interact after a power cut leaves them unable to play videogames.
  It's not a coming-of-age story by any means. These characters hilariously circle around each other, revealing little things about themselves without even trying to do so, tentatively reaching out to each other with surprising results. For one day these four are rulers of their world. And there's even a hash brownie sequence, Breakfast Club style, in which all four amusingly let their guards down and see things from a new perspective that's probably not any more warped than their regular day-to-day life.
  This is a gentle, insightful film that has the ability to thoroughly involve us if we go with it. Yes, Eimbcke is far too self-aware most of the time--he knows the film looks great, and that he's touching on serious issues in an askance, delicate way. But by taking this approach he helps us look through new eyes at issues of parenthood, history, sexuality, life decisions. A lovely little film.
dir Fernando Eimbcke
scr Fernando Eimbcke, Paula Marcovich
with Diego Cataño, Daniel Miranda, Danny Perea, Enrique Arreola
cataño and miranda release Mexico 22.Oct.04,
UK 11.Mar.05,
US 10.Mar.06
04/Mexico 1h25
15 themes, language
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Monster Man 2/5
You can't help but feel the strain as writer-director Davis desperately tries to crank up the horror after a comical buddy-movie set-up. There are moments of sharp humour and genuine grisliness, but it all gets rather tedious.
  After a brief but extremely gruesome prologue, we cut to Adam (Jungmann), a nerdy guy driving across the desert to attend a wedding. He's accompanied by his former chucklehead friend Harley (Urich), a moronic goof-off whose practical joking and loud-mouthed ranting never stop. They pick up a sexy hitchhiker (Brooks), and the next thing they know they're being relentlessly stalked by a gigantic, ironclad monster truck driven by a mutant beast. "Man, this whole trip is turning into a nightmare!"
  Davis' script is chatty and clearly trying to be both funny and scary. Sometimes the comedy and horror strike the right chord, simply by doing something unexpected. But it's mostly fairly obvious stuff that sounds like pre-film school dialog--superficially hip and cool, but really just juvenile, macho banter (there are two jokes about dropping soap). Harley admits as much at one point, when he pushes Adam too far: "Hey man, I'm just trying to make you laugh." Then when the monster truck arrives the film shifts into a combination of Dual and Joy Ride, except that Davis makes the disastrous mistakes of showing us the driver's ludicrous face, and then taking us back to his lair.
  It just gets so increasingly silly that it's impossible to engage with it at any level. How can we possibly be scared? When we reach the climactic sequence, it's like we've entered an amateur haunted house with disembowelled bodies merrily joining in the comic banter. There's one extremely strong plot twist, followed by a truly laughable climactic fight. There are definitely moments in this film that show Davis' skill at both the comedy and the horror--but the humour drags on until we're sick of these morons' ceaseless bickering. And the terror descends into the worst kind of overblown silliness. It seems like an obvious thing to say, especially in the post-Jeepers Creepers era, but never show us the monster!
dir-scr Michael Davis
with Eric Jungmann, Justin Urich, Aimee Brooks, Michael Bailey Smith, Joe Goodrich, Tim Sitarz, Johnny Green, Steve DeRelian, Bobby Ray Shafer, Diana Morgan
urich and jungmann release UK 11.Mar.05
03/US Lions Gate 1h35
18 strong violence, vulgarity, language, sex
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall