Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
On this page: THE FALL | HUNGER
< <
I N D I E S > >
last update 2.Oct.08
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
The Fall
dir Tarsem
scr Dan Gilroy, Nico Soultanakis, Tarsem
with Catinca Untaru, Lee Pace, Justine Waddell, Sean Gilder, Leo Bill, Marcus Wesley, Robin Smith, Julian Bleach, Daniel Caltagirone, Kim Uylenbroek, Michael Huff, Grant Swanby
pace and untaru release US 9.May.08,
UK 3.Oct.08
07/India 1h57


edinburgh film fest
the fall An outrageous imagination and a vivid sense of colour combine to make this film one of the most beautiful things ever put on the big screen. On the other hand, the story is far too thin for adults, and far too dark for kids.

In Los Angeles circa 1920, stuntman Roy (Pace) is seriously injured on set and taken to a hospital, where he meets Alexandria (Untaru), a curious 5-year-old with a broken arm who's bored to tears. So Roy entertains her with a fantastic tale about five heroes: a masked swashbuckler (Pace again), an Italian explosives expert (Smith), Charles Darwin (Bill), an escaped African slave (Wesley) and an Indian mystic (Bleach). Vowing revenge on Governor Odious (Caltagirone), they kidnap his fiancee (Waddell, who's also a hospital nurse) and wait for him to come rescue her.

Tarsem took the plot from the 1981 Bulgarian film Yo Ho Ho, then spent several years shooting in more than 20 countries to capture each astonishing setting--architectural oddities and every kind of epic landscape, with endless expanses of blue, orange, white and red. Into these places he adds astonishing costumes (by Eiko Ishioka), wafting in the breeze in lurid colours.

While every image looks drop-dead gorgeous, Tarsem struggles to string them together. There's no overriding tone to this film, which jumps from slapstick comedy to travelogue documentary to wrenching drama. There's no real sense of suspense in the plot beyond wondering what jaw-dropping setting we'll arrive in next. And even a solid actor like Pace feels a bit lost amid the overpowering costumes and set pieces.

Tarsem seems to be going for something along the lines of The Princess Bride, a lively ode to storytelling framed with an adult-child bedtime scenario. But when Roy asks Alexandria to steal morphine for him so he can commit suicide, we realise we're in much bleaker territory here. And the fable also takes some grimly brutal turns. Tarsem's filmmaking is both pretentious and indulgent, and his clinical approach makes us feel more like we've been to an art gallery than a movie. But that's not necessarily a bad thing when the exhibition is as amazing as this one.

15 themes, violence
24.Jun.08 eiff
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir Steve McQueen
scr Steve McQueen, Enda Walsh
with Michael Fassbender, Stuart Graham, Liam Cunningham, Brian Milligan, Liam McMahon, Helen Madden, Des McAleer, Lalor Roddy, Laine Megaw, Frank McCusker, Karen Hassan, Ciaran Flynn
fassbender release UK 31.Oct.08
08/UK Film4 1h36

28th Shadows Awards

Camera d'Or:
london film fest
hunger With his feature debut, Turner Prize-winning artist McQueen tells a riveting, harrowing true story that forces us to examine exactly what's involved in putting your life on the line for a cause.

It's 1981 in Belfast, and 2,187 people have died in the Troubles over the past 12 years. Maze Prison is full of political prisoners, but Margaret Thatcher refuses to classify them as such. "There's no such thing as political violence, only criminal violence," she says. "We will not compromise." So the prisoners use what they have--their bodies--refusing to wear prison clothes, to bathe and eventually to eat. The story centres on a guard (Graham) and prisoner Bobby Sands (Fassbender), who led the hunger strike.

McQueen is a remarkably assured director, using expanses of silence to convey complex ideas. The film's first half is series of scenes showing life in the Maze, as a new inmate (Milligan) arrives, is stripped naked and thrown into the middle of the so-called "blanket and no-wash" protest, in which inmates wear only blankets or sheets, live in extreme squalor and are beaten severely by guards who forcibly wash them.

With little dialog, McQueen conveys the daily routine and camaraderie of both prisoners and guards. Through detailed camera work, editing and sound, we absorb the atmosphere--we smell the excrement-smeared walls and feel every blow from a guard's truncheon. Then focus shifts subtly to Sands and his steely determination to raise the profile of the detainees' plight. Now McQueen shifts to an extremely long static take, a conversation between Sands and his priest (Cunningham) that shifts from witty banter to a complex discussion and a provocative confrontation.

This scene is the heart of the film, and it's a real stunner, sharply emphasising religious issues that are intriguingly echoed in the imagery, as McQueen draws almost parallels between these political prisoners and Jesus himself. Are these men freedom fighters or terrorists? Are their strikes and riots an expression of rage or helplessness? Is the government mocking them? After some particularly gruelling scenes, even the guards are left sobbing.

Through all of this, the actors immaculately maintain their characters. Fassbender throws himself into the role with astonishing dedication, wasting away to a skeleton and conveying Bobby's faith in his cause in ways that transcend dialog. This is expert filmmaking, with writing, directing, editing and acting that grips and moves us, and leaves us both haunted and challenged.

15 themes, strong violence and grisliness, language
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Three Blind Mice
dir-scr Matthew Newton
with Ewen Leslie, Matthew Newton, Toby Schmitz, Gracie Otto, Pia Miranda, Bob Franklin, Barry Otto, Heather Mitchell, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, Alex Dimitriades, Marcus Graham, Brendan Cowell
newton, schmitz and leslie release Aus Jun.08 sff,
UK Oct.08 lff
08/Australia 1h34

london film fest
three blind mice With its contained premise, this film feels a lot like a play, following one night in the life of three young men. It's strong stuff, and extremely well-played, but takes too long to reveal the full story.

On their last night before returning to active service, three naval officers check into a Sydney hotel room, all trying to deal with something serious that's happened. Nice-guy Sam (Leslie) bears the scars on his back from whatever it was; fast-talking Harry (Newton) just wants to cut loose and enjoy the night; straight-laced Dean (Schmitz) wants to see his girlfriend (Miranda) and forget about what happened. And as they hit the town, they're all forced to face their decisions, past and future.

Writer-director-actor Newton takes a David Mamet-like approach to this long, dark night of the soul, putting these guys through some serious internal turmoil. But the tone of the film is never heavy, harking instead to a jazzy Rat Pack vibe with silly asides, comical set pieces and colourful side characters. Gracie Otto is terrific as the sparky waitress Sam hooks up with early on; Mitchell and Barry Otto are hysterical as Dean's tipsy potential in-laws; Tingwell is superb as ever as Sam's wise, witty grandfather; and Franklin lends surprising pathos to his role as a furious pimp.

And the three central actors are excellent, each giving us characters we can identify with as they face "it", the event that caused all this angst. But the script takes its time dribbling out clues to what "it" is ("I was just following orders," says Dean, ominously). And by the time the full details are revealed, it feels almost anticlimactic, despite the raw intensity of the incident. And there are many more ramifications to come.

Essentially the film is examining how the military takes idealistic boys and transforms them into hardened monsters who are able to suspend their consciences at will. Thankfully, Newton keeps the film edgy and breezy, often shooting doc-style and allowing space for the cast to give fresh performances that often feel improvised. But by constructing the plot so carefully, it becomes a bit cerebral in the end. Fascinating but strangely cold.

15 themes, violence, language
1.Oct.08 lff
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Zombie Strippers!
dir-scr Jay Lee
with Jenna Jameson, Robert Englund, Calvin Green, Roxy Saint, Jennifer Holland, John Hawkes, Carmit Levité, Joey Medina, Shamron Moore, Jen Alex Gonzalez, Travis Wood, Brad Milne
englund and friends
release US 18.Apr.08,
UK 19.Sep.08
08/US Sony 1h34
zombie strippers With a hilariously over-the-top B-movie vibe, this nutty gorefest keeps us chuckling all the way through. And underneath the outrageous wackiness, there's some playful thematic wit at work as well.

In the near future, the War on Terror has escalated into global chaos, with the American military experimenting with reanimation of its dead soldiers to keep the numbers up. But the virus escapes the lab, and an infected commando stumbles into the underground Rhino Club, where he infects star stripper Kat (Jameson). But being undead invigorates her routine, and the customers love it, much to the joy of club owner Ian Essko (Englund). But there's nasty hitch, as the men discover when they're taken into a side room for a lap dance.

Writer-director Lee gleefully fills this movie with escalating hysteria, pouring buckets of fake blood over both the nude dance numbers and grisly scenes of zombie carnage. In other words, he's created the perfect movie for fans of female exploitation flicks, and he knows it's utterly ridiculous. The deadpan humour and sketch-comedy production values combine amusingly with some rather astonishing effects (both ghoulish make-up and digital tomfoolery). He also laughs at fans of the genre by having the club patrons get increasingly excited as the strippers rot before their eyes.

It's a terrific combination of mind-boggling grisliness with astute observation, from the opening newsreel ("George W Bush elected to fourth term!") to the crazed final act, when the crack team of commandos returns to clean up their mess ("Mission accomplished!" "Now where have I heard that before?"). The cast overacts shamelessly, with terrific caricatures of musclehead soldiers, dweeby scientists and sassy strippers, plus a good Christian girl (Holland) who strips to raise money for her Nanna's operation. Which of course her virginal boyfriend (Hawkes) finds both horrifying and wonderful.

And there are more surreal touches, including references to Ionesco's Rhinoceros and the undead Kat reading Nietzsche ("Suddenly this makes sense!"). The film constantly echoes the current political scene, which in turn helps it achieve the tone of a classic 1950s B-movie. Yes, it's way too much and far too clunky. But it's sure to gather a serious cult following.

18 themes, extreme grisliness, nudity, language
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < I N D I E S > >

© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall