Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 19.May.05
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Los Debutantes   4/5
This Chilean film has a bracingly original tone and structure that draw us into the story and characters. It's a incisive tale of virtue and vice told from three perspectives.
  Silvio (Cantillana) takes his younger brother Victor (Miranda) to a strip club to celebrate his 17th birthday. But both fall in love with the gorgeous stripper Gracia (Rios), which is a problem since she's the girlfriend of the club owner Pascual (Trejo), a local mobster. Victor, Silvio and Pascual all see something different in Gracia--sexy schoolgirl, seductress, trophy. And none of them are quite right. But as she starts pushing each man's buttons, even she can't predict what'll happen next.
  Director-cowriter Waissbluth not only shows considerable skill as a filmmaker, but also that he's a great fan of modern Mexican cinema--this is full of the edgy energy and fractured narrative structures of Iñárritu's Amores Perros and the physicality and sensuality of Cuaron's Y Tu Mamá También. This film snaps and crackles with life in its sharp dialog, emotional resonance and driving narrative. And the three-part structure gets us deeply involved with the characters to such an extent that we're not sure who to root for in the agonisingly tense climactic sequence.
  Performances are authentic and wrenching, and seeing the story from three points of view gives each actor a chance to add layers of depth. Rios benefits the most here, as Gracia is such a chameleon that she seems like a naive innocent one moment and a greedy coke-fiend the next. Sometimes a victim, sometimes the prime manipulator, sometimes way over her head--she's absolutely magnetic from start to finish, and the true heart of the film.
  This is assured filmmaking that grabs us by the throat. It's not easy to watch--the threat of violence grows horrifically as the story progresses, and some scenes are intensely unpleasant. Waissbluth uses his structure cleverly to cut to a new perspective just when things get unbearable. Which gives him quite a bit to live up to when he draws it to a close. But he avoids standard pyrotechnics for something surprisingly real. And it's no less heartrending as a result.
dir Andrés Waissbluth
scr Julio Rojas, Andrés Waissbluth
with Antonella Ríos, Néstor Cantillana, Juan Pablo Miranda, Alejandro Trejo, Eduardo Barril, Roberto Farías, Victor Montero, Anita Alvarado, Adriana Vacarezza
cantillana and miranda release Chile 13.Jun.03, UK 15.Jul.05
03/Chile 1h55
Chile's official submission:
Best film:
Best actor Cantillana:
APES 2004
18 themes, language, violence, nudity
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Festival 3/5
A kind of rambling, multi-strand examination of life on the Edinburgh Fringe, this film has moments of razor-sharp wit, but seems a bit too willing to blur the fine line between comedy, tragedy and melodrama. How are we supposed to react to this?
  Joan (Nardini) is a radio journalist covering the comedy competition at the Edinburgh Festival, where contenders include a newcomer with a puppet (Carter) and a nine-year veteran (O'Dowd) with the same drunken-Irishman act. Leading the awards jury is Sean (Mangan), a big star barely held together by his efficient assistant (Cassidy) while he seduces a sexy comic (Punch). There's also an actress (Marshal) doing a corny one-woman show, a pretentious Canadian performance artist (Lotan) falling for his landlady (Bulmore), and a troubled priest-actor (Russell).
  Griffin's filming style mixes of documentary footage with drama and comedy in the venues and behind the scenes. It's observational in nature--not terribly involving, but often quite funny. Her script feels improvised, capturing the feel of live performance and astutely commenting on the lives and egos of actors and comics, as well as the festival atmosphere where real life seems to vanish, paving the way for illicit liaisons and dubious desires. The actors dive into their roles with energetic abandon--these characters are seriously conflicted, and many are deeply despicable. Griffin undercuts the black comedy by making most characters pathetic--Mangan's arrogant jerk, O'Dowd's puppy-dog user, Punch's manipulative bimbo. This gives the film an odd double-edge: we can't like these people because they're so self-absorbed and annoying, and yet we can't hate them either.
  Through it all there's a ring of truth that makes it bracingly watchable. We don't really care what happens, but seeing these people interact is wonderfully telling. Most scenes are packed with hilarious satire (the befuddled hotel receptionist, a venue's backstage workers, most of the live events), while others just give in to the cliches (the over-earnest Canadian troupe, performers stealing ideas from each other, the unappreciated-but-codependent assistant). Instead of going for something tellingly lacerating, Griffin lets each story thread drift into maudlin emotion. We want to laugh, but are encouraged to cry instead.
dir-scr Annie Griffin
with Daniela Nardini, Stephen Mangan, Chris O'Dowd, Raquel Cassidy, Lyndsey Marshal, Lucy Punch, Jonah Lotan, Amelia Bulmore, Billy Carter, Clive Russell, Diedre O'Kane, Peter McDonald
o'dowd and nardini release UK 15.Jul.05
05/UK Pathe 1h43
18 themes, language, sexuality, nudity
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Overnight   3.5/5
The central character in this narrative documentary is so annoying that the film isn't easy to watch. It's about promising young filmmaker Troy Duffy, who signed a massive Miramax deal in 1997 on the basis of a feature script that was called "Pulp Fiction with soul". But Troy is so presumptuous, arrogant and self-centred that we almost root for his downfall.
  Boston native Duffy moved to L.A. with high hopes for the band he formed with his brother Taylor and two friends (Clark and Jackson). Two other friends (Montana and Smith) document Troy's overnight celebrity, but from the start his abrasive personality causes trouble. Especially in self-congratulatory Hollywood. Troy's sure he can manipulate the system to gain money and stardom as both filmmaker and musician, but no one wants to work with this foul-mouthed, egotistical lout. His film The Boondock Saints flounders, while the record deal isn't doing much better. But of course none of this is his fault.
  By the end, it feels like Montana and Smith have assembled the most vile footage of their former friend to make him look as bad as possible. But the fact is that it's all true--shot in the most private situations over the course of three years, during which time the film finally got made with a slashed budget (starring Connolly and Dafoe), was screened at Cannes and then found limited distribution. All of which hints that Harvey Weinstein was so annoyed that he simply buried the film. And you can't really blame him.
  Further proof of Montana and Smith's fallout with Duffy (besides the on-screen shouting match) is that there are no clips from neither The Boondock Saints nor the band's poor-selling CD. The doc is extremely well-edited and intimately shot on a variety of film and video formats. It's also strikingly cautionary for anyone who thinks they're entitled to fame and fortune. As Troy relentlessly burns bridges and takes the credit (and cash) for everything, he doesn't realise that he's playing a game ... and losing. It's not that instant fame changed him; it merely brought out what was always there.
dir-scr Tony Montana, Mark Brian Smith
with Troy Duffy, Taylor Duffy, Gordon Clark, Jimi Jackson, Tony Montana, Mark Brian Smith, Jim Crabbe, Jeffrey Baxter, Billy Connolly, Willem Dafoe, Mark Wahlberg, Paul Reubens
troy and taylor duffy release US 10.Nov.04,
UK 8.Jul.05
04/US 1h22
15 themes, language
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Rock School 3.5/5
Engaging and provocative, this home-movie-style documentary continually catches us off guard as it follows a teacher and his students. Because this isn't a normal classroom--and the way they interact defies all educational conventions.
  When Paul Green finally came to the realisation that his dreams of rock stardom would never take off, he started passing on his passion and abilities. After only five years his after-hours rock school has 120 students aged 9 to 17. And they're not learning how to be the next Britney or Limp Bizkit clone; they're studying Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Carlos Santana and Pink Floyd, much more challenging and complex music that requires intense skill.
  And Green's volatile teaching methods run against the grain. He constantly berates the kids with blue language and personal insults, poking fun at their insecurities and demanding flawless performances. He talks openly of profiting from them when he manages them in the future, and he struggles to weigh the responsibilities of being a husband, father and teacher with the mercurial guitar god inside him. Even so, he knows he has the ability to get through to these kids, to pass on real skills and to help strip away their fear and laziness.
  We also meet some remarkable students. CJ is a guitar prodigy who's both a perfectionist nerd and almost frighteningly balanced and dedicated. Madi abandons her folksy Sheryl Crowe style and her Quaker rap group (!) to discover real talent. Twins Tucker and Asa are 9-year-old headbangers living out the dreams of their frustrated rock-chick mom Andrea. And most intriguing is Will, a strangely thoughtful teen with a damaged past, artistic sensibilities and absolutely no musical talent at all.
  This is a thoroughly entertaining film that builds nicely to the Zappanale in Berlin and a terrific closing credit sequence. It's often hilariously funny, with everyone shamelessly playing up to the cameras. But there's more to it--a hope for youth to find something of value, a sense of identity, purpose and, most importantly, humanity. It also shows just how rock and roll will find musical respectability for future generations.
dir Don Argott
with Paul Green, Will O'Connor, CJ Tywoniak, Madi Diaz Svalgrad, Tucker Collins, Asa Collins, Lisa Green, Napoleon Murphy-Brock, Eric Svalgrad, Andrea Collins, Jimmy Carl Black, Alice Cooper
tucker and asa release US 3.Jun.05,
UK 9.Sep.05
05/US Newmarket 1h33
15 themes, language
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall