Shadows Film FestArthouse films ’06
Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 2.Mar.06
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36   4/5   36 Quai des Orfèvres SHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE
This ripping French thriller is one of the best cop movies in recent memory, turning a fairly standard premise into something so powerfully engaging that it gets us almost as overwrought as the characters.
  When the chief (Dussollier) of France's detective unit, which is based at the titular address, announces he's been promoted to commissioner, he dangles his job as bait for the two top candidates, spurring them to capture a vicious gang of armoured car robbers. So of course Vrinks (Auteuil) and Klein (Depardieu) do everything they can to catch the bad guys before they kill again. Along the way they bend a few rules, and might have to pay the consequences.
  Director-cowriter Marchal infuses this film with driving energy that makes the assault sequences far more edgy and intense than most cop flicks, all while underscoring the film with huge waves of emotional resonance. It's never empty spectacle. The film is packed with sudden, shocking, unexpected events that constantly turn the story in new directions as strong characters struggle to balance their ruthless drive for justice with the fact that life isn't fair.
  In the central role as the good guy who is agonisingly wronged, Auteuil is terrific as ever, effortlessly conveying Vrinks' investigative tenacity, camaraderie with his colleagues (Duval, Renaud, Metzger, Lecluyse), passion in his marriage (to the excellent Golino) and rivalry with Klein. Depardieu is the flip side of the coin, the hot-head who somehow always emerges squeaky clean. The push and pull between them is gripping, especially as events escalate the tension, often in unspeakable ways.
  Marchal fills the film with scenes that crackle with both horrific firepower and burning emotion. He continually subverts our expectations, flipping the roles between good cop and bad cop until nobody's quite sure who's who. There are so many wrinkles along the way that by the time the final confrontation finally erupts, we hold our breaths in anticipation. And fear. This is expert filmmaking that deserves to be seen by a wide audience before Hollywood comes up with a slick, formulaic remake.
dir Olivier Marchal
scr Olivier Marchal, Frank Mancuso, Julien Rappeneau, Dominique Loiseau
with Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Depardieu, André Dussollier, Roschdy Zem, Valeria Golino, Daniel Duval, Francis Renaud, Catherine Marchal, Stéphane Metzger, Guy Lecluyse, Frédéric Maranber, Alain Figlarz
auteuil and depardieu release Fr 24.Nov.04,
UK 2.Jun.06
04/France Gaumont 1h50
15 themes, language, violence, nudity
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Fateless   4/5   Sorstalanság
Cinematographer Koltai impressively takes the director's chair for this striking World War II odyssey, based on the experiences of Nobel Prize-winning screenwriter Kertész.
  Gyuri (Nagy) is a lively, perceptive 14-year-old in 1944 Budapest. After his father is sent to a work camp, Gyuri's unexpectedly arrested and taken to Auschwitz and a series of other camps, where he's subjected to forced labour, abuse and mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis. But through all this, he maintains a strikingly rational view of his situation, discovering that he's not actually tied in to the fate of his suffering people. If there is such a thing.
  While concentration camp horrors are vividly portrayed, the message seems to be that terrible things just happen--we have to get through them, and move on. This sets the film apart from most Holocaust dramas. Gyuri's experiences are indeed harrowing, but he never vilifies the Nazi guards, the Hungarian traitors or his petty, scavenging fellow captives. This is a tale of raw humanity at its best and worst, period, without finger-pointing.
  Koltai tells this story with sumptuous, European-style production design, literally draining the colour from the screen as it progresses. It's assembled as a series of snapshot scenes, each offering another glimpse of emotion and honest observation. Some of these are almost gothic, such as when prisoners are forced to stand for hours in place, swaying on their wobbly legs like religious fanatics praying for mercy. Other scenes are minutely observed, such as when Gyuri hides the fact that his bunkmate has died so he can continue to claim an extra food ration. And then there are glimpses of wider carnage, like the levelling of Dresden, which leave us breathless in another way.
  Nagy is soulful and startlingly raw in this demanding role. His journey is so personal that we are compelled to travel it with him, experiencing the emotions from his yearning, seeking eyes. And the final sequence when he returns home is startling in its refusal to treat his ordeal in the expected way. This is understated yet jarringly provocative filmmaking that dares to look at familiar events in an unconventional way.
dir Lajos Koltai
scr Imre Kertész
with Marcell Nagy, Áron Dimény, Daniel Craig, Bálint Péntek, Béla Dóra, Dani Szabó, György Barkó, Ádám Rajhona, Sára Herrer, Judith Schell, Ildikó Tóth, György Gazsó
nagy release Hun 10.Feb.05, US 6.Jan.06, UK 5.May.06
05/Hungary 2h14

15 themes, violence, language
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Once in a Lifetime The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos 3.5/5
This football doc has a lively 1970s tone that neatly captures soccer's brief North American heyday. It's a fascinating, engaging story, although the film itself is a bit uneven.
  It's the story of Warner Communications founder Steve Ross, who in the early 70s developed a love for the global sport and spent vast sums to build the New York Cosmos into a world-class soccer team. The kick-off was the purchase of Brazilian superstar Pelé, as well as other top international players over the years, including Alberto, Marsh and the outrageous primadonna Chinaglia. By 1977 the team was playing to record crowds in Giants Stadium. But without a TV network deal, the North American Soccer League struggled and eventually disbanded in the early 80s.
  The opening segment, analysing why football has never taken off in the States, is astute and telling. Yes, Americans do have short attention spans, preferring brief-burst sports rather than the 90-minute epic theatricalities of soccer. Although the fact that football doesn't have ad breaks is perhaps a more important factor in the most commercially minded nation on earth.
  Directors Crowder (Riding Giants) and Bower (Live Forever) give the film a wonderfully funky feel, from whizzy echoed/split-screen imagery to the pulsing song score. That the two central figures are only represented by stills and archive footage is a problem; one is dead and the other "declined to be interviewed". Even existing interview footage of Steve Ross and Pelé would have helped hugely.
  Still, many interviewees have a sharp sense of humour about themselves and their time in the spotlight. Tales of starry supporters, Studio 54 revelry, travelling antics and especially Messing's notorious nude centerfold are thoroughly entertaining. When the film shifts to concentrate on their bickering, it gets more than a little wearying. But the collapse of the dream is an important part of the story. As is the final note, quietly observing how these events influenced a groundswell in America that has made soccer the nation's most-played sport today, even if it's not in the big leagues. Yet.
dir Paul Crowder, John Dower
scr Mark Monroe
narr Matt Dillon
with Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia, Shep Messing, Rodney Marsh, Clive Toye, Gordon Bradley, Ahmed Ertegun, Mark Ross, Raphael de la Serra, Pepe Pinton, Mia Hamm, Henry Kissinger
release UK 19.May.06,
US 7.Jul.06
06/US Miramax 1h37
15 themes, language, brief nudity
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Queens   3.5/5 Reinas
This brightly colourful ensemble farce has a huge number of central characters, each of whom has their own romantic comedy plotline. Fortunately, the stories are so predictable that we don't have trouble keeping things straight. As it were.
  Five mothers are preparing for Spain's first mass gay wedding. Reyes (Paredes) is a famous actress horrified that her spoiled-but-sweet son (Jiménez) has fallen for the hunky son (Silva) of the gardener (Homar), of all people. Magda (Maura) is a hotel owner planning the ceremony, which includes her son (Ugalde) and his boyfriend (Hendler), whose mother Ofelia (Blum) arrives from Argentina with plans to stay. Nuria (Forqué) has a sex addiction problem, which she discovers is shared by her future son-in-law (Salmerón), whose boyfriend (Leon) has disapproving judge Helena (Sampietro) as a mother. Guess what her next responsibility will be?
  It sounds like an Almodóvar-style ode to all things maternal, and indeed mother-son relationships are at the centre. But where Almodóvar deepens and stretches things, Pereira goes for enjoyable silliness. Even as he layers in wrinkle after mess after catastrophe, the film has a buoyant, sunny tone that keeps us smiling, not thinking about or identifying with anything or anyone.
  The cast digs in and finds the real people amid the wackiness. All of the mothers are delicious drama queens; Maura and Paredes are the bright sparks, as usual. And of the men, Salmeron registers strongest with the most complex role--and the most illicit liaison. The interaction is goofy and faux-shocking, with complicated interrelationships, secrets and surprises, and even a rampaging shaggy dog.
  While each story strand touches on serious issues like fidelity, acceptance, tenacity and forgiveness, it's never terribly deep. There are some very strong scenes sprinkled among the antics; at least the filmmakers acknowledge that class, gender, culture and politics are important relational issues, even if most are brushed away just in time for another bit of slapstick. But then this is a rom-com--six of them, actually. And it does keep us smiling right to the big finish.
dir Manuel Gómez Pereira
scr Yolanda García Serrano, Joaquín Oristrell
with Carmen Maura, Marisa Paredes, Verónica Forqué, Mercedes Sampietro, Betiana Blum, Gustavo Salmerón, Paco León, Raúl Jiménez, Hugo Silva, Daniel Hendler, Unax Ugalde, Lluís Homar
ugalde and maura
release Sp 8.Apr.05,
UK Mar.06 llgff,
US 25.Aug.06
05/Spain Warner 1h47
london l&g fest
15 themes, language, nudity, sexuality
26.Feb.06 llgff
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