Shadows Film FestArthouse films ’06
Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 27.Oct.06
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Be With Me 3.5/5
Poetic and emotionally moving, this three-strand film isn't terribly easy to engage with, but it contains both lyrical honesty and a true story that's genuinely inspirational.

Three stories in Singapore are loosely connected: An old man (Ching) lives and works alone, haunted by the memory of his late wife (Eng). His son (Yong) is an interpreter working on the autobiography of a deaf-blind woman (Chan), and her story has a profound affect on the old man's life. Meanwhile, a lonely young guard (Yew) becomes obsessed with a woman (Poh) he watches on security cameras, but is too embarrassed to talk to her. And a teen girl (Lee) falls in love online with a spoiled rich girl (Tan) who casually breaks her heart.

The film is steeped in romance, opening with the line, "Is true love truly there, my love?" And the three strands are titled Meant to Be, Finding Love and So in Love. As a whole, it's a provocative look at the highs and lows of people coming together, touching each others' lives, changing each other, needing each other. There's such a heavy sense of yearning--characters ache for love they can't have, ponder unthinkable actions, realise that true love exists, but possibly not forever.

Khoo directs in an understated way, with quiet performances and very little dialog. It's shot and edited in a rhythmic style that centres on the expressive faces of actors who give open-hearted performances. The interaction between them is fascinating, mainly because they use so few words. Chan's conversations with her interpreter are beautifully rendered with a kind of hands-on sign language. And much of the story is told in subtitles or on-screen writing.

It's a bit ethereal and arty, involving but muted and offbeat. Where the film really grabs us is in Chan's remarkable life story of survival against all odds as she lost her sight and her hearing to illness during childhood. Her sheer perseverance and willpower, her jagged sense of humour and the amazing impact of the people who loved her along the way are challenging and deeply stirring.

dir Eric Khoo
scr Eric Khoo, Wong Kim Hoh
with Theresa Chan, Chiew Sung Ching, Lawrence Yong, Seet Keng Yew, Lynn Poh, Ezann Lee, Samantha Tan, Jason Tan, Leong Kooi Eng, Ng Sway Ah, Lim Poh Huat, Elizabeth Choy
yew release UK 27.Oct.06
05/Singapore 1h33
12 themes, violence
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Princess   4/5  
This difficult tale of redemption and revenge, mostly told anime-style, is a thoroughly adult film. The blending of animation and live action is extremely clever, and it carries quite a punch.

August (Lindhardt) is a young missionary who returns to Denmark after the death of his sister Christina (Christensen), a famous porn star. He collects Christina's 5-year-old daughter Mia (Hallund) from the brothel where his sister left her, and then sets out to find Christina's now-missing porn-king boyfriend Charlie (Tafdrup). He's blocked at every step by Charlie's henchmen (Lenander and Kenter), and as his search progresses he must confront both the public perception of his sister and the fact that his own past actions played a large role in making her who she was.

For an animated film, this story is incredibly raw and intense, grappling with issues of sex, religion, death and personal responsibility. August is the hero, but we understand why Mia is reluctant to trust him, and when his anger takes hold, he's far more brutal than any of the villains. As his past begins to come into focus, the story takes on layers of irony and tragedy, and August's violent self-loathing begins to make sense in a startlingly bittersweet way.

Performances are intriguing, as the animated characters are intriguingly fleshed out in flashbacks and video footage featuring the real actors. The mixture works surprisingly well, deepening the story and lining up the childish aspects of the animation against the extremely grown-up plot. It's a vividly identifiable premise with strongly resonant elements such as Mia discovering her mother through a box of videos shot by August. And the animated bloodshed lends a mythical quality to the way the religious extremist August rains down hellfire on his enemies.

All of this slightly muddles the film's message. Is this an indictment of the way pornography has become part of everyday life, without the ability to shock the very young? Or is it a comment on religious intolerance and the inherent evil of ruthless revenge? Either way, it's provocative, involving and bracingly inventive filmmaking.

dir Anders Morgenthaler
scr Anders Morgenthaler, Mette Heeno
with Thure Lindhardt, Stine Fischer Christensen, Mira Hilli Møller Hallund, Margrethe Koytu, Christian Tafdrup, Søren Lenander, Tommy Kenter, Jens Arentzen, Ida Dwinger, Henrik Ibsen, Gunnar Willie, Jiming Cai
mia and august
release Den 16.Jun.06,
UK 19.Oct.07
06/Denmark Zentropa 1h18

London Film Fest
18 themes, language, violence, sexuality
17.Oct.06 lff
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Shut Up & Sing   5/5   Dixie Chicks SHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE
Funny, sharp and surprisingly moving, this documentary keeps us thoroughly entertained as it profiles these three gifted musicians and makes some astonishingly pointed comments about American society.

The Dixie Chicks (Natalie, Emily and Martie) were the top recording artists in America, with a world record for selling out their world tour. They sang the US national anthem at the 2003 Super Bowl, then just two months later, on their tour's opening night in London, Natalie commented on stage that she was embarrassed that George W Bush was from Texas. In context, two million people had just marched in London to protest the impending US invasion of Iraq. But the American media called Dixie Chicks traitors, radio stations banned their songs and the public viciously turned on them.

Ironically, the Dixie Chicks couldn't be more patriotic: all-American woman with loyal friends, faithful families, bouncy kids and a passion for freedom of speech. Where their story gets truly remarkable is in the way they refused to apologise. Even in the face of death threats, they stood up for their right to speak out against violence and warmongering.

Filmmakers Kopple and Peck have a wealth of footage to tell the story with passion and immediacy--we're backstage when the Chicks hear about the growing scandal and everything that follows. The film is energetically shot and edited, cleverly cutting between the momentous events of 2003 and their reunion in 2005 to record a new album, concluding with their return to London in June 2006. This is intimate footage that captures their spirit and humour, and keeps us laughing at the audacity, strength and courage of these women.

The film also provides a razor sharp look at the hypocrisy of the American media and, even worse, the easily led public, which crushed free speech with slurs, slander and public vitriol. It's disgusting to watch people behave so ignorantly, blindly supporting an invasion that everyone knew then (and it's now been proven) was based on lies and innuendo. Not to mention the spineless country music industry, which turned its backs on the Chicks. Besides being a thoroughly engaging narrative doc, it's also a provocative, compelling, important statement.

by Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Dan Wilson

Forgive sounds good; forget, I'm not sure I could.
They say time heals everything, but I'm still waiting.
I'm through with doubt; there's nothing left for me to figure out.
I've paid a price, and I'll keep paying.

I'm not ready to make nice; I'm not ready to back down.
I'm still mad as hell and I don't have time to go round and round and round.
It's too late to make it right; I probably wouldn't if I could.
Cause I'm mad as hell, can't bring myself to do what it is you think I should

I know you said, "Why can't you just get over it?"
It turned my whole world around, and I kind of like it.
I made by bed, and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don't mind saying,
It's a sad, sad story that a mother will teach her daughter
That she ought to hate a perfect stranger.
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge that they'd write me a letter
Saying that I better shut up and sing or my life will be over?

dir Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck
with Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Rick Rubin, Simon Renshaw, Cindi Berger, Dan Wilson, Chad Smith, Adrian Pasdar, Charlie Robison, Gareth Maguire, Lloyd Maines
martie, natalie and emily
release US 27.Oct.06,
UK 29.Jun.07
06/US 1h33
London Film Fest

26th Shadows Awards

15 themes, strong language
26.Oct.06 lff
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The Singer   4/5   Quand J'Étais Chanteur
Gentle humour and earthy emotion give this film a wonderfully relaxed tone that astutely captures our imagination. And unlike most French filmmakers, Giannoli refreshingly tells his story without even a hint of self-importance.

Alain Moreau (Depardieu) is a local celebrity in Auvergne, singing in dance halls with his band. His ex-wife (Citti) manages his career, which is based in a cafe she runs with her new boyfriend (Pineau). While Alain lives in a run-down barn outside town. One night his tenacious estate agent friend Bruno (Amalric) brings his new assistant Marion (de France) to one of Alain's gigs, and Alain is smitten. He now wants her to help him find a new home. And as he whittles away at her barriers, he discovers a new enthusiasm for singing.

This character is so perfectly suited to Depardieu's skills as an actor that we believe him from the moment the film opens: a has-been lounge singer, bored but talented enough to keep his fans happy. Depardieu plays effortlessly with Alain's insecurities and obsessions. His attraction toward the lithe, elusive, half-his-age Marion is thoroughly believable, and not as yucky as we think it'll be. De France also catches details and rhythms that make their interaction thoroughly believable, even when the story sags in the middle.

Giannoli adds hilariously comical touches from start to finish, and even the most surreal gags (such as Alain's puppy-like pet goat) emerge organically from the characters and situations. He also sets up intricate interrelationships without the overwrought dramatics most filmmakers would indulge in. These characters have grown to accept the complexities of their lives, including the ways they get on each others' nerves.

In the end, the film develops a beautiful bittersweet tone, mixing melancholy with raw honesty. The sparky dialog sits easily with the quiet desperation, and it's a delight to watch the characters awaken hidden passions within each other, cleverly paralleled with Auvergne's volcanic geography. Along the way, the story also touches on strong truths about both ageing and career sell-outs, all while quietly refusing to fall into a tired cinematic formula. It's subtle, dry, witty and extremely resonant.

dir Xavier Giannoli
scr Susanne Bier, Anders Thomas Jensen
with Gérard Depardieu, Cécile De France, Mathieu Amalric, Christine Citti, Patrick Pineau, Alain Chanone, Christophe, Jean-Pierre Gos, Antoine de Prekel, Camille De Pazzis, Marie Kremer, Catherine Salviat
depardieu and de france release Fr 13.Sep.06,
UK 28.Sep.07
06/France Europa 1h52

London Film Fest
12 themes, innuendo, language
22.Oct06 lff
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall