Shadows Film FestArthouse films ’06
Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 25.Feb.06
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Deep Sea   3/5
Imax 3D underwater cinematography is so spectacular that it doesn't matter how well the films are assembled. We watch in awe, engulfed in the imagery. And dreaming of a day when decent filmmakers work in this format.
  There's a haphazard approach to this film, which doesn't feel like a documentary at all. Rather, it's a random series of undersea scenes tenuously connected by informative but uninspired narration, read in condescending schoolmarm style by Depp and Winslet. It's not actually the "deep sea" at all; almost everything we see takes place in shallow coral reefs as various creatures feed on each other. If there's an overriding theme besides the obvious moralising message, it's that living things love to eat.
  And the footage is astonishing. Each sequence is a finely tined, jaw-dropping little story about the interaction between species, often involving one of them being consumed. But several clips examine how animals care for, protect and live alongside each other in especially unusual ways. This is captured by the Imax camera with such a bracing clarity of image that we actually feel like we're underwater, watching from a position just a little too close to the action.
  The filmmakers make great use of a lively, unusual Danny Elfman score to heighten the tension in scary scenes involving attacking squids, marauding starfish, prowling sharks, gulping octopi and chomping eels. And other sections examine odd symbioses between predators and their prey, such as the barracudas sitting patiently as the tiny fish they normally eat scrub them clean. Many creatures have a remarkable alien-like quality--slugs, snails, jellyfish, anemones and coral all send out their tentacles, release their spoors, slither, wriggle or whatever they need to do to survive.
  Bringing these various clips together under the banner of interdependence does work to a degree, as we do get a sense of how important every living thing is to each other. The concluding heavy-handed moral, about how man is destroying the planet, is of course followed by a gloriously hopeful final scene. With less preachiness, the film could have struck home for grown-ups as well as the children it's so obviously aimed at. But with Imax we've learned not to expect anything more than an eye-popping splendour, and this film certainly delivers that.
dir Howard Hall
narr Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet
a turtle at a cleaning station release US/UK 3.Mar.06
06/US Warner-Imax 40m
U some violence
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Gay Sex in the 70s   3.5/5
This documentary describes an idyllic period in history that both flouts moral conventions and leads into one of the arts community's darkest periods. But the pure filmmaking lets the people tell their stories with honesty and insight.
  It begins with the Stonewall riots in June 1969, the birth of the modern gay rights movement, and ends with the discovery of Aids in June 1981. The 1970s in America is described as the most libertine decade the world has seen since Rome. Hyperbole, perhaps, but not far off as interviewees talk frankly about the fact that sex was everywhere; they were challenging public preconceptions and wallowing in physical, social and spiritual bliss.
  Sure, they acknowledge the dangers--drugs, violence, illnesses, addictions--but a sense of freedom and possibility pervaded the community, all the way to the "narcotic beauty" of Fire Island. The men living this lifestyle had grown up in repressed communities where the word "gay" didn't exist; they were just "different". Then the 60s war protests encouraged them to demand to be treated like human beings.
  This was also the era in which the gay community linked with other outsider groups to mix music, sex and drugs in places like Studio 54. It sounds like a mythical place that doesn't exist anymore--and probably never existed. But there's a remarkable sense the entire world is still feeling the impact. Indeed, art has changed completely as a result--music, theatre, fashion, film, television, painting.
  The film is lovingly assembled from interviews, photos, home movies, newsreels and movie clips. It captures a vivid sense of camaraderie--the way these men created a new family together after their own families rejected them, the way they all lived to tell about season of freedom, when so many of their friends didn't survive. Filmmaker Lovett knows better than to moralise or to force any point; he just lets them talk. And the result is provocative, thoughtful and surprisingly emotional. It also makes us realise that when we think of the 70s as the era of disco and polyester, that's only the tip of the iceberg.
dir Joseph Lovett
with Tom Bianchi, Larry Kramer, Barton Benes, Alvin Baltrop, Bob Alvarez, Joe Lovett, Arnie Kantrowitz, Rodger McFarlane, Ken Unger, Mel Cheren, Scott Bromley, Susan Tomkin
tom bianchi pic release US 4.Nov.05,
UK 2.Jul.10
05/US 1h07


london l&g film fest

15 themes, language, sexuality, nudity
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Glastonbury   3.5/5
To celebrate three decades of the world's longest-running music festival, Temple assembles a stream-of-consciousness documentary from a vast wealth of footage, just letting the Glastonbury experience wash over us without telling us what we're seeing or when it happens. For the most part, this is compulsive viewing, but it feels far too long.
  The encyclopaedic approach starts with the history of the town, rumoured to be the resting place of King Arthur and the Holy Grail, and the site of a first-century visit by Joseph of Aramathea with his young apprentice Jesus. Indeed, there's a mystical mood in the Vale of Avalon, which local farmer Eavis caught memorably in the autumn of 1970 when in response to Woodstock he opened his farm to 1,500 people. Today some 300,000 people descend on the area every year.
  There's a heavy earth-loving vibe to the film, especially in the final third when we finally get an extended sequence about the legendary muddy years. Temple also wallows in the festival's hedonism, as well as its pure Britishness and the way it raises millions for charities. The hippies may be middle-aged now, but they bring their kids and still celebrate their love for the planet and good music.
  Many performances are amazingly edgy and energetic. The high points are Coldplay and Pulp, both of whom invest an extra emotional resonance on stage. And as we watch footage from the past 30 years, it's impossible not to see creeping commercialism engulf even this anti-establishment event.
  Temple beautifully captures the flow of time--70s free love and "naked dancing" (to quote a BBC journo) give way to 80s police action, 90s riots and travellers, and today's military precision, complete with a barrier wall, CCTV cameras and guard towers. As a film, it's a bit dreamy and meandering; at least 45 minutes could be cut from the middle and you'd never notice. But Temple remarkably documents this unique blend of earth worship, political activism, holistic healing, drug-fuelled revelry, free love and good, clean family fun. Party on.

Other music docs by Temple: THE FILTH AND THE FURY (2000) | THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN (2007)

dir Julien Temple
with Michael Eavis
performers Babyshambles, Bjork, Blur, David Bowie, Chemical Brothers, Coldplay, Ray Davies, Dr John, Faithless, Fat Boy Slim, David Gray, Rolf Harris, Radiohead, Primal Scream, Prodigy, Pulp, Scissor Sisters, Stereo MC's, Joe Strummer
mud, mud everywhere release UK 14.Apr.06,
US 23.Feb.07
06/UK HanWay 2h15
15 themes, language, nudity, drugs
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A Year Without Love 4.5/5   Un Año Sin Amor
This film's gritty authenticity is echoed in the simple fact that the central character shares the name of a screenwriter. The intensely personal story draws us in and holds us in its grip.
  It's 1996 and Pablo Perez (Minujin) is 30, trying to rebuild his life after discovering that he's HIV-positive. But magazine ads aren't working, and he's bored with hanging around the gay porn cinema or picking up guys in bars. He starts to keep a journal, which his best friend (Echevarria) encourages him to publish. Eventually, he takes a more proactive approach, diving into the leather/S&M scene, which he finds oddly comforting. There he meets the potentially loveable Martin (van de Couter).
  Even if the setting is alien, Pablo's story is so honest and introspective that we can't help but identify with him. His yearning for human connection, even though he feels like a pariah, is vividly portrayed by the superb Minujin. And director Berneri captures settings with a grubby sense of urban decay that cleverly captures Pablo's feelings about himself. Dense colours and glaring lights accentuate the sensation, as does an undercurrent of deadpan humour, Pablo's nagging cough, the ever-present doctors and awkward relationships with his aunt (Ardu) and father (Merkin).
  Through the year, we travel through a summer medical crisis, autumnal hope in the first drug cocktails and macrobiotic diet, and a creeping sense of both joy and sadness in the winter. Berneri sharply builds the chemistry between characters, then cuts abruptly away from any action. Eventually she indulges in some frighteningly explicit dominance-submission, and even then she makes sure there's a point, and a parallel in the overall plot.
  The film is loaded with these balancing acts, subtle touches that maintain an artistic tone and tell us things without our realising it. Where it really points a finger is through the people around the edges who are content, and even indignant, about the fact that they're trying to help. But they're not helping at all, and it wouldn't take much to turn that around.
dir Anahi Berneri
scr Pablo Perez, Anahi Berneri
with Juan Minujin, Carlos Echevarria, Javier van de Couter, Mimi Ardu, Osmar Nuñez, Ricardo Moreillo, Ricardo Merkin, Barbara Lombardo, Juan Carlos Ricci, Carlos Portaluppi, Monica Cabrera
minujin release Arg 24.March.05,
US 10.Feb.06, UK 28.Apr.06
05/Argentina 1h35

Teddy Award: BERLINALE
Fipresci Prize:
18 strong themes, language, sexuality, nudity
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall