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last update 13.Apr.10
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dir-scr Andrew Bujalski
prd Dia Sokol, Ethan Vogt
with Tilly Hatcher, Maggie Hatcher, Alex Karpovsky, Katy O'Connor, Anne Dodge, Nathan Zellner, Chad Nichols, Bob Byington, Janet Pierson, DJ Taitelbaum, Kyle Henry, David Zellner
maggie and tilly hatcher with karpovsky
release US 7.Aug.09,
UK 16.Apr.10
09/US 1h40

berlin film fest
london film fest
beeswax A collection of small moments and awkward interactions, this low-key drama has a home-made feel to it. But it's so rambling and aimless, with characters that aren't particularly likeable, that it's difficult to find much resonance in it.

Jeannie and Lauren (Tilly and Maggie Hatcher) are twin sisters in Austin with lively busy lives. And Jeannie hasn't let the fact that she's in a wheelchair limit her at all, as she co-owns a vintage clothing shop with Amanda (Dodge) and sparks a romance with her old friend Merrill (Karpovsky). But trouble is brewing in her partnership with Amanda. Meanwhile, Lauren is reinventing herself, splitting from her boyfriend and applying for a new job that might mean moving away from Jeannie.

The scruffy production style gives the film a naturalistic feel, with recognisably authentic characters that are nicely underplayed by the cast. The Hatcher sisters bring their relationship to the screen with an offhanded honestly, and their scenes with other characters feel just as truthful, mainly because the ad-libbed dialog is so rambling. This deconstructed approach makes the film notable, even if it never really grabs our attention.

It's like a slice of real life in which big events are actually pretty insignificant, conversations are mumbling and imprecise, and work isn't particularly exciting. Along the way, there are surprises that are pleasant (an unexpected romance), scary (potential legal problems) and unsettling (a big change). Yet while all of this is gentle and rather sweet to watch, it has no dramatic momentum at all. One of the key problems is that the characters are all so ill-defined that we never feel like we know them at all.

There are clear references to past history as well as unspoken connections, and yet no one ever lets us in. And as the film progresses, there's a huge circle of family, friends and acquaintances all involved in each other's lives, and yet we don't know them well enough to know who's important or why. That said, each moment of interaction is minutely detailed, and it's a tenderly observed look at how impossible it is to mind your own beeswax when your life depends on those around you.

15 themes, strong language
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I Know You Know
dir-scr Justin Kerrigan
prd Sally Hibbin, Michael Reuter
with Robert Carlyle, Arron Fuller, David Bradley, Karl Johnson, Valerie Lilley, Daniel Flynn, Aaron Lamprey, Christian Patterson, Howard Marks, Tayne Sweetman, Ryan Spriggs, John Weldon
release US May.09 siff,
UK 4.Dec.09
08/UK 1h21

berlin film fest
london film fest
i know you know With a strongly nostalgic tone, Kerrigan gives this subtly understated thriller a provocative emotional kick. Despite a slightly contrived script, solid performances make the film both haunting and thoughtful.

In 1988 Wales, 11-year-old Jamie (Fuller) loves hanging out with his dad Charlie (Carlyle). After the summer holiday, Jamie starts in a new school with a new bully (Flynn). But he's becoming increasingly aware that his dad has a double life that involves shady friends (Bradley), guns and an arch-nemesis posing as a satellite-TV company. Is Charlie a hitman or a super spy? And will they be moving to a luxurious life in America as promised? Or is something else going on here that Jamie's only beginning to understand?

Writer-director Kerrigan creates a gritty 80s atmosphere with a nice father-son vibe between Jamie and Charlie. It's quite clear from the start that Jamie's imagination is working overtime, although the discovery of his dad's gun, plus a room full of radio and recording gear, only confirms his most outlandish suspicions. Since all of this is seen through Jamie's perspective, the film feels rather sketchy and simplistic. Is this just a cute story about a father and son or is it going to turn into a nail-biting thriller?

Solid, understated performances from both Carlyle and Fuller are what make this work, creating a tension between reality and fantasy. Is Jamie imagining this or is Charlie cracking up? The acting suggests either or both, and there's a wonderfully twitchy sense of energy in Carlyle's turn that clearly shows us that he's an international man of mystery rather than just another deadbeat dad. This makes the interaction between them full of potential, such as when Charlie empowers Jamie to stand up for himself. At the same time, we can see that Charlie is also a bit of a nasty drunk.

The film builds all of this into an increasingly intense story that's infused with growing suspense and a surprising sadness. And even when the story feels strained, slowly arriving at a resolution that makes everything clear, or at least clearer, we are constantly gripped by moments of genuine power, mainly in the heartbreakingly beautiful performances at the centre.

15 themes, language, violence
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Samson & Delilah
dir-scr Warwick Thornton
prd Kath Shelper
with Rowan McNamara, Marissa Gibson, Mitjili Gibson, Scott Thornton, Matthew MG Gibson, Peter Bartlett, Noreen Robertson, Kenrick Ricco Martin, Fiona Gibson, Morgaine Wallace, Tony Brown, Patricia Shelper
gibson and mcnamara release Aus 7.May.09,
US Jan.10 psiff, UK 2.Apr.10
09/Australia 1h41


london film fest
samson & delilah A fascinating glimpse into rural Australian life, this virtually wordless love story takes some very dark turns as it probes an offbeat connection between two Aboriginal young people. And it's so atmospheric that it lingers long in the memory.

Samson (McNamara) is a petrol-sniffing addict in a tiny desert community where he lives with his brother (Matthew MG Gibson) and has his eye on Delilah (Marissa Gibson), who lives over the road with her Nana (Mitjili Gibson). When their reluctant, awkward courting rituals are interrupted, they head into a nearby city, where they are treated as outcasts, taking up residence under a bridge with a crazy homeless guy (Thornton). Yet while Delilah tries to get them back on their feet, Samson can't get his nose out of the petrol bottle.

This is an extremely grim story of a particularly nasty culture clash, and yet writer-director Thornton tells it with wit and irony, drawing out the characters' cheeky personalities and steely wills without using much dialog at all. Samson only says one word in the entire film, and Delilah doesn't say much more, but we can see into their hearts as a result of the subtly textured direction and transparent performances. Words aren't really necessary.

This is a strikingly vivid depiction of this small community well beyond the fringe of Australia's European culture. And by keeping the perspective so focussed, we vividly feel these characters' isolation both in their dusty village and in the way they are ignored by people on the city streets. Meanwhile, the film cleverly adapts ancient Aboriginal customs to this setting, with the tetchy courtship rituals and family beatings contrasted against some starkly violent events in the city.

The film feels somewhat random and alien, but the attention to detail makes it utterly engaging, from the endearing personalities of the central characters to their interaction with nature (flies, ants, kangaroos). And the low-key drug-addiction storyline adds a quiet poignancy to both Samson and Delilah as they try to overcome their aimless, voiceless situation. That the story finds a glimmer of hope in the end is truly remarkable.

15 themes, language, violence
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Uncle David
dir Gary Reich, Mike Nicholls, David Hoyle
scr David Hoyle, Ashley Ryder
prd Gary Reich
with David Hoyle, Ashley Ryder
hoyle and ryder release UK Mar.10 llgff
10/UK Avant-Garde 1h34

See also:
Uncle David 2 (2018)
uncle david This offbeat black comedy is more provocative artwork than a film, which isn't surprising since it comes from the mind of anarchic performance artist David Hoyle. It's fairly impossible to take the film literally, but the ideas it explores and challenges are potent.

Uncle David (Hoyle) lives in a seafront caravan with his young nephew Ashley (Ryder). They have a rather warped relationship, as they indulge in fantasy and role-play on evenings when David isn't "loaning" Ashley out to his single male neighbours. Actually, their whole life together is role-play, as Ashley acts like a child and David continually explains the workings of the world as seen through his own singular perspective, constantly undermining social rules and norms. It soon becomes clear that they are, together, planning to send Ashley off somewhere. Is this a suicide pact?

The film was completely improvised, shot in three days with two cameras and no second takes at all. So the resulting film has an understandably rough feel to it, with surreal performances and some very awkward direction. But it's beautifully photographed by co-director Nicholls and editor Robin Parsons, and assembled astutely to form a kind of narrative essay about the way culture intrudes into our lives with moral laws that might not have any basis in reality.

Yes, this is very bold stuff, as the film touches on paedophilia, euthanasia, prostitution and drug use in a way that implies that society is completely out of touch with pure humanity. Hoyle and Ryder are playing heightened, almost fantastical characters. Hoyle's constant patter is more like stand-up than dialog, while Ryder's age is deeply suspect: the actor is 28, but is his character supposed to be a young boy or a very simple man? Does it really matter?

In the end, the film's lack of structure leaves it feeling somewhat meandering and vague, as well as rather repetitive. But Hoyle and Ryder are terrific on screen--watchable characters who make an intriguing couple, even as things turn extremely bleak. And the film's images and ideas are so haunting that it's impossible to get it out of your head afterwards. If you can click into its worldview, or if you're familiar with Hoyle's raucous performance pieces, there's some real power in here.

18 themes, language, sexuality, drugs
25.Mar.10 llgff
(world premiere)
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