Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 23.Mar.05
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Adam & Paul   3.5/5
Billed as "Laurel & Hardy on smack in Dublin", this ragged little film takes us through 24 hours in the life of two heroin addicts as they roam the streets looking for their next fix. It's extremely grim, but surprisingly endearing.
  Adam & Paul (O'Halloran and Murphy) are inseparable friends who wake up on a mattress in a field outside Dublin. They wander the streets encountering friends who seem fed up with them, thugs who don't want them around and various people who will either victimise them or be victimised by them. But they're having very little luck in their quest for drugs. And as night approaches it's all starting to look fairly hopeless as each seat-of-the-pants scam goes spectacularly wrong.
  Yes, it's rather difficult to sympathise with these losers, especially when they indulge in cruelty and fail so wretchedly to maintain their relationships. The people who know them sigh audibly when they approach, hinting that they've been like this for rather a long time. But we do see one moment of tenderness (when they cuddle an ex-girlfriend's baby) that tells us there's a glimmer of humanity left inside them.
  The film is the grimmest of black comedies, set in filthy estates with seedy characters everywhere. But there's just enough pathos woven in--a mix of dignity and humiliation that make these inarticulate dopes more like homeless puppies than low-life scum. O'Halloran's free-form script feels completely aimless, but actually has a tight circular structure. And Abrahamson's direction is assured as well, making the most of the real-life settings with James Mather's striking cinematography.
  On the other hand, there are stretches that feel dull and meandering--scene after scene in which this duo pointlessly encounters someone and fails to communicate. They're inept and sad; Adam's surliness a contrast to Paul's accident-prone haplessness. And when they start preying on those even weaker than themselves, it gets very ugly. But O'Halloran and Murphy somehow manage to keep a spark of humour in every scene, turning this Trainspotting-lite movie into a surprisingly sweet/bleak journey to the other side of the tracks.
dir Lenny Abrahamson
scr Mark O'Halloran
with Mark O'Halloran, Tom Murphy, Louise Lewis, Paul Roe, Mary Murray, Deirdre Molloy, Anita Reeves, Gerry Moore, Anthony Morris, David Herlihy, Gary Egan, Ion Caramitru
murphy and o'halloran release Ireland Aug.04, US 3 Sep.04 Telluride,
UK 3.Jun.05
04/Ireland 1h26
Best film:

Best director:
15 themes, language, violence
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Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst   3.5/5
With a timeliness that's almost creepy, documentarian Stone traces the activities of the Symbionese Liberation Army in the 1970s, outlining in detail their most notorious action: the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. The film is coherent and gripping as it chronicles a rag-tag group of revolutionaries.
  The SLA was never terribly well-understood (the film never explains what "Symbionese" means), and many dismissed them as disaffected middle-class university students. But their manifesto eerily echoes criticisms levelled at today's American government: a right-wing disregard for the poor and minority groups combined with too much corporate control over government. But as the free-thinking 1960s gave way to the more cynical 1970s, these young people took violent action to protest the disparity between that the government was saying and doing. As one observes, they grew up hearing everyone say, "We saved the world from Hitler," but watching what was happening in Vietnam showed that "we're now being Hitler".
  The film shows a handful of people who considered themselves patriots as they took on the system--without a terribly clear idea of how to accomplish their goals. New interviews with two SLA members (Little and Bortin) narrate the film along with contributions from journalists (Findley and Lester), an FBI agent (Grove) and the Hearst family's ransom negotiator (Kramer). The rest speak from archive audio and film footage. Grove edits this into a driving, riveting narrative, outlining perhaps for the first time exactly how the events unfolded, and making sure we get every angle on the story.
  He's also careful to make sure we catch the relevance of these events, from the interspersed Robin Hood clips to a couple of significant firsts: this was both the first-ever media encampment (outside the Hearst mansion) and the first live coverage of a horrific police assault. The footage is astonishing, revealing the events of 30 years ago and some scary truths about where the world is today. Especially as the SLA case was reopened in light of new powers given to courts in the wake of 9/11, resulting in new prison terms for several former members. Chilling and essential.
dir Robert Stone
with Russ Little, Mike Bortin, Tim Findley, John Lester, Dan Grove, Ludlow Kramer, Patty Hearst, Randolph Hearst, Catherine Hearst, Steven Weed, Gaby Roslin, Ronald Reagan
patty hearst release US 26.Nov.04,
UK 3.Jun.05
04/US 1h29
12 themes, language, violence
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Inside Deep Throat   4/5
This is not a film about Watergate. It's about the notorious 1972 porn film that gave the Watergate insider his nickname. Bailey and Barbato (Party Monster) expertly analyse this particularly gonzo period in U.S. history, gently underscoring the obvious parallels with today.
  In 1972, while porn filmmakers were moving into the mainstream. With delusions of respectability, Damiano wrote a comedic porn script based on the specific--ahem--talent of actress Linda Lovelace. The filming in Miami was tricky, the male star was replaced at the last minute by production assistant Reems, and the mobster producers were just hoping to recoup their $25,000 investment. But the film became a cultural event (earning $600 million). And the religious right, empowered by Nixon's election to a second term, challenged obscenity laws to ban this "dangerous, immoral smut".
  Bailey and Barbato assemble their material with a sharp eye for detail and bracingly hilarious wit. The range of interviewees is breathtaking, and where someone has died, the filmmakers find archive footage to let them speak as well. The film is packed with insightful background about the central figures, including the conflicting accounts by Lovelace herself, which may never be adequately settled. And Deep Throat's detractors are given the chance to have their say without too much fun-poking, while clips from the film itself add meaning (and earned this doc an NC-17 in America). Bailey and Barbato also highlight the fact that what Damiano admits is "not a good movie" had a revolutionary effect in America, bringing sex and gender issues into the public forum.
  But this film becomes important as it begins to examine issues of free speech, feminism and religious fanaticism. Together those topics lead to a revelatory history of American porn--from underground to mainstream to money-spinning, by way of two ignored/falsified presidential commissions on pornography (Nixon's and Reagan's). In the end, there's a chilling statement that the same vague, pliable obscenity laws are still on the books,while today's political climate is even more zealously rabid. Maybe it's a film about Watergate after all.
dir-scr Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
narr Dennis Hopper
with Gerard Damiano, Harry Reems, Dick Cavett, Hugh Hefner, John Waters, Camille Paglia, Erica Jong, Helen Gurley Brown, Norman Mailer, Wes Craven, Alan Dershowitz, Larry Parrish
lovelace and reems
release US 11.Feb.05,
UK 10.Jun.05
05/US Imagine-HBO 1h32

damiano / reems
18 themes, language, nudity, sexuality
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Strings   3.5/5
This epic tale of good versus evil might not be a terribly original story, but it's told in a strikingly imaginative way with marionettes, using their strings as a key element in the plot.
  Before committing suicide, the ruler Kahro (voiced by Glover) repents of his evil-doing in a note to his successor-son Hal (McAvoy). But Kahro's evil brother Nezo (Jacobi) destroys the note and blames the death on a despised minority, sending Hal on a quest for revenge that turns into an odyssey of discovery about his true history. He also falls in love with the secretive Zita (McCormack). Meanwhile back home, Nezo and his henchman Ghrak (Hart) are terrorising Hal's sister (Skinner) and blackmailing the military leader (Harewood) into doing their dirty work.
  The plot is as old as storytelling itself, but the film's visual and vocal artistry make it emotionally compelling. The design is absolutely stunning, and the screenwriters skilfully incorporate the puppet strings into their elaborate mythology. From the very beginning we understand that the head-string is the lifeline, and the story is full of striking details (such as getting replacement parts from slaves, and the ingenious re-imagining of gates and prison cells). Other things push the themes a little too far-- birth and sex scenes are a bit over-serious and silly, but the deaths are surprisingly moving. Over all, the film is such a remarkable achievement that we're thoroughly engaged simply by what's on screen.
  The puppets are amazing articulate, even though their mouths don't move. Frankly, they're much more physically expressive than most highly paid movie stars! Each is crafted from a different kind of wood (as well as ivory and gold), depending on their specific role in society. Scarring and weathering add superb character to the faces of the warriors and the elderly, while the younger ones are smooth and varnished. This is an epic tale of treachery and hope, drawing heavily on themes from Shakespeare to Star Wars. And the sheer inventiveness of its imagery is a good enough reason to catch it on a big screen.
dir Anders Rønnow Klarlund
scr Naja Marie Aidt, Anders Rønnow Klarlund
voices James McAvoy, Catherine McCormack, Derek Jacobi, Ian Hart, Claire Skinner, David Harewood, Samantha Bond, Julian Glover, Michael Culkin, Alexandra Knapp, Oliver Golding, Nigel Hoyle
hal and jhinna release Denmark Dec.04,
UK 27.May.05
04/Denmark Zentropa 1h28
PG themes, violence
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall