Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
< <   F O R E I G N   > >
last update 30.Jul.07
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
A Roof Overhead   3/5   Un Acoperis Deasupra Capului
A Roof Overhead There's a lively, offhanded expressionism here that makes this a film well worth seeing, although its deliberate quirkiness makes it unlikely to appeal to viewers off the festival circuit.

When Romania's cost-cutting measures hit the mental hospitals, all of the merely neurotic or depressed patients are immediately discharged. The clearly unstable Cati (Nicolescu) has nowhere to go, so she tags along with the more timid Mona (Butuc), hitchhiking on a tractor to an isolated village where Mona has inherited her grandparents' house. There's no roof on the tiny structure, but Mona and Cati make it a home. Although the villagers are suspicious, drunken, violent and clearly crazier than the people they left behind in the hospital. They're also up to something.

In addition to acting, Nicolescu wrote the screenplay, which is a terrific story about female solidarity and community dynamics, all told in a relentlessly offbeat way. There's even a lovely romance woven into the story to counterbalance all of the neighbours' drunken, sex-crazed antics. Popovici directs with wonderfully textured cinematography (by Mihail Sarbusca) and a spark of hyperactive energy that highlights all of the colourful characters.

Yes, it all feels a bit too zany at times, and extremely nonsensical, especially as the villagers come across as thoughtless morons most of the time, rather than real people. Sometimes the insistent absurdity is a bit much to take. But the interaction between Nicolescu and Butuc is so delightful that we can cope with the rest of it, and the loosely atmospheric mood of the film does get under the skin. Even if the film is completely bonkers.

dir Adrian Popovici
scr Mara Nicolescu
with Mara Nicolescu, Gabriela Butuc, Marius Bodochi, Sorin Misiriantu, Ovidiu Niculescu, Alin Panc, Valentin Popescu, Nicodim Ungureanu
butuc and nicolescu release Rom 10.Jun.06,
UK Mar.07 biff
06/Romania 1h50

18 themes, language, sexuality, violence
10.Mar.07 biff
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Gandhi My Father   3.5/5
Gandhi My Father With a sweeping scope and a strong attention to detail, this beautifully made film centres on the stormy relationship between Gandhi and his eldest son. It's overlong and repetitive, but it impressively gives us a full-bodied portrait of the icon.

In 1906, Mohandas and Kasturba Gandhi (Jariwala and Shah) were living in South Africa, where Gandhi worked as a lawyer challenging segregationist rule. Their eldest son Hari (Khanna) returns from India with his new wife Gulab (Chawla) hoping to make something of his life. Over the next 40 years, the whole family returns to India, where Gandhi leads his entire nation in a peaceful uprising against the British colonialists. Meanwhile, Hari struggles with addictions, bad decisions, a weak will and living with a very famous father.

This is a fascinating story with some surprising edges, as we see Gandhi in a very new light--still as an important leader, but also as a man with cheeky humour and a strong will who never manages to sort out his relationship with his number one son, disapproving his marriage, belittling his opinions and yet also willing to forgive and support him. It's a complex relationship that's never simplified in the film, and is notably well-played by the cast.

Writer-director Khan manages the tricky job of balancing reverence for the immortal figure who fathered a nation with the flesh and blood man who wasn't always so perfect. He shows us a side of Gandhi that's even more sympathetic than what we've seen before--a man so dedicated to justice that he refuses to give his children any advantage, and then can't understand why people criticise him for that. And as Hari is suffocated by his father's expectations, judgement and emotional distance, it's not surprising he goes off the rails.

As it progresses, the film loses track of Hari's siblings and children to focus closely on his father's politics and their troubled relationship. This narrows the film sharply, losing the family context and falling into the cyclical nature of Hari's alcoholism, jobs, scams and religions. All of this tragedy, reconciliation, heroism and stupidity are somewhat tiring to watch. And yet it's a vital, important portrait of Gandhi. And an intriguing look at a man who can't live in, or escape, his father's shadow.

dir-scr Feroze Khan
with Darshan Jariwala, Akshaye Khanna, Shefali Shah, Bhumika Chawla, Daniel Janks, Vinay Jain, Ilanit Shapiro, Gregg Viljoen, Natalie Hughes, Bonnie Lee Bouman, Marion Hind
Jariwala and Shah release UK/US 3.Aug.07
07/India 2h08
PG themes, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Love Songs   4/5   Les Chansons d’Amour
Love Songs Probably not to everyone's taste, this romantic musical is thoroughly offbeat and deeply French in its style and tone. But the lyrical filmmaking beautifully captures the elusive complexity of love.

To ease tensions over whether or not to have a child, Ismael (Garrel) and his Julie (Sagnier) enter into a ménage à trois with Ismael's coworker Alice (Hesme). But the tensions persist. Julie's parents (Roüan and Winling) and sisters (Mastroianni and Butaud) love Ismael too, but when they find out about Alice they're not sure how to react. And when tragedy strikes, everyone deals with it differently. Ismael both stops in his tracks and runs away, striking up a tentative friendship with the young Erwann (Leprince-Ringuet), who won't take no for an answer.

The film is casually punctuated by the songs of Alex Beaupain, romantic, meandering ditties that sometimes provide a spark of understanding ("Have you ever loved for the sheer sake of it?"). In most cases, the self-reflective songs leave us watching the story from a cold distance. And then it suddenly snaps into focus, with a telling glance, seductive touch or tender phrase. And there's an intriguing, meaningful contrast between the emotive songs and the otherwise free-wheeling realism.

Honoré captures the lively lives of these young Parisians effortlessly. Garrel is terrific as the clownish Ismael, entertaining everyone with charades and puppetry while struggling inside with feelings he can't understand. Sagnier has a marvellous posh confidence that wavers under pressure, Mastroianni has darker edges and Hesme captures a surprising openness to the world around her. Leprince-Ringuet is the nicest surprise as the disarming Erwann. None of them are great singers, but they more than make up for this with soulful energy.

Essentially, this is a film about sex and relational politics, but it leaves both of those off-screen to focus on the love that underpins them. These people deal with love (and grief) in distinct, unfathomable ways; the shifting emotions are powerful, from joy to sorrow to longing to discovery. Impatient filmgoers will be annoyed by so many songs, some of which seem pointless or endless. But give it a chance. There's a lot of hope mingled with the melancholy: "Love me less, but love me for a long time."

dir-scr Christophe Honoré
with Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroianni, Clotilde Hesme, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Brigitte Roüan, Jean-Marie Winling, Alice Butaud, Yannick Renier, Annabelle Hettmann, Esteban Carvajal-Alegria, Sylvain Tempier
garrel and sagnier release Fr 23.May.07,
UK 30.Nov.07,
US 21.Mar.08
07/France Alma 1h35

edinburgh film fest
15 themes, language, innuendo
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Zibahkhana: Hell’s Ground   3.5/5
zibahkhana Pakistan's first slasher horror movie is an outrageously funny and grisly romp that draws every cliche and plot wrinkle the genre has to offer. Without any budget to speak of, this film shows more filmmaking passion than most studios can muster.

Five young people sneak out of their homes in Islamabad and drive off into the night to see their favourite rock band in concert. There's the annoyed Simon (Raza), the smooth-guy driver Vicky (Roshan), the surly Roxy (Chaudhry), the stoner goof-off OJ (Butt) and the nervous Ayesha (Ejaz). And the minute they decide to take a shortcut through a notoriously creepy woods, we know they're in trouble, especially after the freaky pronouncements of a cafe-owner (Rehan) and a wide-eyed hitchhiker (Meraj). Not to mention hoards of zombie-like mutants and a machete-wielding, burqa-wearing maniac.

Writer-director Khan is paying tribute to classic Pakistani horror movies (Rehan played Dracula in a 1967 classic that appears briefly on-screen), but since we might not get the reference, he also loads on just about every horror movie element imaginable, including over-the-top gore, uproarious Tarantino-esque dialog and comic strip title cards, plus some political and environmental subtext.

And it's all here: city kids lost in the countryside, no mobile phone signal, rolling mist, a broken petrol gauge and sensible decisions like, "You wait here; I'll go check it out and be right back." So when the midget zombie attacks them, it's hardly a surprise. They have been told, after all, that they are on "the road to hell!" From the very start, there's a rock-n-roll attitude that more than compensates for the cheesy production values.

The cast go for broke, energetically indulging in the sassy banter and mindless screaming, running through the woods and resourcefully trying to fend off the assault however they can. By the end everything, including the camera's lens, has been drenched in blood. Khan, who has more in common with Takashi Miike than Wes Craven, shoots with bucket-loads of inventive wit, maintaining a hilariously crazed tone that keeps us laughing and makes us jump more than a few times. And while oddly familiar, it's also wonderfully unlike anything we've ever seen before.

dir-scr Omar Ali Khan
with Osman Khalid Butt, Kunwar Ali Roshan, Rubya Chaudhry, Rooshanie Ejaz, Haider Raza, Salim Meraj, Ashfaq Bhatti, Rehan, Sultan Billa, Najma Malik
butt release US 10.Apr.07 pff,
UK 18.Aug.07
07/Pakistan 1h18
18 themes, violence, strong grisliness, language
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< <   F O R E I G N   > >

© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall