Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 19.Mar.05
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The Consequences of Love Le Conseguenze dell’Amore   3.5/5
Sleek, witty and enigmatic, Sorrentino's drama is made with a stillness that belies its rather outrageous storyline. At times we feel like nothing's happening, and while it's a bit cold and aloof, it's also surprisingly involving.
  On the eve of his 50th birthday, Titta Di Girolamo (Servillo) has been living in an anonymous Swiss hotel for eight uneventful years. His life seems aimless: moving from his room to the hotel cafe and back, observing people around him, and once a week depositing a suitcase of cash into a bank. Even visits from his surf-instructor brother (Giannini) or a couple of Sicilian hitmen (Idonea and Bruno) don't shake up his routine. Then he falls in love with the hotel barmaid (Magnani).
  Sorrentino takes his time revealing Titta's secrets, opening tiny windows into his life until we fully understand. And it's pretty shocking, really, leading to a startling conclusion. But the film never gets itself into a lather--everything remains calm and measured, carefully observed, filmed with lush camera work, underscored with emotional music and edited with inventive precision.
  Servillo is perfect in the role, which requires him to have virtually no facial expression for most of the film. Even when he's panicking. As we watch him observing everyone else, we get the feeling that he's aching to have their banal, normal life--most notably a bickering older couple (Pisu and Goodwin) in the hotel. When he starts plotting his seemingly impossible escape, the suspense does crank up. So if there's a problem, it's that Titta's detachment infects the entire film. Much of what we watch seems random and pointless, simply because he's such a mystery. We're increasingly fascinated, but not hugely involved.
  Underneath the film's impeccable look is a strong sense of sadness. At first Titta just seems like a humourless man with a 'frivolous name' (his words), but we come to realise that he's painfully aware of his isolation from his wife (Scaffidi) and kids, longing for a return to his old life, hoping against hope for a happy future. A beautiful, bittersweet story.
dir-scr Paolo Sorrentino
with Toni Servillo, Olivia Magnani, Adriano Giannini, Raffaele Pisu, Angela Goodwin, Gilberto Idonea, Gaetano Bruno, Giovanni Vettorazzo, Diego Ribon, Gianna Paola Scaffidi, Enzo Vitagliano, Vittorio Di Prima
magnani and servillo release Italy 24.Sep.04,
UK 27.May.05
04/Italy 1h44

15 themes, language, drugs, violence
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Provocative and timely, this West African drama tackles a seriously important issue without losing the vibrant energy of everyday life. What sounds like an almost unbearably heavy story is actually witty, engaging and extremely entertaining.
  The story centres on Collé (Coulibaly), the middle of three wives in a remote village in Burkina Faso. She's already notorious for allowing her teen daughter (Traoré) to skip the purification ritual of clitoral excision, and now four young girls have fled the ritual to ask her for mooladé, or sanctuary. But the village leaders have had enough of this rebellion. They seize all the women's radios, blaming the outside world for putting such ideas into their heads. And they demand that Collé retract the mooladé. But she's had enough as well.
  It's astonishing how 82-year-old writer-director Sembene can make such an enjoyable and accessible film on such an intense subject. The trick obviously is concentrating on story and characters, bringing out the genuine rhythms of rural African life. He catches all kinds of details, from friendly interaction to power struggles to day-to-day decisions. The characters all spring to life through sheer force of personality--and they're complex, fascinating, mostly likeable people. The only ones we don't like are the close-minded tribal leaders and purifiers, whose grip on power and tradition is threatened by even the passive education of people listening to the radio and realising that genital mutilation is not required by Islam after all.
  As these feisty, tough, life-loving women send ripples through their society, the true nature of power is revealed. The men may have the titles, but the women rule the world! And further perspective comes from two outsiders--a vendor who once worked as an aid worker and a favoured son who studied in France and comes home to take a bride. The confrontation that erupts in the centre of the village is earthshaking for these people. But their culture has a remarkable balance of respect for tradition and a willingness to listen. It's clear that the tribal leaders' banning of radios and TVs is an act of paranoia and control, but I wonder if we notice that Western culture is no different.
dir-scr Ousmane Sembene
with Fatoumata Coulibaly, Maimouna Hélène Diarra, Salimata Traoré, Dominique Zeïda, Mah Compaoré, Aminata Dao
omari release US 18.Feb.05, UK 3.Jun.05
04/Senegal 2h04

Un Certain Regard
15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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Tying the Knot   3.5/5
This controversial documentary examines 'the union that's dividing America'--namely same-sex marriage. It doesn't try to be balanced, but since the filmmakers take a human rights approach, they have the moral high ground here. But this probably won't reach to those who take the opposite moral view.
  For those who want to understand the pro-gay side, this film offers a refreshingly strong and lucid examination of the issue, even if it's edited a bit chaotically, cross-cutting between its various strands. One strong element is the examination of 'traditional marriage', which is actually only 150 years old--not thousands of years as people claim (marriage wasn't even a Catholic sacrament until the 13th century--before then it was a purely secular institution). And it's also the exact same argument used in the 1960s against mixed-race marriage.
  Only since the industrial revolution has marriage been redefined as something based on love and gender roles. So today same-sex marriage is a human rights issue; no one gains anything by making people struggle without the same rights as anyone else. Paranoia, dogmatism and hatred rule the system, and the proposed Constitutional marriage amendment actually denies people the right to be fully human. The film documents specific cases in which life-long partners lost everything because state laws refuse to protect them.
  There's also a chronology of court battles and other events from the 1960s to today, as if the filmmakers are outlining skirmishes in a gigantic war. These are such blatantly unjust situations that we must react with anger. And these compelling, moving stories are peppered with clips from the news, congressional debates, home movies and little details like the fact that the US Census showed same-sex couples living in 99 percent of American communities--so this isn't isolated to the coasts.
  The filmmakers also note that in Europe and Canada the issue isn't nearly as incendiary. So is America really isolating itself as a religious fundamentalist state? Why do those in power 'want to crush the dreams and hopes of your fellow human beings'? This is powerful, provocative stuff. And while the film won't settle the issue, it certainly stokes the fire.
dir Jim de Sève
with Evan Wolfson, Mickie Mashburn, EJ Graff, Andrew Sullivan, Connie Ress, Kees Waaldjik, John Fisher, Brian Brown, Larry King, James Dobson, Bill Clinton, George W Bush
tying the knot release US 1.Oct.04,
UK 18.Mar.05 hrwiff
04/US 1h21
PG adult themes
15.Mar.05 hrwiff
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What the #$*! Do We Know!?   4/5
aka What the Bleep Do We Know!?
This documentary will either be a life-changing experience, or it'll drive you nuts with its new-agey tone. It's not a perfect film--some metaphors are over-the-top and some animation is obnoxiously silly. But if you can, as the film suggests, open your mind and take the positive things the film has to offer, it's definitely a must-see.
  Basically, this is quantum physics and biochemistry theory for dummies. The documentary is edited around a day in the life of a photographer (Marlin) struggling to define who she is, how she sees the world and how she responds to what life throws at her. Along the way she meets people who challenge her perceptions, often in extremely surreal ways. In between her scenes scientists and philosophers talk about how little we know about how we are assembled.
  I think every viewer will take a few bombshells home. For me there were three: First was the realisation that attitudes can literally affect us on a cellular level, as demonstrated with water molecules. Second is that emotions are a chemical addiction--our cells actually learn to crave peptides that create certain emotional responses. And third is the fact that atoms are mostly empty space--they're not stable things, but rather possibilities. How these concepts will affect me is yet to be seen. This is a film that makes mind-bending science sexy and deep questions fun. Although you could argue that, even though there's a lot of talk about God, the ideas in here require even more faith than religion does.
  The essential notion is that the world is actually nothing like we think it is. We're so conditioned by everything around us that we are incapable of noticing anything new--or real. Much of what we think about the world is simply untrue. There's a remarkable account about natives on the West Indies who could not see Columbus' ships approaching, simply because a ship was outside their frame of reference. It was a shaman with an open mind who finally spotted the ships and taught the Indians how to see.
dir William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, Mark Vicente
scr William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, Matthew Hoffman
with Marlee Matlin, Barry Newman, Elaine Hendrix, Robert Bailey Jr, Armin Shimerman, John Ross Bowie, Fred Alan Wolf, Ramtha, William Tiller, Jeffrey Satinover, Amit Goswami, Candace Perth
matlin release US 23.Apr.04, UK 20.May.05
04/US Goldwyn 1h48
12 themes, language, sexuality
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall