Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 5.Oct.05
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Dead Girl 3/5
For his shift into writing and directing, actor Howard makes a scathing parable about the ruthlessness of Hollywood. It plays like Mulholland Drive crossed with Weekend At Bernie's and then American Psycho--an unsettling black comedy that's always bizarrely compelling.
  Ari Rose (Howard) is a young actor struggling to get noticed. A top agent (Cassel) shows interest then disdain. His nutty shrink and/or script doctor (Kilmer) isn't much help. And the woman of his dreams, Helen Catherine (Parillaud), refuses to notice him, although her obsessive housemate (Plummer) won't leave him alone. From here the film descends into black satire as Ari has a seriously disturbing relationship with a beautiful corpse.
  Of course, the grim joke is that Ari has about as much chance of having a serious relationship with a dead girl as he does of actually making it in Hollywood. And anyway, Hollywood producers really prefer the beautiful corpse. This is played out with a vicious sense of wit that keeps us laughing and gasping in disbelief, right to the bitter end.
  With this kind of subject matter, it's not surprising that the film has taken nine years to surface (there has also been a serious legal wrangle). But with its savage view of Tinseltown, it'll probably become a cult classic on the festival circuit. Howard is an engaging leading man, growing increasingly dishevelled as the story progresses and he becomes ever more desperate. Although it's hard to like him when he goes so gruesomely off the rails. Parillaud bravely endures everything the script throws at her; she really is remarkable. Plummer is manic and very funny. And Kilmer is hysterically wacky.
  In the end, the film might be far too much for mainstream audiences. Even though it suffers from the usual first-time director mistake of refusing to leave the camera in a sensible place, it's technically very accomplished. It could be too warped and goofy and knowing to actually connect with people who are unfamiliar with the inner workings of the film business. But for anyone in the know--or anyone who has seen The Player and Ivansxtc--this is great stuff.
dir-scr Adam Coleman Howard
with Adam Coleman Howard, Anne Parillaud, Amanda Plummer, Val Kilmer, Seymour Cassel, Famke Janssen, Teri Hatcher, Emily Lloyd, William McNamara, Damian Young, Betsy Clark, Peter Dodson
kilmer release UK 2.Oct.05 Raindance
96/US 1h25

18 themes, language, sexuality
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Le Grand Voyage   4/5
Combining epic journeys that are both physical and internal, first-time Moroccan filmmaker Ferroukhi creates a powerfully involving story that beautifully brings out the characters' souls and also tells us a lot about the world we live in.
  At 18, Reda (Cazalé) has always lived in southern France, so has little connection with his Moroccan roots. When his older brother loses his driving licence, Reda is drafted to drive their father (Majd) to Mecca for his pilgrimage--3,000 miles across Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey and the Middle East. Reda is dreading this. He has nothing in common with his father, and he's consumed with the issues of being a teenager in Western Europe. Which is something Papa can't begin to understand.
  We know that two characters stuck in a car for a week can't help but come together in some meaningful way. But Ferroukhi avoids cinematic parent-child cliches by allowing the story to develop naturally and subtly, and by never taking any side at all. This is neither a plea for modern understanding nor a yearning ode to traditional religious values, although both are here. It's an understated story about a father and son who reluctantly learn something about each other ... and themselves.
  The anecdotal narrative is assembled from a series of telling events--border problems, weather issues, medical emergencies, personal challenges and surprising travelling companions such as a mystery woman (Ognianova), a too-friendly Turk (Nercessian) and a bleating sheep. These richly detailed adventures form an engaging trip from West to East, without ever dwelling on the obvious contrasts. It's filmed, acted, edited and scored in a strikingly organic way, leading up to the amazing final sequence among a sea of pilgrims in Mecca.
  And it's also a remarkable film that dares to confront spiritual hot topics like the collision between Islam and the West, but to do it in a refreshingly balanced, understanding way. Without ever pushing, Ferroukhi is clearly trying to counter the knee-jerk reactions of the media in the face of today's tense world, and he should be highly commended for his constructive, hopeful approach.
dir-scr Ismaël Ferroukhi
with Nicolas Cazalé, Mohamed Majd, Jacky Nercessian, Ghina Ognianova, Kamel Belghazi, Atik Mohamed, Malika Mesrar El Hadaoui, Krassi Kpacu, François Baroni,Kirill Kavadarkov, Blajo Wymenski, Dean Machev
cazale and majd release Fr 24.Nov.04,
UK 14.Oct.05
04/France 1h48
Best First Film: VENICE
Best Film & Best Actor:
PG themes, some language
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Keane   3.5/5
Filmmaker Kerrigan is clearly inspired by the Dardenne brothers' finely focussed point of view--the hand-held camera virtually never leaves the central character's face. Combined with an intense story, this is jarring, involving and, ultimately, perhaps annoying.
  William Keane (Lewis) is desperately searching for his 8-year-old daughter who went missing in September (we never know how long ago that was). As he becomes increasingly manic, we realise that he's also mentally unstable, living on disability cheques in a hotel room. He befriends his neighbour Lynn (Ryan) and her 8-year-old daughter Kira (Breslin), and we soon see what he's thinking. So when Lynn asks William to collect Kira from school one afternoon, we can tell he's also worried about what he might do.
  The constant tension in this story gives the film an edge the Dardennes' more meandering movies rarely achieve. There's such a clear focus on William that we are terrified something awful will happen, even though we know William is a good guy underneath his grief and illness. In this sense the film is reminiscent of Nicole Kassell's The Woodsman, about a man who's all too aware what he's capable of, but feels powerless to change.
  That said, it's also somewhat pretentious and overwrought. Lewis is excellent in most scenes, although it's a showy role that teeters on the brink of Big Acting. While Breslin is perhaps too cute and naive. That they manage to keep their characters in control is no mean feat--both are superb. Kerrigan, meanwhile, grits the film with sex and drugs and sidelines that add deliberate shadows to the storyline.
  And maybe he tries too hard to manipulate his audience, because the film never quite feels authentic enough. Intellectually it's challenging and strong, but emotionally it feels forced. And in the end it becomes rather clear that there is virtually no plot at all--it's a short extended with atmospheric scenes that, while effective, don't tell us enough about the characters or the situation to properly win our sympathies. But it's still worth seeing as a vivid portrait of a man on the brink.
dir-scr Lodge Kerrigan
with Damian Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Amy Ryan, Tina Holmes, Christopher Evan Welch, Chris Bauer, Lev Gorn, John Tormey, Ed Wheeler, Yvette Mercedes, Brenda Denmark, Ted Sod
lewis release US 9.Sep.05,
UK 22.Sep.06
05/US Section Eight 1h33
15 themes, language, sexuality, drugs
3.Oct.05 lff
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Mad Hot Ballroom   3.5/5
In the style of the documentary Spellbound, this film follows three New York City schools as they prepare for a ballroom dancing competition. Meanwhile, the filmmakers gently explore important educational and societal issues.
  All three state schools--in Washington Heights, Brooklyn and Tribeca--are a melange of ethnic and economic backgrounds. And these 10- to 12-year-old kids are brought together in a government-funded dancing programme designed to help them develop social and artistic skills. And the results are fairly impressive, as we see the children learn to respect each other and find some inner value. Although the filmmakers are careful to point out that this approach doesn't work for every student.
  And the teachers are fascinating as well, from the sparky Reynoso, who just missed out on the huge trophy last year and is determined not to let that happen again, to the charming Lopez, who knows how important it is to have a male dance teacher. We even get to watch the teachers socialising, and strutting their stuff, in one especially energetic sequence.
  What we never see, though, are the students in their homes, which would have added huge significance (as it did in Spellbound). At least we meet them on the playground and in the park, where we hear their aspirations and observations, which really highlights the gaping gulf in maturity between boys and girls at this age. Not to mention the things they cope with that we can't even imagine, such as the girl who casually comments that her goal is to find a boyfriend who doesn't sell drugs.
  What they all share is a sense of release and accomplishment, not to mention the sheer enjoyment ("My favourite is the Merengue--it's mad hot!"). These classes develop a real sense of camaraderie and team spirit, especially as they head for the big final. It takes quite a long time for the film to finally reach its real point, examining the changes this programme makes in the kids, but by the end we're glowing with pride just like their parents and teachers.
dir Marilyn Agrelo
scr Amy Sewell
with Rodney Lopez, Yomaira Reynoso, Allison Sheniak, Alex Tchassov, Victoria Malvagno, Wilson Castillo, Jatnna Toribio, Kelvin Acevedo, Elsamelys Ulerio, Emma Biegacki, Tara Devon Gallagher, Michael Vacarro
dancing in the park release US 13.May.05,
UK 25.Nov.05
05/US Paramount 1h45


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