Shadows Film FestArthouse films ’06
Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
< <
M O R E > >
last update 2.Aug.06
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Angel-A 3.5/5
Luc Besson shifts gears from his usual action mayhem for this disarmingly sweet romantic fantasy, which is essentially a witty, edgy cross between Amelie and It's a Wonderful Life.

Andre (Debbouze) is a low-life con-man in Paris whose luck has finally run out. In debt to murderous loan sharks (Melki and Riaboukine), he decides to end it all by throwing himself into the Seine. Which is rather ironic, since he was being dangled from the Eiffel Tower by a thug a few hours earlier. As he prepares to leap, he meets Angela (Rasmussen), a leggy blonde who offers to help him get out of trouble and rediscover his self-respect. She's a guardian angel on a mission. And for the short, scruffy Andre it's love at first sight.

Besson films this in fluid black and white, giving the film a classical tone that belies its urban undertones of sex and crime. Andre and Angela make such a ridiculous couple that it's hard not to like them--both physically and personality-wise, they are polar extremes. And both actors get it right; Debbouze is endearingly chaotic while Rasmussen is a bundle of unpredictability and offhanded attitude. Although she resembles Milla Jovovich far too much with her stick figure, harshly cropped hair and skimpy costumes (which says more about Besson than it does about her).

The script is snappy and sharp, although the banter is wearying at times, as it seems like these two won't shut up even for a second. Besson lays on a continuous stream of witty imagery, from a checklist of Paris landmarks to visual nods at otherworldly classics like Orphee and Wings of Desire. He also builds a lovely thematic undercurrent as Andre is forced to look deep within himself.

While the film is essentially cute, silly fluff, these emotional touches offer a nice balance. Snappy gags and spiky adult humour give if even more texture. And Besson somehow manages to bring all of this together into an effective, involving odyssey. The result is both heartbreaking and hopeful, and often hilariously funny as well.

dir-scr Luc Besson
with Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen, Gilbert Melki, Serge Riaboukine, Eric Balliet, Olivier Claverie, Alain Zef, Grigori Manoukov, Akim Chir, Michel Bellot, Michel Chesneau, Jean-Marco Montalto
nrasmussen and debbouze
release Fr 21.Dec.05,
UK 28.Jul.06,
US 25.May.07
05/France Europa 1h28
15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Gypo   4/5
This intriguingly well-made British film, made under the Dogme Manifesto, tells a complex story from three perspectives, and has something important to say about one of the UK's hottest topics.

Helen (McLynn) is a harried, nagging Margate woman with a surly, uncommunicative husband Paul (McGann) and three kids: a grown daughter in London, a teen daughter Kelly (Dunstone) who refuses to take responsibility for her infant child, and a teen son Darren (Stuart) following in the racist footsteps of his dad. When Kelly brings home a Romany asylum-seeker classmate Tasha (Sirene), it's Helen who becomes her real friend. From the Czech Republic, Tasha and her mother (Lenska) are on the run from the thuggish men in their lives. And from English louts who deride them as "Gypos".

We see the story through Helen's eyes, and then Paul's and Tasha's. And the result is surprisingly emotional, building to an almost overwhelmingly intense climax. And this three-pronged approach prevents any perspective from dominating the narrative; we see each character in all their glory, a complex jumble of kindness and cruelty, selfish motivations and genuine good will. No one's terribly likeable, but we engage with each one because we can imagine ourselves to some degree in these situations. And we recognise them as people around us.

Everything about this beautifully shot and edited film is bracing and raw. Performances are transparent and full of emotional energy, with jagged humour and moments of shocking bitterness and violence. Each of these people is at the end of his or her tether--drained and tired, desperate to simply survive what life is throwing at them, and yet refusing to give up hope or to stop seeking happiness wherever possible.

Writer-director Dunn sometimes goes a bit too far, stirring the waters with so many issues that our heads are spinning at the end. Specifically, a final-act romance feels somewhat forced and unnecessary. But she cleverly crushes stereotypes at every turn. And while it's not hugely optimistic about British culture, the film is strikingly honest about attitudes and prejudices, confronting and exposing something that's been blindly accepted for far too long.

dir-scr Jan Dunn
with Pauline McLynn, Chloe Sirene, Paul McGann, Rula Lenska, Tamzin Dunstone, Tom Stuart, Freddie Connor, Olegar Fedoro, Natalie Sewell, Jonathan Howlett, Josef Atlin, Barry Latchford
mclynn release UK 20.Oct.06
05/UK Lionsgate 1h38

London L&G Film Fest
15 themes, language, sexuality, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Terkel in Trouble   1.5/5   Terkel i Knibe
It's difficult to understand why British filmmakers have made an English version of this Danish cartoon, which was based on a South Park-like Danish radio serial. But it's too childish and not smart enough for grown-ups.

Terkel (voiced by Edmondson) is a nerdy teen with a typically disastrous life. He's just had a fight with his best friend (Bishop), his chain-smoking mother (Colman) is obsessed with planning her wedding, his salty uncle (Vegas) is making the school bullies even angrier, and his new teacher (Stephens) is a tree-hugging hippy. Now Terkel is receiving death threats that, frankly, could be coming from anyone.

The story's narrated, often in song, by a random character (Bailey) who pops up as someone new in every scene--a gag that never comes to life in any absurdly comical way. Which is the whole problem. The humour is rough and jagged, only occasionally hitting its mark. Most of the dialog feels like unfocussed flailing by British screenwriter Burton (Wallace & Gromit), which is then croaked by the cast. The funniest bits are in Willie Dowling's song lyrics.

There are frequent attempts to crank up the central mystery, touch on various issues and add some sweet moralising. But none of this works at all, mainly because of the film's frenetic, clumsy pacing and cheap-looking 3D animation (which is on par with the Crazy Frog videos). It's sometimes visually inventive, but not enough to keep our interest. And even the closing-credit outtakes feel stale.

Basically, this is the kind of film a 12-year-old boy will love, as it's loaded with seriously deranged gags and lots of poo and fart jokes. The moment when Terkel stands up to the bullies will make they cry with glee. They'll identify with the oblivious family, pestering little sister and annoying classmates, all of whom get their just desserts. Other viewers, though, would find actually reliving the hell of their teen years preferable to sitting through this film. It's abrasive and nonsensical, and really should be a kids' TV show, not a 15-certificate movie.

dir Kresten Vestbjerg Andersen, Thorbjørn Christoffersen, Stefan Fjeldmark
scr Mette Heeno, Mark Burton, Ray Gillon
voices Adrian Edmondson, Johnny Vegas, Bill Bailey, Toby Stephens, Ben Bishop, Olivia Colman
original voice Anders Matthesen
Uncle Stewart and Terkel release Den 2.Apr.04,
UK 1.Sep.06, US 26.Mar.10
04/Denmark Nordisk 1h18

15 themes, language, vulgarity, animated gore
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Who Killed the Electric Car?   4/5 SHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE
This straightforward documentary takes no prisoners as it systematically examines America's dependence on foreign oil using a specific example. What it reveals isn't surprising, but it's terrifying.

In 1990, California's Air Resources Board ordered manufacturers to sell a growing percentage of zero-emission cars. Six years later, electric vehicles were on the road, loved by drivers and mechanics alike. But automotive companies launched legal action, and in 2003 the mandate was overturned. They repossessed then crushed and shredded all of the electric cars and started pushing George W Bush's hydrogen fuel-cell technology instead.

It doesn't take a degree in world economics to see what's going on, especially when fuel cells are up to four times less energy efficient, much more expensive than petrol. They also maintain consumer dependence on oil companies, and the technology is at least 30 years in the future, if ever. But writer-director Paine widens his search, exploring the limitations of electric cars ... and discovering that there are none: they're cleaner, cheaper, simpler to maintain and have the same speed and range.

What emerges is a scary picture of Big Oil controlling governments and the automotive industry to extract more money from customers addicted to their products. It's so brutal that each successive revelation makes us sick. And the filmmakers are careful to make sure what we see is clearly documented, balanced, entertaining and surprisingly personal.

Interviewees include former electric car drivers, including several celebrities, and people on all sides of the issue, including several who have switched sides. Intriguing historical touches are supplied through footage about how electric cars were actually more popular than petrol ones a century ago, how General Motors mothballed Los Angeles' mass transit system in the 1940s, and how Iraq's oil supply was once hailed as our salvation.

The corporate and political greed on display is reprehensible, especially as it threatens the entire planet. Paine desperately tries to end on an optimistic note, but by then we've had our hopes crushed like the cars themselves. We feel helpless in the face of such overwhelming evil as long as Americans keep their heads in the sand, the criminals in government and their feet on the accelerators of gas-guzzlers. An important, essential film.

dir-scr Chris Paine
narr Martin Sheen
with Mel Gibson, Peter Horton, Alexandra Paul, Colette Divine, Phyllis Diller, Tom Hanks, Ralph Nader, Chelsea Sexton, S David Freeman, Stanford Ovshinsky, Tom Everhart, Bill Reinert
horton release US 28.Jun.06,
UK 4.Aug.06
06/US Sony 1h32

See also:
Revenge of the Electric Car (2011)
U themes, brief language
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < M O R E > >

© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall