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last update 15.Sep.09
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Bustin’ Down the Door
dir Jeremy Gosch
prd Monika Gosch, Shaun Tomson, Robert Traill
scr Jeremy Gosch, Monika Gosch, Phil Jarratt, Robert Traill
narr Edward Norton
with Peter Townend, Shaun Tomson, Wayne Bartholomew, Mark Richards, Ian Cairns, Michael Tomson, Kelly Slater, Greg Noll, Fred Hemmings, Dave Gilovich, Rob Machado, Eddie Rothman
bustin' down the door
release US 25.Jul.09,
UK 4.Sep.09
08/US 1h36
bustin down the door Clearly designed to give credit where it's due, this film spotlights the guys who broke new ground to create modern surfing. But while it's an important, interesting document, it's rather too detailed for non-surfers.

Surfers from Hawaii and California honed their craft on some of the best waves in the world on Oahu's North Shore. Then in the 1970s, a group of guys from Australia and South Africa arrived to challenge the classic surfing style. Centring on five pioneers (Townend, Shaun Thomson, Bartholomew, Richards and Cairns), this doc tells their stories as they pushed boundaries and fought for respect as professional sportsmen. And the hardest to win over were fellow surfers.

There's a wealth of vintage film clips here, often slowed down to let us see every detail, plus stills and interviews both from the period and looking back. And it looks as spectacular as expected, with toned beach boys gliding through tropical waves as they talk about how they felt about their sport, their goals, their triumphs and troubles. There's even a real sense of danger, with scenes of terrible wipeouts and sometimes life-threatening conflicts when the newcomers rubbed their competitors the wrong way by trumpeting their success.

Yet while the film holds our attention, it's fairly specific in its appeal to surfing enthusiasts. This isn't as broadly engaging as RIDING GIANTS, which is far more spectacular in its imagery and insightful in its approach. This film feels more like an inside job, requiring considerable reverence and enthusiasm for waveriding. Although this is slightly undermined by Norton's dry narration.

On the other hand, it captures the stories of these men in raw, personal ways that will grip other surfers. It's a fascinating look at how these young guys created manoeuvres that are now taken for granted. It also explores the politics and issues that emerged as the sport became globally popular, including the impact on Hawaiian culture. And more than everything else, the film is a priceless collection of archival home movies that helps us vividly feel the excitement of riding the surf.

15 themes, language
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dir Trisha Ziff, Luis Lopez
prd Trisha Ziff
scr Sylvia Stevens, Trisha Ziff
narr Miguel Najera
with Gael García Bernal, Antonio Banderas, Alberto Granado, Gerry Adams, Tom Morello, Jim Fitzpatrick, Michael Casey, Jon Lee Anderson, José Figueroa, Diana Diaz, Liborio Noval, Shepard Fairey
ubiquitous t-shirt release US Apr.08 tff,
Mex Mar.09 gff,
UK 18.Sep.09
08/Mexico 1h26
chevolution This fascinating double documentary examines the legends of both Ernesto "Che" Guevara and the iconic photo of him that has taken on its own life. It's also a look at the power of a single image.

The truth is that most people have no idea who Guevara really was, but they know he's cool. This is mainly due to an image snapped almost accidentally in 1960, which was later turned into a logo for people power. The filmmakers trace both the life and death of Guevara and the production and spread of Alberto Korda's photograph with amazing detail, illustrating every point with superb archive footage, photos and interviews with experts, celebrities, politicians and first-hand witnesses.

Of course, timing is everything, and this photo emerged shortly after Guevara's death in 1967 as a rallying image for student protesters in Paris, Prague and everyone else in the turbulent summer of 1968. Graphic designers multiplied it into thousands of variations, echoing the pop art movement in a cumulative protest against commercialism and corruption. Of course, this meant that Guevara's picture became a capitalist tool of its own, making money for everyone but the photographer.

korda's original image
"At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality." —Che Guevara

And the film goes further to examine the idea of a doctor-turned-warrior's photo becoming a symbol of peace and a photo taken at a specific time being stripped of its context (it was taken during a memorial service after a terrorist tragedy, which explains the pained expression). Not to mention the irony that Guevara hated to be photographed. But of course, there's more going on here; this photo carries with it the empowering ideal of fighting for the poor.

Even though it gets a little earnest, this well-assembled film is entertaining, lively and packed with scenes and details we've never heard before. The filmmakers turn a study of a photo into a provocative look at capitalism (now Korda's family makes money licensing the image). But as Rage Against The Machine's Morello notes, the image embodies the fact that we must create a world that's better than the one we inherited. And yes, in Guevara's face there's defiance mixed with action, compassion and hope. But only if we bother to look.

12 themes, language, violence
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Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno
3.5/5   L’Enfer d’Henri-Georges Clouzot
dir Serge Bromberg, Ruxandra Medrea
scr-prd Serge Bromberg
with Romy Schneider, Serge Reggiani, Jean-Claude Bercq, Dany Carrel, Jacques Gamblin, Berenice Bejo, Catherine Allegret, Bernard Stora, Jacques Douy, Gilbert Amy, William Lubtchansky, Costa-Gavras
schneider release US Oct.09 nyff,
UK 6.Nov.09
09/France 1h34

london film fest
henri-georges clouzot's inferno Intriguingly combining footage of Clouzot's unfinished film L'Enfer with re-enacted scenes and documentary interviews, this artistic doc pieces together the story of a masterpiece that never was. It's perhaps a little overworked, but cinephiles will love every glorious frame.

In 1964, master auteur Henri-Georges Clouzot set out to make an ambitious, fantastical drama about the destructive power of jealousy. He cast it-girl Schneider in the lead role, with Reggiani as her possessive husband, and started shooting in a picturesque hotel on a lake, using experimental filmmaking techniques that so wowed the bosses at Columbia that they gave him an "unlimited" budget to complete the film. But three weeks into production it all fell apart.

Filmmakers Bromberg and Medrea piece together the various elements through interviews with cast and crew members and a wealth of stills, original storyboards and film footage--some 15 hours of it, including extensive camera tests and rehearsals. But none of the sound recordings survive, so the documentarians hire Gamblin and Bejo to play the central couple, skilfully performing scenes from the script. What emerges is a fascinating semi-reconstruction of L'Enfer as well as a remarkable glimpse at the front edge of the potent nouvelle vague, which still has a powerful impact on cinema.

Clouzot was clearly a mad genius; his experimentation here with photography, colour and lighting is astonishing to look at today. And the technical expertise in his direction is masterful. Even in these short scenes and snippets, there's real power in his work. And the filmmakers also dig into his private life with telling stills and interviewees' first-hand anecdotes. Schneider is at the peak of her considerable powers as well, effortlessly seducing the camera (and us).

This is a fascinating story of a movie that was supposed to shake the very foundations of cinema by bringing together the greatest talent on earth. That the film was never completed says rather a lot about the vanity and hubris of Hollywood, which even back then was trying to co-opt more adventurous foreign filmmakers. And maybe it was that close encounter with the American film industry that was Clouzot's mistake. But the images he captured on film are magical.

12 themes
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Three Miles North of Molkom
dir-prd Corinna Villari-McFarlane, Robert Cannan
with Siddharta, Mervi, Nick, Ljus, Marit, Peter, Regina Lund, Arjuna Ardagh, Brad Blanton, Swami G
in the sweat lodge release UK 18.Sep.09
08/UK 1h48
three miles north of molkom This jaw-dropping documentary is thoroughly good fun, taking us on a New Age getaway in remote Sweden and following a group of people who take it all far too seriously. Thankfully (for us) there's also one who doesn't.

Every summer, Angsbacka, Sweden, plays host to the No Mind Festival, a free-spirited gathering to help people tap into nature while exploring love and humanity. Here we meet Siddharta, who's clearly attended before; Mervi, a grandmother from Finland who's desperate to have an experience; Ljus, a wannabe hippie who's almost cartoonish in his overreactions; Marit, a gorgeous blonde who discovers her inner exhibitionist; Peter, a father recovering from a traumatic year; and Regina, a big Swedish star trying to escape the paparazzi. Finally there's Nick, an Australian who's both sceptical and surprised by what he finds.

The filmmakers shoot this with lush camerawork and densely mixed sound that puts us right into the touchy-feely atmosphere. It's also cleverly edited to capture the colourful aspects of each person, as well as workshops from tree-hugging and fire-walking to the sweat lodge and tantric massage. And the most humorous aspect of it all is the way everyone is so sincere about it all, diving in without hesitation as if this is the most meaningful moment of their lives.

So it's a good thing the filmmakers discovered a doubter in their midst, because Nick's hilariously cynical observations put everything into badly needed perspective. Even when he begins to realise that there's something valuable going on here, he maintains his balance in a way no one else does. This also lets the filmmakers resist all of the peace-and-love earnestness. For the most part.

If the movie has a flaw, it's in the way it refuses to truly question the methods of the workshop leaders. An indulgent song score and a willingness to let people ramble on without counterpoint kind of undermines the documentary format in which the directors are just showing us what they found. As a result, the film starts feeling repetitive as it progresses through a series of navel-gazing set pieces, and we don't care about anyone but Nick, because the rest of them seem so full of themselves. But along the way, there are so many raucous scenes that it's both entertaining and eye-opening.

15 themes, language, nudity
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall