Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 13.Mar.05
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Prey for Rock & Roll   3.5/5
There's a sharp sense of honest rock-chick energy that draws us into this film, even when its story takes a few overwrought and melodramatic turns. But it's the subtext and the internal drama that bring the characters to vivid life.
  Rockin' tattoo artist Jacki (Gershon) is facing a crossroads on her 40th birthday. Her band Clamdandy hasn't quite made it, her girlfriend (Ledard) finally gets fed up and leaves her, and her bandmates are also struggling. Bassist Tracy (de Matteo) is developing a drug problem, possibly due to her unhinged boyfriend (Martin); guitarist Faith (Petty) is tired of teaching wannabe musicians in her day job; and drummer Sally (Cole) finds it hard to deal with the arrival of her ex-con brother (Blucas).
  Steyermark films this in a realistic way that makes it strikingly believable. This is a driving story, full of attitude and gutsy characters who have complex, internalised issues that they'll resolve only if they can reach out to each other. But they've all got some diva going on, and it's not going to be easy to let their bravado down. Since this is cowriter Lovedog's own story, we can see where the authenticity (and some of the musical indulgence) comes from. So it seems a shame that the script adds in three hugely important moments simply to add dramatic and moralistic oomph. It's as if the screenwriters didn't trust their material to stand on its own without the big plot points.
  But they shouldn't have worried. The cast is fantastic--Gershon inhabits the role so fully that we can't really believe she's ever been anything else. Her romance with Blucas is nicely underplayed, and all the more effective as a result. De Matteo, Petty and Cole are excellent in edgy, difficult roles. The film is like an antidote to all those Fried Green Ya-Ya Mona Lisa movies, drawing on the gritty strength of these women as they approach a turning point in their lives, and deal with it in the best way they can: through their heart-pounding music.
dir Alex Steyermark
scr Cheri Lovedog, Robin Whitehouse
with Gina Gershon, Drea de Matteo, Lori Petty, Shelly Cole, Marc Blucas, Ivan Martin, Eddie Driscoll, Ashley Drane, Shakara Ledard, Sandra Seacat, Greg Rikaart, Nancy Pimental
gershon and blucas
release US 26.Sep.03, UK 30.Mar.05 llgff
03/US 1h44
London L&G Film Fest
Opening night film
15 themes, language, drugs, sexuality, violence
9.Mar.05 llgff
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Grande École   3/5
The incessant talkiness in this film is purely French, but the moralising is a surprise. Where French films usually discuss everything endlessly, they rarely become as heavy-handed on the issues as this film. And even though it's worth seeing, it could have used stronger actors to make it really work.
  Bowing to parental pressure, Paul (Baguet) and Bernard (Jugnot) head off to the most elite university in Paris to study business. Their flatmate is the even posher Louis-Arnault (Quivrin), with a gorgeous girlfriend (Navarre) who's also a student there. Paul's strong-minded girlfriend Agnes (Taglioni), meanwhile, begins to suspect Paul's sexuality and challenges him to a wager to see who can seduce the sexy Louis-Arnault first. Paul declines the wager, but falls instead for the completely forbidden Mecir (Kechiouche)--not only a Muslim Arab, but working class.
  Like a first year at university, this film is jammed full of Big Ideas. The characters talk ceaselessly about politics, capitalism, race and class issues (they ignore religion completely, for some reason). While we can see their real interest is in sexuality, as everyone seems to be interested in someone they can't officially ever have. In a way, all of these swirling ideas give the film a solid basis for the more melodramatic romantic entanglements. But the fact that the conversations rattle on regardless of what's happening in the story does get a bit annoying. Especially when they start moralising at each other.
  It's slickly produced, and director Salis captures the physicality of the characters extremely well in the sex scenes and especially in the swim team's locker room. The cast is uneven, but they do nicely convey suppressed longings, deep suspicions and secret glances. And these things hold our attention even when the film wallows in its stew. When it starts boiling over, the dialog takes a distasteful turn, becoming preachy (Mecir actually insists that he went to a posh school too: the school of life!) and dipping into some awkward dream sequences. It's still watchable, but only because we can glimpse real friendship, desire and loyalty deep inside.
dir Robert Salis
scr Jean-Marie Besset, Robert Salis
with Gregori Baquet, Jocelyn Quivrin, Alice Taglioni, Elodie Navarre, Salim Kechiouche, Arthur Jugnot, Jamal Hadir, Lakshantha Abenayake, Eva Darlan, Arnaud Binard, Hanifa Mizi-Alloua, Jacques Collard
quivrin and baquet release France 4.Feb.04, UK 1.Apr.05 llgff
04/France 1h40
London L&G Film Fest
15 themes, nudity, sexuality, language
12.Mar.05 llgff
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Sugar   3/5
Based on typically genre-busting short stories by Bruce LaBruce, this Canadian drama tells a rough and gritty coming of age tale from the mean streets of Toronto. It's a strong story with moments of insight and a vivid sense of mortality, but it's also scrappy and indulgent.
  On his 18th birthday, Cliff (Noble) is urged by his precocious baby sister Cookie (Wanstall) to get out of the house, take a few drugs and have sex. So he leaves the middle-class suburbs for the rough side of town, where he meets Butch (Fehr), a handsome rent boy with a crack problem. Without having sex, a tender romance develops as Butch and Cliff introduce each other to their respective worlds. Everyone is almost pathologically accepting, right up to the moment when it all goes horribly wrong.
  Basically, this is an extended odyssey into adulthood, by way of drugs, pimps and the kind of sexual awakening no one wants. Unsurprisingly for a LaBruce story, it works for Cliff, and he emerges with an odd balance of caution and carelessness. We only submit ourselves to this jittery, unfocussed film because the actors give these people an internal dignity. Noble (who died in a tragic accident just after the film's premiere) is especially strong in a difficult role, nicely capturing Cliff's steely vulnerability. Fehr is surprisingly sympathetic as a promising young guy bent on self-destruction. And Polley (as a pregnant dealer) and Chaykin (as a filthy old man) are superb.
  So it's a pity that the film feels so random. Director-cowriter Palmer tells the story as an inside joke we'll never understand. The script is packed with stilted dialog and scenes that desperately try to justify the characters (including one scene that presents prostitution as an act of charity). As a result, even with strong central characters it's hard to feel for anyone. Especially when Palmer tries so hard to generate emotion. His message seems to be that we reject real love at our own peril. But he seems to be missing the real point here.
dir John Palmer
scr Todd Klinck, Jaie Laplante, John Palmer
with Andre Noble, Brendan Fehr, Haylee Wanstall, Marnie McPhail, Maury Chaykin, Sarah Polley, Michael Riley, Steve Alguire, Barna Moricz, Jeffrey Parazzo, Jason Beharriell, Nina Arsenault
noble and fehr release US 16.Nov.04 dvd,
UK 18.Jul.05 dvd
04/Canada 1h18
London L&G Film Fest
18 themes, language, sexuality, nudity, violence, drugs
6.Mar.05 llgff
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Summer Storm Sommersturm   4/5
Despite a slightly melodramatic tone and an overwhelmingly white and gorgeous cast, this film is beautifully shot, with natural acting and sensitive storytelling that honestly grapples with difficult themes.
  Tobi and Achim (Stadlober and Ullmann) are best friends who are on the same rowing team, heading for a summer camp and competition where they hope to unburden themselves of their pesky virginity. Both boys are fun-loving but sensitive, and Achim's rower girlfriend Sandra (Morgenstern) conveniently has a friend Anke (Bachleda-Curus) who's interested in Tobi. Then the gay rowing team Queerstroke sets up camp next door, sparking homophobic reactions from everyone except Tobi, who realises that he's more interested in Achim than Anke.
  The plot is fairly standard stuff--the kind of thing 90210, Dawson's Creek and The OC have wallowed in from week to week. But director-cowriter Kreuzpaintner takes a maturely cinematic approach, filling the big screen with lovely imagery that includes both the scenic setting and the physicality of these fit young people. And he doesn't wallow at all. The script manages to defy cliches, which is no mean feat when there's a team of muscly gay rowers on hand. And the acting is natural and underplayed, so we can see the moments these young people make their choices--from the realisation of sexual preference to the dawning of anti-gay bigotry. These are young men and women who are deeply unsure of themselves, playing with each others' minds and affections, testing their limits and, most of all, afraid to admit anything.
  When the storm erupts (both literally and figuratively), it's life-changing for these characters. And Kreuzpaintner handles it all with a strong sense of compassion and understanding, resisting the temptation to preach at us and conveying most of the film's message through subtext. As a whole, the film takes a refreshingly balanced look at a deeply personal issue, helping us understand the struggles each character is going through. It's perhaps far too, erm, Aryan for its own good, but the situations and emotions are something anyone in any culture can identify with.
dir Marco Kreuzpaintner
scr Thomas Bahmann, Marco Kreuzpaintner
with Robert Stadlober, Kostja Ullmann, Alicja Bachleda-Curus, Tristano Casanova, Miriam Morgenstern, Marlon Kittel, Hanno Koffler, Jürgen Tonkel, Alexa Maria Surholt, Jeff Fischer, Joseph M'Barek, Michael Wiesner
stadlober, Ullman and team release Ger 2.Sep.04,
UK 26.Aug.05
04/Germany 1h38
London L&G Film Fest
15 themes, language, sexuality
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall