Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 27.Apr.05
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Anatomy of a Murder   5/5 SHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE
Preminger shows a willingness to shake up the status quo with this trial drama--it feels bracingly realistic, and even 45 years later has the power to grip us tightly. Packed with astonishing dialog and bristly performances, this is essential cinema.
  Paul Biegler (Stewart) is a small-town Michigan lawyer who agrees to defend a young soldier, Manion (Gazzara), who killed the man who raped his wife (Remick). The trial pits Biegler against a shrewd big-city DA (Scott) and a visiting judge (McCarthy hearing lawyer Welch) who's both smart and witty. Surprise witnesses, back-hallway dealings, unexpected flirtations, outrageous revelations--they're all here, although the truth always seems just out of reach.
  This is expert filmmaking--beautifully shot and brilliantly written with a complexity and a sense of detail that we rarely see anymore. Yes, it's a very long film, but it's so compelling that we hardly feel the time passing. Characters are all layered and fascinating, with dark shadings and hilarious asides. Even the side roles have a life of their own. And the entire cast is flawless. This is one of Stewart's most intriguing characters, and Remick's flirtatious minx is unforgettable (Jodie Foster's Oscar-winning role in The Accused, 30 years later, is a direct copy). The film was nominated for awards across the boards, but won very few--probably due to the film's controversially frank approach. One award it did win, and rightfully so, was a Grammy for Duke Ellington's gorgeous jazz soundtrack.
  In addition to technical and artistic excellent, the plot itself is utterly engaging. Sexual tension gurgles everywhere, along with a constant threat of violence and a gnawing dread that the truth will never emerge, regardless of what the jury decides. Preminger brings an assured gravitas to the screen as he explores the complexity of humanity--no one is all good or all bad. He intriguingly avoids the lawyer's opening and closing arguments and only shows the string of witnesses--just the facts, as it were--while quietly turning the screw tighter and tighter until the final subtle surprise. Perfection.
dir Otto Preminger
scr Wendell Mayes
with James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, George C Scott, Arthur O'Connell, Eve Arden, Joseph N Welch, Kathryn Grant, Orson Bean, Murray Hamilton, Brooks West, Duke Ellington
remick, stewart and gazzara release US 1.Jul.59,
reissue UK 15.Apr.05
59/US Columbia 2h40

