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ITTY BITTY TITTY COMMITTEE|
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY | RAG TAG
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last update 25.Mar.07
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
|Itty Bitty Titty Committee|
There are intriguing echoes of both Ugly Betty and Nip/Tuck running through this lesbian activist comedy (Babbit has directed episodes of both series). But while the film is engaging, it feels unwilling to really push its themes into provocative territory. Which is something both shows do every week.
Anna (Diaz) works for a Los Angeles plastic surgeon. After breaking up with her girlfriend and helping plan her sister's wedding, she's beginning to feel like maybe she needs a boob job to improve her life. At this moment she meets Sadie (Vicius), a radical feminist with a small group of cohorts trying to end the tyranny of male-oriented society. Anna falls hard both for Sadie and the cause, but Sadie has a long-term partner (Mayron), so Anna pours her energy into the pranks and protests, taking things further than Sadie ever did.
The themes roaring around inside this film are intriguing and important, and they keep us gripped even when the plot and characters drift. Western culture's deeply ingrained masculinity is highlighted cleverly in the script, with telling dialog and vivid, lively characters. So it's a shame that they're rather stereotypical--there's one of each type, but at least they're played with warmth and humour.
The story, on the other hand, is very thin. Using a standard rom-com structure, it relies far too heavily on girl-rock montage sequences to propel the story. And the film's sense of humour is more silly than witty, especially when we finally arrive at the big final stunt, which simply doesn't work logistically or technically on screen. And while Diaz is likeable and nicely shaded in the central role, the character is written with some pretty corny mood swings. Why does she have to become so irresponsible just because she's woken up to the world outside her bubble?
These kinds of things weaken what's otherwise a sharp and entertaining comedy about gender politics. As the film continues, the simplistic and somewhat half-hearted narrative, humour and characterisations undermine the important statements the film is making. What's left is fluffy and cute, but also rather forgettable.
dir Jamie Babbit|
scr Tina Mabry, Abigail Shafran
with Melonie Diaz, Nicole Vicius, Daniela Sea, Carly Pope, Lauren Mollica, Deak Evgenikos, Melanie Mayron, Guinevere Turner, Ana Mercedes, Marisa Ramirez, Jimmi Simpson, Brian Gattas
release UK 21.Mar.07 llgff,
07/US Power Up 1h27
15 themes, language, sexuality|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
|The Picture of Dorian Gray|
Oscar Wilde's novel gets a whizzy updating with this surreal swirl of a movie set in modern-day New York and filmed like a 1970s drug trip. The aloof tone is a little hard to take, but it's also surprisingly involving.
Dorian (Gallagher) is an independently wealthy young man who hangs out with the movers and shakers of Manhattan's art scene. He's madly in love with the struggling actress Sibyl (Palladino), yet gives into the attentions of lovelorn artist Basil (Segan). In the name of art of course. The result is Basil's magnetic video installation piece that captures Dorian's ageing soul, helped by the Mephistophelean Gabriel (Goduti). Over the next 17 years, Dorian is shepherded through his decadent life by his friend and patron Henry (Camargo). But there's a terrible price to pay for eternal youth.
Writer-director Roy captures the nihilistic decadence of the pretentious art crowd with razor-sharp wit and loads of flamboyant melodrama. He shoots in lurid reds and yellows, deploying split screens and dramatic light and shadows, as well as evocative music from every genre imaginable. The result is a blurry blend of The Great Gatsby and the Andy Warhol Factory, with strong themes about love, sexuality and even Aids.
The cast is superb, highlighting the desperation of people who know their window of fortune is probably a brief one. With the exception of Dorian, of course, who has negotiated immortality. In this sense, Gallagher has the least sympathetic character, but still manages to find humanity under the ruthlessness. But these glimpses are few and far between, and Dorian's unlikeability isn't always easy to watch. Also, these drug-fuelled artists are way out on the fringe. A brief visit to Henry's home highlights this, letting us see how "normal" people live while depravity reigns in the warehouse district.
The script cleverly toys with Wilde's turn of phrase, packing each conversation with pithy one-liners (some flash garishly on screen) that knife through what passes for civilised society. Combine this dark humour with Roy's difficult plotting and jarring crosscutting, and the film is positively Lynchian--although without the emotional kick that would actually make us care.
dir-scr Duncan Roy|
with David Gallagher, Christian Camargo, Aleksa Palladino, Noah Segan, Michael Goduti, Paul Sado, Rebecca Wisocky, Michael Bellisario, Dan Gingert, Pamela Shaw, Dmitry Pomirchy, Shawn-Caulin Young
release UK 4.Apr.07 llgff
15 themes, language, drugs, sexuality, violence|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
While this low-budget British film has virtually every first-time filmmaker flaw--stiff acting, awkward structure, strained direction--it also has a powerfully strong story that makes it worth seeing.
Childhood buddies Rag and Tag (Parsons and Adelaja) haven't seen each other since Rag mysteriously left London 10 years ago. Now he's back, looking for work and trying to reconnect with his buddy, who's studying law. Tag introduces Rag to an import-exporter (Fawole) who's hiring. Soon, both Rag and Tag are travelling to Lagos on business, and their ethnicity and past come back to haunt. Both must make difficult decisions about their futures. And also whether to act on the attraction they feel for each other.
There are wrinkles throughout the plot, including Tag's struggle to break up with his girlfriend (Clarke) and the revelation that Rag has a child with his ex (Wilshire). And as the story continues, it's clear that these two men have rather a lot of baggage to sort through. Not the least of which is Tag's relentlessly conservative father (Aymer). These and other issues give the film a sense of depth that draws us in.
Writer-director Nwandu has a strong story and resonant themes, but overcomplicates the narrative with too much back-and-forth plotting. These guys have such a love-hate thing going on that it's exhausting, while somewhat simplistic performances make all of the characters difficult to warm to. And an excess of musical montage sequences don't help us understand them. On the other hand, there are some superbly provocative sequences, such as the raw contrast of their road trip through Nigerian shantytowns in a massive Hummer.
And the film also takes a startlingly honest approach to sexuality and ethnicity, blurring the lines to catch everyday race and gender confusion and prejudice from various angles. The climactic confrontation between Tag and his parents is the strongest scene, as it brings religion and family complexities into the mix. This is much more compelling than the central romance storyline, which is never properly developed. It's also the aspect of the story that actually moves us to think about the themes, and to look forward to whatever Nwandu does next.
dir-scr Adaora Nwandu|
with Daniel Parsons, Adedamola Adelaja, Tamsin Clarke, Geoffrey Aymer, Maria Adesioye, Rachael Young, Chuma Oraedu, Ayo Fawole, Chanelle Wilshire, Ik 'Macoy' Akwari, Enor Ewere, Kristian Ademola
release US 2.Jun.06 nylgff, UK 30.Mar.07 llgff
15 themes, language, some violence|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Amnesia: The James Brighton Enigma |
Amnésie: L’Énigme James Brighton
Based on an astonishing true story, this low-budget film is a little clunky and stiff, although the sheer outrageousness of the central puzzle keeps us riveted.
One morning outside a Montreal warehouse, a young man (Dukic) wakes up with no memory of who he is, wearing just a wedding ring. He speaks French and English with a British accent and remembers the name James Brighton. The doctor (Boivin) treating him can only find snippets through hypnotherapy. There are clues that he's a gay man or even a criminal. And he can't cope with this uncertainty, even after travelling to Tennessee to meet his deeply religious family. Later, criminologist Sylvie (Lemieux) follows his trail to get the real story.
Director-cowriter Langlois recounts this from James' and Sylvie's separate perspectives in a dreamlike style that works for the most part. At times it's rather cheesy and awkward, and also infuriatingly vague. References to crimes, arrests and other identities, as well as entire communities claiming James as one of their own, refuse to come together into a coherent narrative until Sylvie finally sorts out the rather grisly truth.
But along the way the film examines some fascinating themes. How do our senses of identity and self-image control our behaviour? Is there such a thing as self-induced amnesia? Could he be faking it, perhaps without knowing it? As an amnesiac, the fact that James seems to be gay would imply that it's not learned. On the other hand, when he reunites with his family, he remembers no one except the dog, and has completely different tastes.
These questions keep us glued to the screen, picking through each twist in the tale even with the slightly ropey production values, jumbled structure and uneven performances. Much of the film feels over-acted and melodramatic, while other sections are doc-like as they examine events with hindsight. And it's this investigative story that really catches our interest, travelling from Montreal to Britain to New Jersey to Tennessee and forcing us to work it out ourselves, even as we grapple with the issues the story raises.
dir Denis Langlois|
scr Bertrand Lachance, Denis Langlois
with Dusan Dukic, Karyne Lemieux, Norman Helms, Ginette Boivin Louise Laprade, Matt Holland, L Kalo Gow, Bruce Ramsay, Holly Gaultier-Frankel, Steven Turpin, Eric Cabana, Henri Pardo
release Can 26.Sep.06,
UK 23.Mar.07 llgff
15 themes, language, violence|
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | SHORT FILMS
© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall