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On this page: LAGERFELD CONFIDENTIAL | PLANET B-BOY
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last update 4.Sep.07
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Lagerfeld Confidential   3/5
Lagerfeld Confidential This engaging fly-on-the-wall documentary offers a rare glimpse into the life of the notorious designer and photographer, highlighting his sharp humour and larger-than-life personality.

Filmmaker Marconi was followed Lagerfeld (age 69) for two years, including private moments at home in Paris and in his work as a designer, artist and photographer. We also see his jet-set lifestyle, taking a private plane around Europe and then first class to New York. We witness his personal obsessions and interests, his interaction with models and celebrities, and how his staff has become his de facto family.

And he talks a lot, sharing feelings and opinions, always aware that he's on camera. We never quite believe his comments about how happy he is to be alone in life, without a relationship. Although there are clearly lingering feelings from his long-term liaisons. And his descriptions of his childhood seem somewhat exaggerated--his parents a little too colourful and accepting of his sexuality in a time when such a thing was unspeakable.

But even this adds to the mythology surrounding the man. And Marconi has an amazing wealth of material to work with--including the archive of film and print from Lagerfeld's entire career. When he talks about his first show for Chanel in 1983, there it is on screen. We get to see photos of him as a lively child and strikingly handsome young man, watching the recognisable public persona develop along the way. And in the present day, he teasingly refuses to remove his sunglasses (although Marconi catches him a few times), paws through bowls of rings, drawers of stiff collars, rooms of clothes racks. And yet, despite his fortune, his life seems strangely simple.

Assembled somewhat archly with self-aware transitional sequences, this film also looks at the fashion industry itself through Lagerfeld's wry perspective. He acknowledges that the business isn't actually vital to society, that the concept of elegance is completely subjective and that he designs because he doesn't have the patience to sew. And even more interestingly, we get his personal opinions on everything from personal possessions and porn to prostitution and politics. It's an engaging portrait of a man who claims to eschew self-analysis and nostalgia, even as these are clearly his stock in trade.

dir Rodolphe Marconi
with Karl Lagerfeld, Nicole Kidman, Princess Caroline
lagerfeld and model
release Fr 10.Oct.07,
UK 26.Oct.07
07/France 1h28

BERLIN FILM FEST
PG some themes
29.Aug.07
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Planet B-boy   3/5
Planet B-boy Anyone who thinks breakdancing was just a 1980s phenomenon really needs to see this film, which examines today's global movement with stylish, energetic filmmaking and tells several specific stories about the competitors.

The film chronicles the build-up to the Battle of the Year, in which 18 nations compete for the world B-boy team title in a small German town. The Americans want to reclaim the dance they created, but once we see the competition, we realise that they're at a huge disadvantage. The Americans show expressive invention and have the historical edge. But the Japanese have a corner on physicality, always pushing the limits. The French combine artistry with unusual levels of teamwork. And the defending-champion Koreans have the most power and technical skill.

We follow teams from all four countries, looking into their training regimes, their distinctly different camaraderie and the unique way each team approaches a discipline that combines dance with sport. This is outrageous stage movement, in which teams compete with the most extreme physicality they can muster. We also meet a few specific dancers and their families, and learn about their varied backgrounds, pressures and expectations.

The clips are laced with raucous, earthy humour, although the documentary as a whole is quite earnest, as the competitors take the competition very seriously. This approach makes the film thoroughly entertaining to watch, building a strong level of tension as the momentous event approaches, and also showing how the teams keep an eye on each other, understanding what they're up against and begrudgingly respecting the teams that come up with the goods.

Technically, the film is a little clunky. It's shot in short clips, only rarely giving us a decent feel for the extent of the performances. Close-ups let us see the physical skill, but not the over-all impression. And many scenes are accompanied by rather bland hip-hop muzak (possibly for film rights reasons). Still, director Lee uses some very whizzy editing, maintaining our interest over the long running time. It's a fascinating, enjoyable look into an important element of dance culture that deserves some legitimate respect. Or perhaps a slot at the Olympics.

dir Benson Lee
with Katsunori Kakiguchi, Cho Sung-gook, Hong Sung-jin, Kevin Staincq, Jon Cruz, Mike Carrasco, Benito Gallardo, Lee Gwang-sun, Jang Kyung-ho, Takahiko Fukui, Bae Byung-yeob, Claude Gabriel
Planet B-boy release US 21.Mar.08,
UK Aug.07 eiff
07/US 1h41

TRIBECA FILM FEST
edinburgh film fest
12 themes, language
16.Aug.07 eiff
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Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure   3.5/5
sea monsters 3d This intriguing documentary about undersea dinosaurs cleverly links the animated recreations to modern-day archaeology to vividly demonstrate how we know what used to live in our planet's oceans. And it's pretty cool to see these creatures swimming at us in 3D.

The filmmakers recreate archaeological expeditions from the past 100 years to piece together some of the fossils that have been found around the world, remnants of ancient oceans that used to sit over North America and Europe. After the waters receded, the remains of these remarkable animals tell us everything from their shape and size to what they ate for dinner. Which usually means that the skeleton of a smaller creature is found within the skeleton of a larger one. While virtually all of these creatures are long extinct, there's also evidence that modern-day sharks swam with these water-dinosaurs 80 millions years ago.

In addition to actors playing archaeologists (with mercifully little dialog), the film strings together a plot that follows a family of Dolichorhynchops, "dollies" for short, through a life cycle of birth, growth and various adventures and encounters with other sea animals, including the lizardy Platecarpus, the six-metre-necked Styxosaurus, and the T-rex of the sea, the Tylosaurus. These scenes make up more than half of the film, and the animation is very impressive. For every slightly ropey effect, there are five sequences that take our breath away.

Meanwhile, the narration is easy to follow, never too scientific and structured around a simple storyline. And the 3D imagery is sharp and extremely vivid. Underwater and outer space movies work best in the Imax format, because they put us right into the environment. Here, we feel completely submerged in this prehistoric sea, surrounded by fish and many other critters that continually chomp on each other with their often alarming teeth. This wasn't a very peaceful time in earth's history, and it's great that scientists who have found so many fossils can piece it together in a way that's this entertaining.

dir Sean MacLeod Phillips
narr Liev Schreiber
with Jeff Staab, Doug Kisgen, Dan Nichols, Liam Owen, CJ Johnson
dollies and friends release US 5.Oct.07,
UK 19.Oct.07
07/US National Geographic 40m
PG some violence
23.Sep.07
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What Would Jesus Buy?   3.5/5
what would jesus buy? There's a serious theme within this raucously entertaining documentary, which follows a group of comic musicians on a cross-country "evangelistic" tour. The film gets a little heavy handed, but it's an important message.

Rev Billy (Talen) and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir have been preaching against the evils of consumerism for 10 years now, opposing the Disneyfication of society and calling on people to avoid the impending "shopocalypse". In a pair of busses, they take to the road in the month counting down to Christmas, challenging people to wake up from the oppression of capitalism, which has turned the holiday into a mass buying spree that causes stress and strain rather than encouraging peace on earth.

Produced by Morgan Spurlock, this film combines vivid humour with sharp social commentary. Statistics and images of the shop-crazed public are extremely scary, and the filmmakers edit it together skilfully, keeping us laughing at Rev Billy's antics and the choir's hilariously clever songs. Billy is a full-on charismatic evangelist urging his congregation to exorcise their credit cards and chant, "We will never shop again, forever and ever, amen!" These scenes are hysterically funny, but they also convey the grim reality in an extremely potent way.

Billy and crew are essentially stand-up comics and performances artists, and the film's most telling segment is when the exorcism of Wal-Mart's headquarters followed by a hilarious debrief with his wife (Durkee) in the hotel. Their colourful approach is a wake-up call, to get us to explore the options and break our addiction to consumerism. We're also confronted to think about where these gift items are made and by whom, and whether by buying all this junk we're contributing to global poverty and injustice.

The truth is that having all of these things can never bring real satisfaction; the very nature of consumerism is that we can never be satisfied. Rev Billy is urging us to buy less and be more satisfied. The film may overstep its remit with sideroads looking at the destruction of small-town America and various incidents along the road, not to mention some earnest preachiness at the end, but this is a gospel we need to hear before it's too late.

dir Rob VanAlkemade
with Bill Talen, Savitri Durkee, April Benson, Charles Kernaghan, Gloria Lawlah, Judith Levine, Bob Manning, Steven Nissenbaum, Alvin Poussaint, Jim Wallis, William Watson, Andrew Young
rev billy and the stop shopping gospel choir release US Mar.07 sxsw,
UK Aug.07 eiff
07/US 1h31

SXSW FILM FEST
edinburgh film fest
12 some themes, brief language
19.Aug.07 eiff
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2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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