one of Shadows' all-time best films

12 themes, violence, language
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Masai Massaï: Les Guerriers de la Pluie   4/5
With a documentary-like authenticity and major movie production values, this gorgeous drama takes us deep into the life of the Masai in East Africa. The story may be fiction, but the actors and the culture are completely real.
  In an isolated village, drought is threatening both life and livelihood, so a team of warriors needs to go kill the lion Vitchua, a symbol of revenge. The problem is that the warriors are all mere teenagers, led by the young Lomotoon (Muntet), who's rather unsure but knows his place as a leader. His best pal Merono (Mako) isn't allowed to join the group, because of his role as a shepherd, but Papai (Sekenan) sees his natural abilities, and together these two set off across the plains to help in the epic quest.
  The simple storyline belies the film's depth--these young men have yearnings and desires that strike a universal chord, as well as familiar feelings of insecurity, fear, cockiness, vanity, you name it, plus a lively sense of humour in their interaction. These teens have yet to prove themselves; they feel the enormous burden on their shoulders, and yet are sure they're incapable of accomplishing the task. And for a group of non-actors, they do a remarkable job conveying this in an honest and engaging way.
  Meanwhile, the filmmakers shoot it with a lush sense of colour, catching the parched orange earth and the textures of the stone, mud, clothing, jewellery, paint, hair. But this isn't merely a museum piece: all of this is used to make the story richer and more meaningful. Their societal events and rituals need no translation--the film engulfs us with a sense of place in a way Out of Africa never did. The story is like The Lion King with the Disney/Hollywood stripped out of it. And as a result it has a much stronger resonance than either of those films. It's a tale of honour, respect and loyalty--a little sweet and sappy perhaps, but unforgettable.
dir Pascal Plisson
scr Olivier Dazat, Pascal Plisson
with Ngotiek Ole Mako, Parkasio Ole Muntet, Paul Nteri Ole Sekenan, Mbeti Sereti, Kiaki Ole Narikae, Peniki Ole Soyiantet, Swakei Kipilosh, Lemerok Nkuruna, John Parkuyere Nkinai, Daniel Kipa Ole Nginai, Musurpei Ole Toroge, Oloju Depe
mako release France 22.Dec.04, UK Jul.05
04/France-Kenya StudioCanal 1h34
PG suspense, some violence
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3-iron   4/5
Korean writer-director Kim reportedly took only two months to write, direct and edit this, and yet it's one of his strongest films yet, capturing raw realities about modern life while telling a genuinely touching romance using virtually no dialog.
  Tae-suk (Jae) is a young guy who takes up residence in homes that sit empty while the occupants are on holiday. He cleans, does the laundry, indulges in subtle practical jokes, then moves on. This pattern changes drastically when he takes up residence in the upscale home of Min-kyu and Sun-hwa (Kwon and Lee Seung-yeon), a hothead, golf-obsessed businessman and his battered trophy-wife, who's a model. Sun-hwa is hiding in the house when Tae-suk arrives, and soon she joins with him in his work. Until her husband sends the cops looking for her.
  The story shifts dramatically several times over the course of the film, and it's structured in such a bracingly original way, constantly transforming into something unexpected--caper, romance, thriller, revenge, redemption, fairy tale. And Kim fills every scene with witty touches that let us see into the minds of the characters without resorting to obvious dialog or action. The film is jammed with clever little twists, such as the basic fact that the hero is the criminal while the victim is the brute. And the protagonist doesn't utter a single word in the entire film. It's not that he's mute; he just doesn't need words.
  For an actor deprived of dialog, Jae gives a wonderfully well-rounded performance. We really get under his skin and understand his soul. And his dialog-free relationship with Lee is remarkably engaging. As they embark on their own spree, they're like a new-model Butch and Sundance--mischievous, charming, living on the edge on the wrong side of the law. Combine this with a sweet romance, extreme emotions and some moments of real terror, as well as a prison sequence reminiscent of both One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Shawshank Redemption. This is one of the most inventive films of the year--like nothing you've seen, and completely unforgettable.
dir-scr Kim Ki-duk
with Jae Hee, Lee Seung-yeon, Kwon Hyuk-ho, Joo Jin-mo, Park Dong-jin, Choi Jeong-ho, Lee Joo-suk, Lee Mi-sook, Moon Sung-hyuk, Park Jee-ah, Jang Jae-yong, Lee Dah-hae
lee and jae
release Korea 15.Oct.04, US 29.Apr.05,
UK 15.Jul.05
04/Korea 1h35

25th Shadows Awards

15 themes, violence, language
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Whisky   3.5/5
The title is the word people say when they pose for family snapshots in Uruguay. With a dry comical tone, this gentle drama takes a wry and observant look at human interaction. And along the way it subtly pokes fun at the machismo in Latino society.
  Jacobo Koller (Pazos) runs his family's sock-making factory, but seems fairly clueless about life in general. His assistant Marta (Pascual) actually keeps everything going, and quietly adopts a submissive role around her boss. Then Jacobo's long-absent brother Herman (Bolani) comes to visit from Brazil to help set a new stone on their mother's grave. So to avoid looking pathetic, Jacobo asks Marta to pose as his wife. With extremely unpredictable results.
  There's a lovely sense of discovery in this film, as Marta wakes up to the world around her, and Jacobo finally learns to step out of his dull routine. When Marta moves in, the makeover of Jacobo's apartment is so hilariously telling that we keep expecting the same transformation in Jacobo himself. And in some ways it happens, but not as we expect. These are extremely witty performances. Pazos' Jacobo is absolutely clueless in his petty obsessions, while Pascual's Marta is utterly nonplussed, softly saying "permiso" (excuse me) every time she enters a room, and adding "si Dios quiere" (God willing) at the end of every sentence. Against this, Bolani's ambitious and generous Herman seems blithely unaware of the passion he has stirred in this dull couple.
  And the filmmakers don't let this passion unfold the way we think it will. The film is a bundle of awkward silences and visual surprises, bizarre connections between the characers and subtle but revealing interaction. It quietly but pointedly highlights the fact that in a macho society the men's names are on all the signs, but it's the women who actually rule the world. And in this case it's the woman who has the most capacity for embracing life as it comes. The film may be extremely short on action, but the characters and situations are completely engaging, with a lovely undercurrent of irony about everyday life. A real gem.
dir Juan Pablo Rebella, Pablo Stoll
scr Juan Pablo Rebella, Pablo Stoll, Gonzalo Delgado Galiana
with Andrés Pazos, Mirella Pascual, Jorge Bolani, Ana Katz, Daniel Hendler, Alfonso Tort
bolani and pascual release Uruguay 6.Aug.04, US 3.Mar.05, UK 29.Jul.05
04/Uruguay 1h35
12 themes, language
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall