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Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
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last update 15.Oct.08
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The Baader Meinhof Complex
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE   Der Baader Meinhof Komplex
dir Uli Edel
dir Bernd Eichinger, Uli Edel
with Martina Gedeck, Moritz Bleibtreu, Johanna Wokalek, Bruno Ganz, Nadja Uhl, Alexandra Maria Lara, Heino Ferch, Jan Josef Liefers, Stipe Erceg, Vinzenz Kiefer, Niels-Bruno Schmidt, Simon Licht
bleibtreu and wokalek
release Ger 25.Sep.08,
UK 14.Nov.08
08/Germany Constantin 2h30

london Film Fest
the baader meinhof complex Pumped with energy and authenticity, this film recounts the tumultuous events in 1960s and 70s Germany with vivid detail and an involving cast of characters. It's breathtaking filmmaking, in every sense of the word.

In 1968, as the world erupted in protest against American involvement in Vietnam and global oppression in general, students in Germany united to take on their brutally repressive police, rallying around the fierce charisma of Andreas Baader (Bleibtreu) and the righteous outrage of journalist Ulrike Meinhof (Gedeck). As their attacks turn violent, they're all arrested, giving birth to an even more virulent strain of terrorists using their names. The goal is to create a more humane society, but they're losing their own humanity in the process.

Based on transcripts and eyewitness accounts, the film has a distinct ring of truth, refusing to make these young men and women into either heroes of the people or anarchic villains. Their ideology is right-on: they want a fairer, freer, more just society. But as they lash out against capitalism and injustice, their methods are increasingly vicious. We feel their frustration that none of this is working; the public shares their beliefs yet is turned off by violent attacks that seem increasingly paranoid and vengeful.

Director-cowriter Edel's urgent camerawork is cleverly edited with archive footage, giving the film a documentary feel. At the centre of the large cast of complex, detailed characters, Bleibtreu and Gedeck are like polar extremes. Both have an unstoppable passion for the cause, but they react in very different ways. Other strong characters include Wokalek as Baader's too-cool girlfriend, Lara and Uhl as feisty new recruits, and Ganz as the only politician who tries to understands them.

This is gut-level filmmaking that keeps us on the edge of our seats for two and a half hours of spiky dialog, raucous assaults and daring escapes. When Baader blurts out, "We'll change the system or die trying", we believe him. Watching the original members turn into icons is fascinating, brilliantly undercut by the reality. And present-day parallels get eerily stronger as, in the late-70s, group members find uneasy common ground with Islamic terrorists. This is a chilling, urgent story that couldn't be more important right now.

15 themes, strong language, violence, language
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La Belle Personne
dir-scr Christophe Honoré with Louis Garrel, Léa Seydoux, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Esteban Carvajal-Alegria, Simon Truxillo, Agathe Bonitzer, Anaïs Demoustier, Valerie Lang, Jacob Lyon, Jean-Michel Portal, Martin Siméon, Chantal Neuwirth, Esther Garrel, Clotilde Hesme, Chiara Mastroianni garrel and seydoux release Fr 12.Sep.08, UK Oct.08 lff 08/France 1h37

london Film Fest
la belle personne With his naturalistic filmmaking style, Honore continues in the breezy vein of LES CHANSONS D'AMOUR, examining the awkwardness of attraction and the twisted paths relationships take. Although only one character sings this time.

Junie (Seydoux) is the pretty new girl at a Paris high school, and everyone is instantly interested in her. Budding photographer Jacob (Lyon) wants to take her portrait. Her cousin Matthias (Carvajal-Alegria) is happy that she distracts everyone from his own secret. The shy Otto (Leprince-Ringuet) admires her from afar until his pals goad him into asking her out, with surprising success. And their Italian teacher Nemours (Garrel) ditches his two girlfriends, a fellow teacher (Lang) and a student (Demoustier), to pursue Junie instead.

The structure of this film, which is based on the 17th century novel La Princesse de Cleves, is a series of intricately entwined love triangles. It's a jumble of loving and being loved, and it's utterly involving to watch them try to disentangle the threads. Of course, being 17 or 18 years old, the students take everything extremely seriously, even as they're gripped by shyness, self-doubt, boredom and cynicism. The slightly older Nemours should know better, but then he hasn't grown up yet.

Honore juggles these characters effortlessly, drawing offhanded, raw performances from his gifted cast. Even as their faces remain relatively inexpressive, these are fascinating people whose internal struggles show in their eyes. As always, Garrel makes us actually like his ambling rogue character, while we fall completely for the cute, open-hearted Leprince-Ringuet. And Seydoux has a wonderfully elusive but magnetic screen presence; there really is something about Junie.

The film is accompanied by several Nick Drake songs, which express the internal complexities gurgling under the surface. And as the film progresses, it's packed with telling moments of drama and comedy, from note-passing during lectures to the discovery of a potentially devastating love letter (but who wrote it to whom?). And as the romantic turmoil boils over into life-or-death teen angst, Honore cleverly plays out scenes so what's being said has little to do with what's actually going on. And the question on everyone's lips is: How long does love last for ordinary people?

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
6.Oct.08 lff
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The Class
5/5   MUST must see SEE   Entre les Murs
dir Laurent Cantet
scr Laurent Cantet, François Bégaudeau, Robin Campillo
with François Bégaudeau, Franck Keïta, Rachel Régulier, Esméralda Ouertani, Louise Grinberg, Rabah Naït Oufella, Carl Nanor, Burak Ozyilmaz, Jean-Michel Simonet, Vincent Caire, Olivier Dupeyron, Fatoumata Kanté
keita and begaudeau release Fr 24.Sep.08,
US 25.Dec.08,
UK 6.Feb.09
08/France Haut et Court 2h08

Palme d'Or:
London Film Fest
the class A profoundly honest approach helps this important film go far beyond the headlines to look into a multi-ethnic big-city schoolroom through the eyes of the teacher trying to keep things under control.

François (Begaudeau) teaches French at a Paris school, with a classroom of lively 13- to 15-year-olds who are eager to learn but also have fiercely strong opinions about how to do so. Khoumba (Regulier) clashes with him immediately, feeling singled out and therefore refusing to participate. Esmeralda (Ouertani) can't help but cause trouble with her constant giggling. And Souleymane (Keita) brings his heavy attitude and hair-trigger temper to the room as well. These and other students will really push the school's boundaries over the course of the year.

The film looks and feels improvisational, with the punchy authenticity of a fly-on-the-wall doc. But it's actually based on real teacher Begaudeau's novel about a year of his work, with students composited from both the book and the actors' own experiences. So while it feels almost invasively personal, it's actually a work of fiction filled with riveting, honest performances. And Begaudeau is remarkably complex at the centre, especially when François crosses the line with his students.

The main issue here is respect, and film astutely examines this through remarkably raw scenes of students from wide variety of backgrounds as well as teachers debating concepts of discipline and expulsion in their lounge. As a central plot develops around a specific student, filmmaker Cantet's crisp, kinetic style really grabs our interest. These teens don't just sit quietly in their seats or rebel against authority like most movie students; they actively participate in the learning process, challenging their teachers and each other with humour, anger and, yes, insolence.

Cantet shoots this from François' perspective, whether moving in between the rows of highly energetic kids, bantering with teachers, facing the parents or looking down on the schoolyard from his classroom. And the collage of observations, opinions and reactions is literally breathtaking, beautifully moulded by Cantet to carry us through an emotional journey. And what makes this film important is the way it finds value in teachers who care, parents who are trying their best, and students who are desperate to both learn and to grow up.

15 themes, strong language, brief violence
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Lake Tahoe
dir Fernando Eimbcke
scr Fernando Eimbcke, Paula Markovitch
with Diego Cataño, Hector Herrera, Daniela Valentine, Juan Carlos Lara II, Yemil Sefani
sefani and catano release Mex Mar.08 gff,
UK Oct.08 lff
08/Mexico 1h21
lake tahoe Far too wilfully quirky for mainstream audiences, this dry Mexican comedy-drama has enough charm to thoroughly engage more adventurous viewers with its deceptively simple story of a boy and his car.

Juan (Catano) is a teen who has driven his car into a pole, then can't find anyone to help fix it. At one mechanic's shop, an old man (Herrera) diagnoses the problem, but then takes a nap. So Juan goes to a shop to buy the part, where he meets a hilariously distracted clerk (Valentine) and her king fu-obsessed coworker (Lara), who offers to help. But nothing goes smoothly, and throughout the day Juan finds time to check in on his little brother (Sefani), revealing more about what's going on in Juan's life.

Eimbcke tells this story in a stripped-down filmmaking style, giving us no back story or reference points, and limiting interaction to virtually monosyllabic dialog (there's only one oblique reference to the title). Everyone on screen moves at the slow pace of the film itself, baking in the Yucatan sunshine. And as the story progresses, we begin to understand the reality of Juan's situation, and that his journey on this day is about something far more important than getting his car repaired.

The side characters becomes an intricate part of Juan's experience as he encounters each one at various times of the day, including a feisty dog and a fussy baby. And as we learn more about Juan, Catano's quietly expressive performance takes on surprising meaning, especially as he's confronted with things that are goofy or wrenching, exciting or scary. His internalised emotions reach the surface slowly but surely, and Eimbcke cleverly undercuts any sentimentality with surprising wit.

From the very beginning, Eimbcke uses static shots and blackout scenes of varying length to punctuate or propel the story. Much of the "action" happens out of sight, although we do hear it. And while this is sometimes witty or provocative, it can also feel a bit cheap. The minimalism is also somewhat distancing, since it keeps us outside of the story and interaction. Although what we do see, even when there's no dialog, is extremely involving--from hilariously offhanded comedy to strong emotional resonance.

15 themes, language, brief sexuality
15.Oct.08 lff
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall