|Shadows: Arthouse Films ’03
SMALL CUTS | STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN
Stone includes a lot of archival footage as well, opening with a mock newsreel about the 1959 revolution that overthrew the Batista regime. Political conflicts form a large part of the film, as Castro reminisces about Kennedy, Khrushchev, Nixon, Gorbachev, Reagan and Bush II with a disarming openness. He also talks quite movingly about Che Guevara; and Stone can't resist including lots of footage of the freedom fighter and cultural icon, plus a few too many clips of Eva Peron (accompanied by the swelling strains of Don't Cry for Me Argentina)!
And while it's fascinating to get Castro's perspective on things like the Bay of Pigs invasion, the missile crisis, US intervention in Latin America and the Cold War, we can't help but feel that Stone is bending this documentary for his own personal interest. Castro is a bit too wonderful--art aficionado, passionate lover, international hero (sending troops to help Angola), improving the life of his dearly beloved populace. Yes, he also talks about regrets--Castro comes across as very realistic and self-aware. He also understands the situation in the USA much more sharply than we'd expect, astutely seeing how the American public are oblivious to the truth, accepting the lies of their government in the name of national (or now "homeland") security. This would all have a much stronger punch if it weren't for Stone's relentless one-sided editing. But at least the point is made. [PG themes] 18.Jun.03
This is very clever filmmaking, quietly insinuating with lush rural landscapes and strongly gurgling emotions (not sure what the title means!). As Eddie and Maria are jolted out of their peaceful existence, the film takes on a frighteningly horrific feel; everyone is in jeopardy, from Eddie and Maria to the neighbour farmer (Peterson), a local mute boy and even (especially?) Maria's unborn child. As Kullmann begins to show his colours, we become less sure of what he's done in the past ... and what he's capable of doing now. Twists and turns keep us morbidly glued to the screen, while subtle references to their past life make us wonder what on earth happened five years earlier. All while the film maintains its cool, almost freakishly calm exterior. This is not an action film by any means! But it's deeply unsettling, simply because we see how relationships can come undone in such an unsuspected and shattering way. And also how they can survive an awful lot more than we think they can. [15 themes, language, nudity, grisliness] 23.Jun.03
|HOOVER STREET REVIVAL
The film features no narration and no straight-to-camera interviews. It merely tracks life in the community in parallel with the life of the church. We see several people chatting off-handedly as they go about their everyday business, talking about what life is like both in the church and on the streets ... and how the church has changed things. And we see a lot of Bishop Jones' preaching, all of which is echoed in what happens outside around the church. Jones is a remarkably gripping preacher--charismatic, iconic and intense (he's diva Grace Jones' sister, so this isn't a huge surprise!). As one guy observes, "This man is dynamite!" Meanwhile, Fiennes just sets about capturing the rhythms of life in South Central, using extended scenes of live musical performance and imagery of the houses from both street-level and from a God's-eye view above. These are real lives, and Fiennes' film is energetic, visceral and a beautifully edited depiction of inner-city life juxtaposed with spiritual practicality. But be warned: This is an artful portrait, not really a documentary! [15 themes, language] 23.Jun.03
|SMALL CUTS [Petites Coupures]
Yes, the plot is pure French farce, but it's played dead straight, more like a thriller or tragedy. And the result is both insightful and involving. The cast is spot-on; Auteuil holds the film together with an engaging performance as a man who's beaten, cut, bruised, spat upon and worse ... yet refuses to give up hope. And the ladies are fantastic, from Sagnier's love-struck woman-child to Mouchet's determined middle-aged artist. Scott Thomas is particularly good in a role that feels like a Hitchcock blonde--both charming and tortured, fragile and dangerous. Even though Bonitzer directs the film very straightforwardly, his screenplay is layered with tension and irony as it traces chance encounters and convoluted relational chaos that are both hilariously funny and surprisingly moving. And the plot itself playfully circles around on itself, right up to the clever final scene. It's a typically talky French film--these people never shut up! But it beautifully captures our deep desperation for love and connection ... and how small comments and actions can cut to the quick. [15 adult themes, language] 25.Jun.03
|STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN
The material is the thing, catching interviews with these artists as they reminisce about life at Hitsville USA, working with artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves and the Supremes (though virtually no mention of Diana Ross). This is intercut with a Funk Brothers reunion, where they gathered together to jam with contemporary vocalists like Osborne, Khan and others. Strangely, there's no mention of the songwriters themselves (certainly they deserve some credit too!), but it is quite clear that these musicians are responsible for crafting the distinctive and magical vibe on all of these hits.
The documentary itself is over-edited--with no discernible structure, strange bits of narration by Andre Braugher and a few unnecessary dramatic recreations (better to just show the faces of these people telling the stories!). But the material is exceptional, and the dazzling music sucks us in, clearly showing us how every instrument was vital to the final piece, and cleverly explaining how some of the signature tunes (like What's Going On and My Girl) were constructed as they went along. And most importantly, it vividly shows us what a fully integrated band the Funk Brothers were--close friends working off each other brilliantly and blending together unforgettably. [PG language, some themes] 4.Jul.03
See also the SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL.
© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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