Film FestivalFilm Festival Reviews

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Festival films that get a general release get their own review pages.


Back to the SHADOWS FILM FEST page last update 30.Apr.02

back to the top ICHI THE KILLER [Koroshiya 1]
dir Takashi Miike scr Sato Sakichi
with Omori Nao, Asano Tadanobu, Tsukamoto Shinya, Sabu, Sun Alien
release UK 30.May.03 01/Japan 2h09 2 out of 5 stars
Quite possibly the most gruesome film I've ever seen, this live-action manga thriller at least has a vicious sense of humour amid the gore. Ichi (Nao) is a mild-mannered young man who transforms into a brutal hitman when sent on assignment by his mentor Jijii (Shinya). Meanwhile the vicious thug Kakihara (Tadanobu), who gives new meaning to the term body piercing, is searching for the man who killed his boss, torturing anyone who looks remotely suspicious. The trail of entrails leads to a final confrontation with Ichi himself. Stylistically, it takes a while to get into the film, because the first section is nearly incomprehensible with Miike's manic cross-cutting, wacky visuals and hundreds of characters, virtually all of whom are left in puddles of blood at some point. The extreme levels of violence are absurd and way over the top. But even with the dark humour in every scene, it's impossible to watch as the grisliness gets increasingly explicit and horrific. As if that weren't enough, the film itself gets progressively more surreal, making it hard to get the point of it all. Even so, there is plenty to keep us interested. The Hulk-like Ichi only gets violent when one of his twisted memories is tweaked (and there's a very funny visual Hulk gag as well). All of this brings out intriguing themes of identity and memory manipulation. But honestly! [18 extreme violence, adult themes and situations, language, drugs] 29.Oct.01
back to the top THE LAWLESS HEART
dir-scr Neil Hunter, Tom Hunsinger
with Douglas Henshall, Tom Hollander, Bill Nighy, Clementine Celarie, Sukie Smith, Josephine Butler, Stuart Laing, David Coffey, Ellie Haddington, Dominic Hall, June Barrie, Peter Symonds
release UK 28.Jun.02; US 7.Feb.03 01/UK 1h50 2 out of 5 stars
Butler and HenshallREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
Like a British Big Chill, this film starts at a funeral and then spins out to examine the complex interrelationships of its ensemble of characters. The dead man is Stuart (Coffey); first we follow his brother-in-law Dan (Nighy), a middle aged farmer wondering if he should have a fling with the flower lady (Celarie). Second is Stuart's lover Nick (Hollander), who is adrift and unsure what to do next, when a crazy stranger (Smith) takes over his life. Finally we follow Tim (Henshall), Stuart's cousin and old friend, who is back home on the Essex coast after sowing his wild oats around the world. He wants to settle down with a local shopkeeper (Butler), but she has a past as well. There's a gentle, earthy tone here that makes the film quite watchable, even when it begins to fall apart. The problem is that the script becomes less and less focussed as it goes along, abandoning the three perspectives in order to fill in around the edges with various other characters. This gives us more information and plot points to chew on, but it could have been much more effective if it had held to its convictions--that is, giving us three points of view on the aftermath of a funeral. Performances are natural, warm and often very funny, the setting is captured perfectly on screen, and the main theme (about how love never follows the expected path) is nicely handled. With a bit of sharpening though it could have been much more effective and engaging. [15 adult themes and situations, language] 22.Oct.01 lff
back to the top MAYA
dir-scr Digvijay Singh
with Nitya Shetty, Nikhil Yadav, Anant Nag, Mita Vasisht, Shilpa Navalkar, Mukesh Bhatt, Viranda Saxenda
London Film Festival UK Nov.01 01/India 1h45 3 out of 5 stars
When the title "Based on true practices" appears, we know we're in for a harrowing time. This is an issue film that dares to address an unspeakably horrible tradition in remote parts of India. The central characters are Maya (Shetty) and Sanjay (Yadav), cousins raised as siblings by Sanjay's loving parents (Nag and Vasisht). Maya and Sanjay play all day in both the rocky wilderness and dense forest near their village, where they also have fun annoying the shopkeepers. Then at age 13 Maya gets her first period and everything changes. They go to visit her real mother (Navalkar) and arrange a womanhood ceremony with the local priest (Saxenda). But Sanjay senses something is not right, and sets out to rescue Maya from what everyone else just accepts as a part of growing up. The film opens with the sounds of Maya screaming in the temple, then jumps back to show her free-spirited life with Sanjay. The story could have been told in about 30 minutes, but we instead get nearly two hours of scene setting. And the result is powerful, as the film's early warnings are stoked by Sanjay's growing fear and the women's increasingly sober resignation as they prepare Maya for the ceremony. And yet we're still unprepared to face what actually happens. There's never even a hint, so when we find out, it's nearly unbearable. The beauty of this life and culture is shattered ... and even more when the priest emerges to announce that "God has truly blessed Maya." Beautifully made with simplicity and strength, this disturbing film isn't easy to take ... but needs to be seen. [strong themes and situations, language] 26.Oct.01
back to the top THE MYSTIC MASSEUR
dir Ismail Merchant; scr Caryl Phillips
with Aasif Mandvi, Ayesha Dharker, Om Puri, Jimi Mistry, Sanjeev Bhasker, Zohra Segal, Grace Maharaj, Sakina Jaffrey, David Sammy, Keith Hazare Imambakah, Pip Torrens, James Fox
release UK 29.Mar.02; US 3.May.02 01/UK 1h59 2 out of 5 stars
Mandvi and DharkerREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
Set amid the Indian community in Trinidad in the 1940s, this film at least takes us somewhere we know nothing about. But it's also another cute, warm, contrived tale from Merchant (as opposed to Ivory's more layered, dark stories). The title character is Ganesh (Mandvi), a young man who wants to be a writer but finds that he has his father's gift for spiritual healing. His wife (Dharker) has little patience for his book-writing attempts, while his conniving father-in-law (Puri) is up for anything that makes money. Everything is drenched in gorgeous Caribbean sunshine, including what should be rat-infested shanties. The nostalgic sets are over-designed and the characters are just too pleasant and charming. Only Mandvi and Dharker create believable characters; Mistry is effectively stiff as Ganesh's protege, Puri is just too smirky to believe, and Fox is embarrassingly ludicrous as a free-spirited Englishman living in the ruins of a colonial house. In fact, all the story's serious political and thematic issues are undermined by a persistent breezy sweetness that saps all meaning and leaves us utterly unmoved. Sure, it's colourful and enjoyable, but like Merchant's last film (Cotton Mary) there's just no realism or grit anywhere to make it come to life. [PG--themes] 24.Oct.01 lff
back to the top 10 DAYS WITHOUT LOVE [El Cielo Abierto]
dir Miguel Albaladejo scr Miguel Albaladejo, Elvira Lindo
with Sergi Lopez, Mariola Fuentes, Maria Jose Alfonso, Geli Albaladejo, Elimio Gutierrez Caba, Javier Dorado, Marcela Wallerstein, Felix Alvarez, David Alcazar, Melanie Lauda, Antonio Munoz Molina
London Film Festival UK Nov.01 01/Spain 1h47 3 out of 5 stars
This engaging rom-com uses superior acting and filmmaking to examine some very complex relationships. Miguel (Lopez) is a psychiatrist who's deeply depressed when his wife runs away with another man. Then he finds out his mother-in-law (Alsfonso) is coming to stay ... and she knows nothing. Meanwhile, he gets entangled with a kleptomaniac junkie patient (Dorado) and his family, including his sister Jasmina (Fuentes), another troubled soul. Together Miguel and Jasmina begin to unwittingly put each other's life back together. Strong on detail, the witty writing and direction beautifully capture the characters as they struggle to redefine their relationships--especially the mother- and son-in-law. Alfonso is lovely as an older woman confronting difficult realities while never losing her sense of humour. Lopez (Harry He's Here to Help) is terrific as ever, while Fuentes brings a bubbly energy to Jasmina that lights up the screen. Their romance is gentle, tentative and touching--and perhaps a bit quick. Solid--and very funny--support from Albaladejo as Miguel's sharp-tongued nurse keeps us chuckling. And if Jasmina's indecision makes the whole thing drag, at least the characters are full of personality along the way. [themes, language] 25.Oct.01 lff

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall