Shadows @ Film FestsShadows: Arthouse Films ’03

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More mainstream art films have their own pages.
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last update 23.Apr.03

back to the top CRIMINAL LOVERS [Les Amants Criminels]
kechiouche and reigner
dir-scr Francois Ozon
with Natacha Regnier, Jeremie Renier, Miki Manojlovic, Salim Kechiouche, Yasmine Belmadi, Bernard Maume, Jean-Louis Debard, Catherine Vierne, Marielle Coubaillon, Olivier Papot, Gil de Murger
release US 21.Jul.00; UK 11.Apr.03 • 99/France 1h32 4 out of 5 stars
Once again, Ozon defies expectation with this stylish thriller, which turns into a disturbing fairy tale along the way. This film was actually made before his last three UK releases (Under the Sand, Water Drops on Burning Rocks, 8 Women), and it's another superb and varied entry in his filmography. This is the story of two teens: Alice (Reigner) is a conniving and devious temptress who convinces her naive boyfriend Luc (Reiner) to kill a fellow student (Kechiouche) for reasons that aren't terrible clear until later. Now on the run, they soon get lost in the woods and find themselves entangled with a rather sinister hermit (Manojlovic). "A fate worse than death" is the phrase that springs to mind.
  Like a Hitchcock classic, this film blurs the lines between innocence and guilt, examines the characters' complex motivations, and includes a heavy dose of irony. It also deals unconventionally with hot-potato topics like sexuality, violence, abuse, bondage, cannibalism and paedophilia. Ozon delights in giving us just what we never expect--most notably a deep vein of black comedy that plays with inexperience and innocence, which aren't remotely the same thing! His filmmaking style is bright and colourful, but also shaded, grim and unflinching. The general sexual confusion is tantalising, and extremely well-played by the cast. Reiner and Reigner are like Adam and Eve characters--the hapless novice and the knowing temptress. But as flashbacks reveal what really happened back at school, it's much more complicated than that. This is twisted, creepy filmmaking that's also somehow gripping, engaging and surprisingly emotional. [15 themes, language, violence, sex, nudity] 10.Apr.03
the hills are alive with the katakuris
dir Takashi Miike; scr Kikumi Yamagishi
with Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Tetsuro Tamba, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki, Chihiro Asakawa, Akiko Hatakeyama, Yuka Nakatani
release US 15.Aug.02; UK 16.May.03 • 02/Japan 1h43 3 out of 5 stars
This film is worth seeing simply so you have a trump card to play during the "the strangest film I've ever seen" game. No one will ever beat this Japanese zombie black comedy musical. But at the centre is a surprisingly touching story about a family trying to survive in the world. The Katakuri family is full of misfits--grumpy grandpa (Tamba), failed shoe-salesman dad (Sawada), idealistic mother (Matsuzaka), layabout son (Takeda) and single-mum daughter (Nishida). So they decide to open a small guesthouse in the countryside. And when their first guest dies, they can't risk the bad publicity, so they bury the body in the woods out back. But the problems increase as the body count rises.
  So what else is there to do but break into song every now and then? And when the rotting corpses emerge from the ground, why not have a big song and dance number with them? There is nothing about this film that is even remotely predictable; it keeps the audience laughing with stunned amazement at every twist and turn of the tale. The prolific Miike is known for his disturbing (Audition) and violent (Ichi the Killer) films, but nothing prepares you for this utterly insane concoction, which includes frequent big set pieces rendered completely with claymation. Yes, just when you think it can't get any stranger, a guy (Imawano) claiming to be Queen Elizabeth's illegitimate son appears. The acting is silly and broad--befitting the Sound of Music meets Shallow Grave theme. And it's actually quite startling when the serious themes underneath all the bizarreness actually come together with a shred of emotional resonance. Yikes. [15 themes, language, violence, grisliness] 22.Apr.03
happiness of the katakuris R E A D E R   R E V I E W   Ryan Motteshead, Los Angeles: "The sort of movie for people who would enjoy watching a 'horror camp musical comedy from Japan' (you know who you are). You might not like it but I can guarantee you won't see anything else like it, ever. Singing corpses, some absurd claymation sequences, lots of singing and of course a helping of comic gore. Very bizarre." (16.Oct.02)
back to the top MONRAK TRANSISTOR [aka: A Transistor Love Story]
dir-scr Pen-ek Ratanaruang
with Suppakorn Kitsuwan, Siriyakorn Pukkavesa, Prasit Wongrakthai, Chartchai Hamnuansak, Black Pomtong, Somlek Sakdikul, Porntip Papanai, Ampol Rattanawong
release UK 6.Jun.03 • 01/Thailand 1h56 3˝ out of 5 stars
Pukkavesa and Kitsuwan From the director of the deranged crime comedy 6ixtynin9 comes this quirky romantic comedy musical--colourful, full of unexpected gags ... and ultimately a typical rom-com. The film's first act is fairly standard stuff, as the cheeky pop-singer Pan (Kitsuwan) charms the socks off both the cute Sadaw (Pukkavesa) and her cantankerous dad (Wongrakthai). Happily married and pregnant, their world is upset when Pan is sent to the army then goes Awol, abandoning his young family for stardom as a singer under the tutelage of a high-powered and very slimy agent (Sakdikul) who insists Pan calls him "Daddy". It goes on from here, with Pan ending up in jail (we know this from the film's opening scene) before things can even begin to resolve themselves.
  Like most Thai films, this has a terrific visual sense, with lush colours, almost unbearably charming actors and gorgeous settings. It also combines a lively, sunny story with much more grim shadings, as well as veins of deeply felt emotion and gleefully wicked wit. The combination of these last two elements is what makes this film thoroughly engaging, undercutting the creeping schmaltz with knowing worldliness. And there are a few serious undertones as well, including jabs at the music business, homelessness and most significantly Western cultural imperialism (the title comes reflects how Sadaw listens to pop music on her transistor radio, and thus stays connected to Pan in his absence). That said, the film does have a contrived fairy tale plot--an epic love story in which we basically know exactly what will happen from the beginning, even though we're not prepared for all of the various turns in the tale. [15 themes, language, violence] 11.Apr.03
back to the top TO BE AND TO HAVE [Ętre et Avoir]
dir Nicolas Philibert
with George Lopez, Jojo, Julien, Olivier, Johann, Nathalie, Marie, Alize, Letitia, Axel, Jessie, Guillaume, Jonathan, Laura, Valentin
release France 28.Aug.02; UK 20.Jun.03 • 02/France 1h44 3˝ out of 5 stars
This endearing documentary has become one of the biggest box office successes of the year in France, perhaps because of its nostalgic look at a dedicated 55-year-old teacher (Lopez) in a one-room schoolhouse in a rural community--showing education as it should be, rather than as it usually is! We begin with an image of a herd of cows in an intense snowstorm, then we meet the children of Puy-de-Dome, aged 4 to 11 and all studying together under Lopez's watchful, patient care. His teaching methods are so refreshing that they almost give us hope for the world. The filmmakers simply observe the classroom for the better part of a year (the film ends with the cows again, this time in late-summer). And as it progresses, we focus in on a few of the students.
  The star is Jojo, one of the youngest kids. His cheeky sense of humour lights up the screen as we watch him learn and grow over the months. And two of the older boys (Julien and Olivier) are also memorable as they struggle with themselves and each other while beginning the transition from boy to man--and prepare to move on to a much bigger school next year. At the centre Lopez is fascinating as he takes a personal interest in each child, teaching them more than just book knowledge--he takes them on trips, makes everything very practical, and prompts the children to interact with each other in remarkable ways. He's not perfect, but he emerges as an extraordinary teacher. And the filmmakers are unafraid to touch on serious issues in a simple, gentle way, bringing in the colourful countryside, slices of family life and even personal crises. It's involving, enjoyable and quite moving. But perhaps this is because of the nerve it touches: Soon this kind of intensely personal and effective education will be gone forever. [U some themes] 4.Mar.03
back to the top WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES [Werckmeister Harmóniák]
rudolph walks
dir Bela Tarr; scr Laszlo Krasznahorkai, Bela Tarr
with Lars Rudolph, Peter Fitz, Hanna Schygulla, Alfred Jarai, Iren Szajki, Eva Almassy Albert, Janos Derzsi, Djoko Rosic, Tamas Wichmann, Ferenc Kallai, Mihaly Kormos, Putyi Horvath
release US 10.Oct.01; UK 18.Apr.03 • 00/Hungary 2h25 3˝ out of 5 stars
Two-and-a-half-hour black and white art films from Hungary are not to everyone's taste, but this is a gorgeously rich experience that cineastes will thoroughly enjoy. It's about a rather simple young man named Janos (Rudolph) who lives in a small Eastern European town and seems to work for several aunts and uncles as well as being the town's resident performance artist (the lovely opening scene has him getting the inhabitants of a pub to do a surreal dance to re-enact the rotation of the earth and moon around the sun). But there's trouble afoot in town, as people gather in the square to protest against the government, while a gigantic stuffed whale arrives as part of a travelling circus. And one of Janos' aunts (Schygulla) gets him entwined in a bit of blackmail involving her ex-husband (Fitz), a musical scholar who thinks Werckmeister's music violates the laws of nature with its atonal harmonies.
  Yes, the disrupted natural order of things is the central theme here, but director Tarr approaches it in an almost ethereal way, with astonishingly long takes that are alternatively breathtakingly complicated and numbingly dull. The elaborate sequences boggle the mind with their intricate camera work, complex staging and twisty performances. Then there's a five-minute shot of someone just walking down a road. Meanwhile, it's filmed exactly like a 1950s European classic neorealist film, with its mythical plot, expressive acting and a superb use of lighting and monochrome imagery. It's also laced with irony and wit as it looks at man's arrogance in thinking we can control nature ... along with the horror of what we do when we seize control. And even if it drags on more than a little, and feels badly in need of a few sharp edits, this is still an effective, artful and startlingly moving film. [PG themes, language, violence] 3.Mar.03
R E A D E R   R E V I E W   nahoum cohen, tel aviv: 5/5 "Who has used uninterupted takes 30 minutes long? It ends by making you 'be there' in a forced way, which you cannot escape. Who makes you feel that color is not essential to film? It is also thoroughly funny, like everything should be, to catch your being, because you laugh. you end by being there, a witness." (19.Jun.05)
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© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall