Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 19.Oct.05
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The Girl from Monday   3.5/5
Hartley calls this "fake science-fiction", which is a fairly perfect description. It's a gripping tale set in the near future, even though everything about this world is true right now.

America is the ultimate consumer society, in which the government/marketers Triple M track everything to develop Personal Human Value. For example, sex with a stranger increases someone's stock value and buying power. Sex for love is a self-indulgent crime. Jack (Sage) works for Triple M, but is actually a counter-revolutionary along with the 17-year-old William (Fitzpatrick). Jack's colleague Cecile (Lloyd) doesn't know his secret, but keeps stumbling onto things. As the cops close in, Jack rescues an alien girl (Abracos) from the Monday constellation; she's seeking a friend who came as a tourist and never returned.

Hartley directs on video with an edgy-arty style that blurs the movement, keeping the cameras at futuristic angles and drifting into black and white whenever the cops get the upper hand. This creates an unsettling atmosphere that keeps us on edge like the characters as the mystery develops. Performances are fine, although somewhat overwhelmed in the creative style of editing. Sage is superb as the bewildered Jack; Lloyd has the film's most interesting role as a woman whose whole world opens up in front of her, requiring increasingly difficult decisions.

The present-day parallels are a bit obvious, but still chilling. We can see all of this as the logical next step in our consumer society, in which personal lives become part of the grand scheme to sell us even more things. Our personal patterns are out there for anyone to see, and those in power can target us to create a desire, for example, for heart surgery whether we need it or not. Hartley does this subtly--the cracking story is always the main thing--but we never miss the point.

Sometimes we'd rather hear the dialog than Jack's omnipresent noir-style narration. But the inventive touches are so frequent that we're soon smiling at the next underhanded gag: "You are sentenced to two years hard labour - teaching high school".

dir-scr Hal Hartley
with Bill Sage, Sabrina Lloyd, Tatiana Abracos, Leo Fitzpatrick, DJ Mendel, James Urbaniak, James Stanley, Edie Falco, Juliana Francis, Normandy Sherwood, Ryan Bronz, David Neumann
sage and abracos release US 30.Jan.05, UK 26.Oct.05 lff
05/US Possible Films 1h24
12 themes, language, sexuality
18.Oct.05 lff
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Hidden   4/5 Caché
Crisply shot and performed with raw intensity, this insinuating French thriller makes us squirm along with its characters as the fragile illusion of upscale bliss is slowly shattered.

Georges and Anne (Auteuil and Binoche) are understandably unnerved when they receive a videotape of their house being watched for several hours. Who would do this and why? More explicit tapes and creepy drawings hint that it's either a schoolmate of their verging-on-pubescent son (Makedonsky) or a fan stalking Georges, a well-known TV presenter. Certainly nothing in their own pasts could spark this. But even if they're terrified, the police won't do anything until it gets violent.

Starting with an extremely cool single-shot credit sequence (which'll be impossible to read on video), Haneke keeps us in his grip. We are both voyeurs and the victims of surveillance, and Haneke maintains then escalates this sensation through his fiercely clever use of long takes, static camera shots, shifting points of view, echoing imagery and a script that dribbles out the information organically, but never before we (or the characters) need it. It's a fascinating puzzle; as we find out details and secrets, we want to know even more.

Auteuil and Binoche are bracingly real in these roles, genuinely shocked with each other over their respective actions and reactions in the face of this subtle but obvious attack on their perfect-looking lives. And as the problems extend into their workplaces and friendships, we watch them deal with the situation in very different ways. Especially as one of them finds it increasingly difficult to deal with a skeleton falling so loudly out of a long-locked closet.

This is strong, clean, assured filmmaking, utterly straightforward but also sneaky and playful, hinting at things we can't imagine, throwing in nightmares and flashbacks to spice up the mix, dragging us into astonishing confrontation scenes--one of which we watch from two very different angles. The mystery is compelling and elusive, and Haneke deepens it with strong comments on race, class and how an individual, a nation and a world can all conspire to forget their history. To their peril.

dir-scr Michael Haneke
with Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Lester Makedonsky, Maurice Bénichou, Annie Girardot, Daniel Duval, Nathalie Richard, Walid Afkir, Bernard Le Coq, Denis Podalydès, Aïssa Maïga, Caroline Baehr
auteuil and binoche release Fr 5.Oct.05,
US 23.Dec.05,
UK 27.Jan.06
05/France 1h57
Best Director,
Fipresci Prize,
Ecumenical Prize:
15 themes, language, brief strong violence
17.Oct.05 lff
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New York Doll 3/5
The timing of this doc couldn't have been more perfect. Whiteley follows Arthur "Killer" Kane from May 2004 until his surprising, untimely death from leukaemia that July--a momentous three months in which the remaining members of the groundbreaking glam-rock band the New York Dolls reunite for the first time in 30 years.

Kane's story is amazing, from his childhood to the way the Dolls dropped a bomb in the sea of dull early-70s pop, paving the ways for countless bands that followed, from the Sex Pistols to the Clash to The Pretenders. Rock was suddenly fun again, boring drum solos were banished, and outrageous on- and off-stage antics became cool. On the other hand, this decadent life of drugs and alcohol tool its toll. The Dolls broke up after only three tempestuous years. Three band members died. And after rehab Arthur was reborn in Los Angeles as a Mormon.

The contrast between his former and present lives seems astonishing at first, until we begin to see that he's exactly the same. His candid discussions about his life are revealing and engaging, as he functions in a lucid but fried-out, Ozzy-like daze. In his words it seems absolutely logical that the Mormon church would offer him salvation, a purpose and even a job in their family history archive. He is genuinely happy with his simple life, and overwhelmed with joy at joining with his fellow Dolls, Johansen and Sylvain, for a concert in London organised by Morrissey.

This documentary moves at a steady clip, recounting Kane's story chronologically with warmth and humour, constantly narrated by the man himself, with added comments from a wide range of people who knew him. Whiteley weaves in plenty of archive footage and performance clips. There's nothing terribly complex or inventive here (he even resorts to a tired London Calling establishing montage cliche), and even though Whiteley clearly adores him, there's a slight sense that we're laughing at Kane's nerdy approach to life. But it's a gift to have these final few months so enjoyably and insightfully presented on film.

dir Greg Whiteley
with Arthur Kane, David Johansen, Sylvain Sylvain, Morrissey, Bob Geldof, Chrissie Hynde, Iggy Pop, Mick Jones, Rust Tippett, Bob Gruen, Nina Antonia, Don Letts
johansen and kane
release US 28.Oct.05,
UK 7.Apr.06
05/US First Independent 1h18
12 themes, language
17.Oct.05 lff
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Lady Vengeance 4/5 aka: Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
For the next in his kidnapping/revenge series (after Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and Oldboy), inventive filmmaker Park puts a woman front and centre, and the result is a strikingly sensitive voyage into the darkest recesses of the human mind.

Geum-ja (Lee Yeong-ae) was imprisoned at 19 after confessing to the kidnapping and murder of a young boy. During her 13-year term, she becomes a model prisoner. But once released, she embarks on a careful plan to get revenge against the man (Choi) behind it all. As Geum-ja sets her plot in motion, she reveals her secrets, working with a select group that includes her loyal former cellmates, her baker boss (Oh) and his young assistant (Kim Shi-hoo), the detective on her case (Nam), red eye shadow and a ferocious hand-made gun.

Park's elegant stylishness is on full display, from the gorgeous white-out title sequence to the desperately emotional final showdown--with witty characters, events and film tricks generously layered in between. He's such a strikingly visual director that we eagerly indulge in his excesses; grisliness and emotions are often over-the-top. Flashbacks and dream sequences swirl into the mix, including a brief interlude in the Australian Outback. As each piece of her story falls into place, we become aware that settling the score isn't going to be enough for Geum-ja. She needs atonement.

Like Oldboy, this is rich, detailed storytelling full of vivid characters who are all impeccably played. It's much more than a tale of violence and retribution; this is an inner journey about and correcting wrongs and tying up loose ends. And the climactic sequence is almost unwatchable for its intense violence (all off-screen, thankfully) and its razor-sharp emotion.

And this is also a story of female empowerment in a world that continually, and ritually, sidelines and victimises. For these women, oppression is over! And no one who knows the truth can argue with them. But it's of course much more complicated than that. And this soul-cleansing dichotomy is what Park catches on screen beautifully, showing up Tarantino's Kill Bill for the Western revenge fantasy that it is.

See also: SYMPATHY FOR MR VENGEANCE (2002) | OLDBOY (2003)

dir Park Chan-wook
scr Jeong Seo-Gyeong, Park Chan-wook
with Lee Yeong-ae, Choi Min-sik, Kim Shi-hoo, Nam Il-woo, Kim Byeong-ok, Oh Dal-su, Lee Seung-Shin, Kim Bu-seon, Ra Mi-ran, Koh Soo-hee, Seo Yeong-ju, Kim Jin-koo
lee yeong-ae release Kor 29.Jul.05,
UK 10.Feb.06,
US 28.Apr.06
05/Korea 1h52


26th Shadows Awards

18 themes, language, violence
18.Oct.05 lff
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall