Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 9.Oct.05
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Bubble   4.5/5
It's intriguing to see an A-list director take on the minimalist style of a micro-indie. Soderbergh's sure-handed work here is a breath of fresh air, shattering cliches to tell a deceptively simple story from Middle America.
  At an Ohio doll factory, 20-ish Kyle (Ashley) and 40-ish Martha (Doebereiner) have struck up a friendship--chatting during breaks, carpooling, and that's about it. But Martha is clearly very fond of Kyle. Which is why she gets quietly, reluctantly jealous of new 23-year-old employee Rose (Wilkins). But she tries to be positive, babysitting Rose's young daughter and giving her a lift to her second job. When tragedy strikes, everyone is taken aback.
  The title seems to refer to the bubble of imagined happiness in which these people reside, a working-class existence that offers little hope but feels predictable and safe. Soderbergh captures this with remarkable austerity--a barely moving camera, not much colour or energy, and most of all a sense of life just ticking by, day after day, with comforting regularity. Even when something horrible happens, unlike most movies it's taken in stride, as another event that requires a banal series of actions and responses.
  This is far trickier than it looks. Most filmmakers would find it impossible to resist the lure of traditional movie structures, with their character arcs and pacey rhythms. But Soderbergh goes for something much more interesting--soaking us in the atmosphere so that we are forced to examine the events and the reactions. It's eerily reminiscent to Gus Van Sant's similarly low-key but powerful Elephant. Brilliantly straightforward, restrained and razor-sharp filmmaking.
  Performances are also understated and introspective. The cast is made up of non-professional actors who all live in the location, and they lend the film a sense of realism that feels completely unpolished. Ashley's mopey aimlessness is contrasted sharply with Doebereiner's bright-eyed curiosity. They feel utterly real, right down to their strained, unequal interaction and their unpredictable responses to what happens in their midst. And the feeling that all of their lives are just passing by is so palpable that it's almost frightening.
dir Steven Soderbergh
scr Coleman Hough
with Dustin Ashley, Debbie Doebereiner, Misty Wilkins, K Smith, Decker Moody, Daniel R Christian, Omar Cowan, Laurie Lee, Thomas R Davis, Ross Clegg, Scott Smeeks, Joyce Brookhart
ashley release US 27.Jan.06,
UK 26.Oct.05 lff
05/US Section Eight 1h24
12 themes, language
7.Oct.05 lff
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Live and Become   4/5 Va, Vis et Deviens SHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE
Director-cowriter Mihaileanu has crafted a remarkable epic, keeping the perspective intensely intimate while telling a big story and documenting a hidden aspect of world history. It's so good that it could have been even stronger if the final third wasn't so rushed.
  In 1984 Sudan, refugees await their fate. Israel is secretly airlifting the Ethiopian Jews (descended from Solomon and the Queen of Sheeba), and a desperate Christian mother encourages her young son (Agazai) to feign Jewishness to escape, telling him to "go, see and become". His odyssey in Israel is astonishing--renamed Schlomo, adopted by a liberal French-Israeli couple (Abecassis and Zem) and tutored by an African rabbi (Edgar), he grows into a complex teen (Abebe) and then a man (Sagahat) who understands the weight of his opportunities and secrets.
  This is an astonishing story, set against a little-reported exodus. But Mihaileanu recounts the events vividly and clearly, spinning his fictional narrative to examine the issues--deeply probing concepts of identity, religion and family, as well as responsibility and fate. It's a powerful bundle of themes, but these weighty issues never overwhelm us because we're simply watching one boy's story. And it's so compelling that it engulfs us completely.
  In fact, when the film's final act hurries through Schlomo's young adult life, we want it to return to the previous unhurried pace--getting deep into the characters and letting us feel what's happening. We wouldn't mind sitting there for another hour! Not only is Mihaileanu's storytelling strongly engaging, but the film is technically beautiful, with both epic African landscapes and realistic Israeli settings that avoid every cliché while making sure to ground the period in historical events.
  The cast create complicated, shaded characters we can readily identify with. The three actors who play Schlomo are all superb; Zem and especially Abecassis speak volumes even when not saying a thing. The surge of varied emotions they all experience is incredibly powerful, even though the film completely avoids sentimentality. This is complex, lively, raw, gripping filmmaking. And utterly essential.
dir Radu Mihaileanu
scr Radu Mihaileanu, Alain-Michel Blanc
with Yaël Abecassis, Roschdy Zem, Moshe Agazai, Moshe Abebe, Sirak M Sabahat, Roni Hadar, Yitzhak Edgar, Mimi Abonesh Kebede, Rami Danon, Avi Oria, Meskie Shibru Sivan, Raymonde Abecassis
agazai and edgar release Fr 30.Mar.05,
Isr 14.Oct.05,
UK 30.Dec.05
05/France-Israel 2h20
Audience Award,
Europa Prize,
Ecumenical Jury Prize:
12 themes, language, violence
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Rize 4/5
In the process of documenting an innercity dance movement, LaChapelle creates a gripping film about life in South Central Los Angeles. Capturing the culture in the words and experiences of the real people, he vividly exposes raw truth about ethnic America, while never abandoning hope or humanity.
  There are early references to Martin Luther King and the violent riots of 1965 and 1992, but this is a film about dance, and LaChapelle reminds us at the top that no footage has been sped up. On the contrary, he slows some of it down so we can get a proper look. And the significance of this specific style of dancing can't be understated: it's a positive reaction to a cruel society.
  At the centre is Tommy the Clown, who talks with evangelistic zeal about his goal to give kids something to channel their energies away from drugs, gangs and crime. His hip-hop Clown Academy has made him a local hero, and created a huge movement in which young people paint their faces and express themselves through street dancing--astonishingly energetic, emotionally raw physicality. Watching these kids pop is powerfully moving as they speak about their lives with their entire bodies.
  Clowning has spawned a reactionary movement, krumping, and Tommy's annual Battle Zone squares clowns off against krumps in a gang-style showdown that's all about positive expression rather than violence. As the film progresses we get to know a handful of passionate young people--intelligent, articulate kids who have grown up in a deeply oppressive culture, where the only option the state provides is sport. There's no artistic outlet, so non-athletes are forced to take to the streets either as gang members, criminals ... or dancers.
  Along with strikingly vivid imagery, LaChapelle floods this film with emotional intensity--it's powerfully riveting and deeply moving. He also draws understated but pointed connections with both African tribal dances and urban American religion. This "ghetto ballet" may look aggressive or sexual, but these spirited and spiritual dancers are channelling oppression it into something purely artistic. Drugs, crime and jail are facts of everyday life here; this movement is about breaking that cycle.
dir David LaChapelle
with Tommy the Clown, Dragon, Larry, Tight Eyez, Lil C, Miss Prissy, La Niña, Swoop, Big X, Lil Tommy, Baby Tight Eyez, Daisy, El Niño, Termite, Lil Mama
express yourself
release US 24.Jun.05,
UK 30.Dec.05
05/US 1h26
PG themes, physicality
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They Came Back  4/5 Les Revenants
Leave it to the French to come up with a talky, existential zombie movie! It simply has to be seen to be believed. And it's worth seeing too, since the filmmakers have come up with a terrifically inventive approach to the idea.
  The film simply opens with thousands of people walking out of the local cemetery, causing mass confusion throughout a French city (and apparently all over the world). Although the dead seem to just want to resume their lives, the local officials study them intensely, and work to cope with all these extra people, from refugee centres to psychological counselling. We settle on three main threads: A city employee (Pailhas) whose young husband (Zaccai) returns; the town mayor (Garrivier) whose wife (Samie) is back; and a couple (Barek and Matheron) reunited with their 6-year-old son (Delas).
  To describe this as a thriller is rather misleading. Yes, it's very creepy, and increasingly so as we begin to realise that, although they are the same people as before, the returnees are up to something. They all seem to move in slow motion, barely talking, constantly walking, looking knowingly. And even more unsettling is the reaction of the town, from constant surveillance to finding a drug that will control them. And there's also a kind of deranged Coccoon thing going on here as well, since most of the undead are elderly people with longing, soulful eyes, like they're slightly out of synch with the real world.
  It's extremely well-filmed, with a simply colour code helping us keep track of who's who, along with the sinister heat-sensitive cameras that track the slightly cooler zombies' movements. And the cast is superb--introspective and intensely personal, drawing us in and making our heads spin with the ramifications. It's wonderfully unbalanced and strange filmmaking; the bracingly straightforward approach actually makes it even more haunting as we just wait for it all to go horribly wrong. Writer-director Campillo delights in dropping little hints, letting characters discuss the situation without any real understanding and drawing out emotional resonance everywhere. Fascinating, entertaining and, ultimately, surprisingly provocative.
dir Robin Campillo
scr Robin Campillo, Brigitte Tijou
with Géraldine Pailhas, Jonathan Zaccaï, Frédéric Pierrot, Victor Garrivier, Catherine Samie, Djemel Barek, Marie Matheron, Saady Delas, Maurice Garrel, Dan Herzberg, Alain Guillo, Gérard Watkins
les revenants
release Fr 27.Oct.04,
UK 23.Oct.05 lff
04/France Haut et Court 1h45
12 themes, sexuality
3.Oct.05 lff
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall