Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 11.Aug.05
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Battle in Heaven 2/5 Batalla en el Cielo
To follow up Japón, Reygadas goes even further into Mexican metaphysics with another intriguingly shot film that dares to confront us with imagery that's both explicit and unexpected. But this time he loses us in the process.
  Marcos (Hernandez) and his wife (Ruiz) are in a bit of trouble. The baby they kidnapped from a friend (Ramirez), for a bit of spare cash, has died. Marcos works as a bodyguard for a general, whose wild-child daughter Ana (Mushkadiz) has a side business as a prostitute, simply because she likes it. When Marcos confesses the kidnapping to Ana, to take advantage of her services, he realises he has crossed a line. Soon he's doing things he never dreamt of, including joining a mass pilgrimage to the Mexico City Basilica.
  The plot is simple and fairly undefined, so it's clear that Reygadas has much deeper things on his mind--namely rich symbolism and layered meaning. But the style is so aloof and dry that we are never allowed inside. The performances are raw and real, but also expressionless and almost sleep-inducingly vague. What remains for us is an intriguing examination of the godlike qualities of human beings--we think we can get away with anything, but we know we can't. And we don't.
  The film is almost infuriatingly nebulous and slow. The striking cinematography includes indulgent static takes, awkward pans and dollies and strange editing, combined with blaring chunks of music to remind us we're watching Art. And there are some startlingly moving and authentic sequences along the way. But it's so passively observant, following Marcos as he encounters various characters, overhearing snippets of conversations, but not enough to really understand relationships. There's also rather a lot of sex and nudity, even though it's never remotely arousing, and that's only partly because these are mostly overweight, middle-aged people, not airbrushed, nipped and tucked Hollywood stars. The real problem is that Reygadas doesn't seem willing to let us into his own little filmmaker's world. Kind of like he's doing with cinema what Marcos does while watching a football match.
dir-scr Carlos Reygadas
with Marcos Hernández, Anapola Mushkadiz, Bertha Ruiz, David Bornstien, Rosalinda Ramirez, Diego Martínez Vignatti, El Abuelo, Alejandro Mayar, Estela Tamariz, Brenda Angulo, El Mago, Francisco Martínez
mushkadiz and hernandez
release UK 28.Oct.05
05/Mexico 1h38
18 themes, language, nudity, sexuality, violence
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Everything   3.5/5
This micro-budget British drama draws us in due to its growing-mystery plot and sharp interaction between the characters. It's a vivid example of the raw power of cinema, which has nothing at all to do with Hollywood slickness.
  Richard (Ray Winstone) tentatively, reluctantly climbs the stairs to visit a "model", code for prostitute, in a Central London flat. She's Naomi (Graveson), and she quickly tires of Richard's desire to just talk and nothing else. But Richard keeps coming back, often with board games to play, paying for Naomi's time and asking extremely personal questions, which she doesn't want to answer. So she turns the tables on him. And eventually she discovers what he's up to.
  The story develops simply, gradually, almost elusively through each encounter, plus in-between scenes involving both characters with other people in their lives (Richard's wife and a Russian hooker Naomi rescues). What's really going on here isn't obvious, and we have to get through a lot of surprising revelations and confrontations before the emotional truth emerges. Hawkins directs as straightforwardly as he writes, simply focussing on the expressive faces of his cast, even though we might not fully understand their motives.
  Winstone shines in a refreshing break from his usual crime-thug roles. Sensitive, tortured, curious--we can tell this isn't haphazard, there's something driving him, and the dawning revelation is powerfully moving. Meanwhile, Graveson is a superb balance of steely resilience and inner compassion. When Naomi challenges Richard, the film gathers a wonderful buzz of energy, even though little actually happens on screen. There's superb chemistry between them--an awkward tenseness that we know will go somewhere interesting.
  And it does. Hawkins has a vitally important point to make here, and he does it without ever being obvious about it. Yes, it's rather vague. The murky cinematography betrays the basic production values, but it also gives a raw honesty to every scene, highlighting the seedy, under-furnished world these people inhabit. And in the end, the film isn't about what we think it'll be--it's a lovely, gritty story about the strong vitality of women, even in the face of men who want to strip away both identity and soul.
dir-scr Richard Hawkins
with Ray Winstone, Jan Graveson, Lois Winstone
winstone and graveson release 7.Oct.05
04/UK Soda 1h31

18 themes, language, nudity, some violence
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4   1.5/5
While showing considerable technical skill, this debut from 30-year-old Muscovite Khrjanovsky is seriously annoying in its efforts to avoid both coherent structure and any point at which viewers can engage with the story.
  It opens with a stunning long-shot (Khrjanovsky is clearly a Bela Tarr lover, but without Tarr's tenacity) featuring four dogs chased from their slumber by heavy machinery. From here we meet three people who lie to each other in a bar: Marina (Marina Vovchenko) is a hooker who passes herself off as a PR executive; Oleg (Laguta) is a meat salesman who claims to provide mineral water to the Kremlin; and Vladimir (Shnurov) is a piano-tuner who says he works for a top-secret government cloning project.
  The film is clearly examining the power of numbers, and the way the number four echoes throughout humanity, which has been undermined by industry. This would be a fine theme to examine (Bela Tarr again!), except that Khrjanovsky totally loses focus on his story. After the surprisingly riveting 30-minute bar scene, he follows Marina back to her isolated home village for the funeral of one of her three sisters and the crisis this presents to the local doll-making business. And here we stay for the rest of the film, briefly checking in with Oleg and Vladimir for updates on their tortured stories, which make little sense.
  The acting is raw, natural and extremely brave, as Khrjanovsky requires his cast to do fairly vile things, especially the old women who get drunk at the wake, devour a dead pig and end up partially naked. Many of these scenes seem almost documentary-like, as if Khrjanovsky simply gave his non-actors lots of vodka and filmed the results. Other scenes feature flashes of genius--clever parallels, repetitive imagery, inventive camera work, a constant sense of degraded humanity until people are no better than scavenging dogs. But neither the writing nor direction draws anything meaningful from this. And as the film rambles on far too long, it's so disjointed and indulgent that the audience simply loses the will to live. Which is perhaps the entire point.
dir Ilya Khrjanovsky
scr Vladimir Sorokin
with Marina Vovchenko, Sergey Shnurov, Yuri Laguta, Irina Vovchenko, Svetlana Vovchenko, Konstantin Murzenko, Alexey Khvostenko, Anatoly Adoskin, Leonid Fedorov
shnurov, vovchenko and laguta release UK 23.Sep.05
04/Russia 2h06
Tiger Award:
18 themes, language, nudity, some grisliness
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One Love 2.5/5
This Caribbean romance has a refreshing tone that keeps us engaged even when the plot takes a few rather goofy turns. Strong characters, superb music, gorgeous settings and a nicely understated central plotline make it worth a look.
  Serena (Anderson) is the golden-voiced daughter of a widowed preacher (Stona) who insists that his daughter's life should be entwined with the church, right down to the nice young man (Elba) she's expected to marry. But while preparing for a music competition, she befriends Kassa (Marley, son of Bob), the leader of a rasta band. They discover a common passion for music and life; but being from opposing religions makes it impossible to get together. Meanwhile, Kassa's band gets caught up in a scam with a local music-producer shark (Bell).
  There are some lovely touches here, from the intriguingly subtle characters to the tensions that bring them together and drive them apart. The cast is fresh and likeable--and very realistic--but the script has a tendency to drift into cliches at all the wrong times, from Serena's dead mother to her straight-from-Footloose father to the climactic music competition. Where it works best is in the human drama, as the people interact and sing, express their feelings and doubts, and try to figure out a way through it all.
  Elgood and Letts shoot the film stylishly and artfully, with gently flowing rhythms, lots of lively humour and a reluctance to indulge in stereotypes (for the most part). Jamaica looks so gorgeous on screen that you'll want to book your next holiday there! It's also terrific to see a film that deals with artistic and spiritual themes, even if it's a bit superficial. When it's focussing on the societal issues and the central romance, the film has a heartfelt honesty that's punctuated with moments of bracing authenticity. So it's that much more annoying when the plot takes an irrelevant crime-caper sideroad that pokes fun at local superstition. And the "let's get together and feel all right" climax is fairly annoying. But if the old chestnut works, so be it.
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
Unalie Williams, Jersey City, NJ: 5/5 "I must have watched the movie over 20 times. Very well written and the actors and actresses did a fantastic job. The end of the movie could have been different, but overall it is a wonderful movie." (18.Aug.06)
dir Rick Elgood, Don Letts
scr Trevor Rhone
with Ky-Mani Marley, Cherine Anderson, Vas Blackwood, Idris Elba, Winston Stona, Winston Bell, Kelly Barrett, Chris Daley, Michael Holgate, Luke Williams, Carl Bradshaw, Alex Rosén
marley and anderson release UK 15.Jul.05
04/Jamaica 1h39
12 themes, language, violence
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