Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 8.Apr.05
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Beautiful Boxer   4/5
This is the astonishing true story of a champion Thai boxer who "fought like a man so he could become a woman". It's also a beautifully made film with strong performances and a powerful story of tenacity against just about every odd imaginable.
  Nong Toom (Suwan) grew up with an obsession for singing, dancing, flowers and makeup. His mother (Panyawong) quietly understands; his father (Boonthong) is less than thrilled. Eventually he discovers an innate gift for kickboxing, and a patient coach (Chatree) encourages him to be himself, even to the point of wearing makeup in the ring--as long as he wins. And that he does, becoming a national sensation through 22 straight victories. But he never abandons his dream to one day become a woman.
  Lushly shot, the film beautifully captures the energy of both Bangkok street life and the boxing subculture. It feels strongly authentic--perhaps because it's such an extraordinary story. You wouldn't believe it if someone made it up! The story unfolds as Toom tells his life story to a journalist (Kang), Citizen Kane style, but the filmmakers aren't that presumptuous--they keep it simple and intimate, focussing on Toom's inner spirit, his determination to realise his dream, the conflicting emotions he faces.
  These are energetic, likeable characters, and Suwan is superb in the central role. The first-time actor is an authentic kickboxing champion (ranked 5th in the world) who had to study acting, ballet and opera for the role, not to mention rigorous weight-loss and skin care. It's largely due to his lively, brave, fully committed performance that the film taps into a universal relevance we can identify with.
  Director-cowriter Uekrongtham drags it out a bit with finales, conclusions and epilogues, but the story is so compelling that we really do want to know everything that happens. Not only is this a vitally important tale, but it's an artful and cleverly made film about remarkable personal strength. It's certainly a lot more than "Rocky with mascara".
dir Ekachai Uekrongtham
scr Ekachai Uekrongtham, Desmond Sim Kim Jin
with Asanee Suwan, Sorapong Chatree, Sitiporn Niyom, Keagan Kang, Orn-Anong Panyawong, Nukkid Boonthong, Kyoko Inoue, Somsak Tuangmkuda, Yuka Hyodo, Tanyabuth Songsakul, Sarawuth Tangchit, Natee Pongsopol
suwan release US 21.Jan.05,
UK 21.Oct.05
03/Thailand 1h58

London L&G Film Fest
12 themes, language, violence
18.Mar.05 llgff
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Natural Enemy L’Ennemi Naturel   3.5/5
This evocative and somewhat elusive French drama tells a deeply introspective story about people who are deeply disturbed by one thing or another. It's beautifully well-made, although a bit hard to connect with.
  Lt Luhel (Lespert) is an inexperienced detective called to investigate the death of a teenager in a small Brittany town. Unfortunately, Luhel is in such inner turmoil about his own sexuality and his new role as a dad that he can't quite see straight, as it were. He becomes obsessed with the victim's grieving father Serge (Recoing), a hothead who has a raw ability to be truly naked in every sense of the word, which is something Luhel is desperate to achieve.
  This is a skilfully made film--insinuating and challenging, beautifully filmed and intriguingly edited. And the cast really makes the most of the tricky, complex characters. Lespert is remarkably transparent as a young man in way too deep at work and unable to control his fantastic imagination. His youthful hyperactivity contrasts cleverly with Recoing's sheer physical presence. Serge is like a bear with a thorn in his paw--just look at him wrong and he flies out of control, but you can tell he regrets it. Their scenes together have a mercurial quality that's utterly riveting.
So it's interesting that with such edgy characters Guillaume chooses to make an almost elegiac film--quiet, hesitant, often totally silent with only flashes of passion. The perspective sticks closely with Luhel as he prowls and spies, often for the wrong reasons. His life disintegrates before our eyes, while the pieces of Serge's secret fall gradually into place. This is a nifty screenwriting trick that grabs us emotionally and throws us into the situations. So it's a little frustrating that Guillaume continually keeps us at arm's length, developing a feeling of impending fatalistic dread that's approaching like a tidal wave. There's nothing we can do but step aside, then try to sift through the debris.
dir-scr Pierre-Erwan Guillaume
with Jalil Lespert, Aurélien Recoing, Patrick Rocca, Doria Achour, Florence Loiret-Caille, Lucy Russell, Anne Coesens, Fred Ulysse, Alexandra London, Eric Savin, Loïc Houdré, Anne-Louise Trividic
release France 8.Dec.04, UK 6.Apr.05 llgff
04/France Canal+ 1h37

London L&G Film Fest
18 themes, language, nudity
6.Apr.05 llgff
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When Beckham Met Owen   3/5
Shot on video with zany home-computer graphics and goofy fantasy cutaways, this kinetic and colourful film catches a slice of everyday life for two young boys in Hong Kong who are dealing with a very grown-up issue.
  David and Michael (Lau and Leung) are inseparable buddies obsessed with football and the star players whose names they share. Constantly chattering about football, these mischievous lads are always in motion and usually in trouble. Then Michael suddenly becomes sullen, worrying about his lowly social status and questioning his emerging sexuality--something he can never speak of. Meanwhile, David turns into the life of the party, finding a new sidekick in Winnie (Yau).
  This is lively and enjoyable filmmaking with a serious edge to it that confronts the issue without wallowing in it. Wong's playful directing and editing style reflects the age and attitude of the kids, centring on their mini-adventures tormenting teachers, playing with Winnie's wheelchair, challenging each other both on the pitch and with videogames. The screen is filled with rich colours and textures--it's absolutely gorgeous to look at. And as the themes deepen, it finds real resonance in its strong-but-subtle feelings, even if it remains somewhat aimless on the surface.
  The young actors are superb--these are very childish 13-year-olds are only just beginning to grow up physically and emotionally. We really long to understand what they're going through, but since they haven't a clue what's going on, we don't either. And this is a bit alienating and annoying for us as viewers. So even if we're never exactly clear about what's going on here, we can certainly identify with the internal struggles these boys go through as they try to adapt their friendship to a grown-up world. An issue made all the more poignant when they realise they might want very different things from each other.
dir Adam Wong
scr Adam Wong, Isis Tso
with Eric Leung, Kevin Lau, Jojo Yau, Law Wai-kuen, Koo Kei-kwen, Miu Kiu-wai, Wan Chi-kueng, Mik Suet Tang Sui-man, Kenneth Leung, Venus Lam, Sandy Chan
leung and lau release UK 31.Mar.05 llgff
04/China 1h20

London L&G Film Fest
PG adult themes
21.Mar.05 llgff
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The Wind, in the Evening Il Vento, di Sera   3/5
There's a graceful, atmospheric feel to this film that gets well beneath our skin as the moving story unfolds. It's an examination of grief and regret, about getting on with life, even though it feels just too fragile at times.
  Paolo (Salani) is a 30-something guy waiting for his workaholic boyfriend Luca (Levi) to get home from the office. But this evening he never arrives. He's been caught in the crossfire of a political assassination. The law prevents Paolo from getting any news from the doctors--he's not officially family--and Luca's mother (Pitta) wants him out of the flat. So the night turns into an odyssey; Paolo feels that a tiny gust of wind has changed his life forever.
  Director-cowriter Adriatico films with long, shadowy takes that draw on the dark, emotional themes and make the film feel like it runs in real time. This is often rather dull and meandering, but it's also enigmatic, elusive filmmaking--flooded with intense pain and frustration about the senselessness of it all. Paolo seems unable to come to terms with the overwhelming guilt and anger, everything everybody says to him seems wrong, his whole family is just gone.
  Salani is superb in the role, which barely requires him to speak. He simply wanders the streets, encountering a talkative cop (Romano), helpful neighbour (Mazza), barman (Porto) and young man (Valletta) who picks up Paolo on the street, takes him to a nightclub, then home with him. We can fully identify with Paolo's need for comfort and company, and with each of these people who reach out to him in their own imperfect way. All of them are so realistic--and so useless--that it's astonishing to watch. We long for one of them to do or say the right thing for Paolo. And we ache for him to open up to someone. Despite the achingly slow pace, this is a heartbreakingly beautiful and relevant film.
dir Andrea Adriatico
scr Andrea Adriatico, Stefano Casi
with Corso Salani, Francesca Mazza, Fabio Valletta, Sergio Romano, Paolo Porto, Marina Pitta, Ivano Marescotti, Alessandro Fullin, Luca Levi, Giovanni Lindo Ferretti, Francesca Ballico, Paolo Billi
valletta and salani
release Italy 19.Feb.05, UK 3.Apr.05 llgff
04/Italy 1h32
15 themes, violence, language
14.Mar.05 llgff
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall