Film FestivalFilm Festival Reviews

Reviews are listed alphabetically.
Festival films that get a general release get their own review pages.


Back to the SHADOWS FILM FEST page • last update 22.Nov.01

back to the top APRIL IS MY RELIGION
dir-scr Bill Boll
with Benjamin Klein, Julie Stockhausen, Troy Patrick Turnipseed, Jason Contini, Saskia de Vries
St Louis Film Festival Nov.01
01/US 1h24 1 out of 5 stars
This local St Louis production is unlikely to ever be shown outside its hometown, due to somewhat amateurish production values. The story is basically Orpheus at University: Jack (Klein) heads off to study engineering and falls in with his neighbour Wade (Turnipseed), his layabout friend Phil (Contini) and the apparently magnetic April (Stockhausen). Naturally, his grades suffer as a result, leading to a serious crisis in his life. Yes, the premise is rather overused, and filmmaker Boll struggles to create believable characters. In most cases, it's flat production design that's to blame--scenes look slapped together with little thought to camera angles, lighting or dramatic impact. And there's never a surprise in the material, no twist to generate our interest. But the biggest gap in the film is April herself--we simply can't see why anyone would be interested in her as she babbles on about ideology and politics. Stockhausen never relaxes into the role; she always seems nervous, afraid to cut loose and be the free-spirited she-devil the script implies she is. Other actors fare much better, most notably Contini and Turnipseed , who show some life in their colourful sidekick roles. While Klein does a nice job at the story's centre. Sadly by the end, Boll's rather indulgent and preachy style wrecks any possibility that the film might mean anything. [themes, language, nudity, drugs] World Premiere 11.Nov.01 sliff
back to the top FOCUS
dir-scr Roger Roth
with Brandon Karrer, Trent Cameron, Jennifer Joslyn, Lloyd Avery, Gary Gray, Brent Jefferson Lowe, Davenia McFadden, Bruce Weitz
St Louis Film Fest Nov.01
01/US 1h38 2½ out of 5 stars
Karrer and CameronREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
An intriguing tale of a photographer's odyssey into innercity Los Angeles, there's some good stuff at the heart of this rather awkwardly produced film. Robert is a young man who has lost his way, working in a camera-hire shop instead of taking photos of his own, all to the annoyance of his girlfriend. Then one day he's shooting pics in the hood, when he meets a little boy named Marcus, who has a remarkable eye for a picture. Soon, Robert is mentoring Marcus and getting involved with his family, which includes his older brother Keith. But when Robert decides to ride along with Keith's homeys to get some gritty urban shots, he gets much more than he bargained for. The problem with the film is that it never quite decides what it is, developing the characters nicely and starting down the older white boy/younger black boy storyline, only to abandon it altogether as it instead wanders into the grim violence of too many drugs and guns. Even this could work if the film was just a bit more earthy. Roth appears to have made a film about a location he knows little about, because everything is just a bit too sweet and nice (gunplay and profanity are there, but not quite authentic). There's terrific cinematography, a nice sense of character and a growing feeling of tension, but it all feels heightened and artificial. The acting is uneven--some cast members are very good, while others seem to try far too hard to be tough and brutal. And as the main story loses its focus, the film simply doesn't earn our trust. [adult themes and situations, language, violence] 10.Nov.01 sliff
back to the top MACARTHUR PARK
dir Billy Wirth • scr Tyrone Atkins, Aaron Courseault, Sheri Sussman, Billy Wirth with Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Brandon Quintin Adams, Balthazar Getty, Cynda Williams, Sydney Tamia Poitier, Lori Petty, Julie Delpy, David Faustino, Miguel Nuñez, Carlton Wilborn, Keno K Deary, Sticky Fingaz
St Louis Film Fest US Nov.01
01/US 1h26 3 out of 5 stars
Byrd and neighboursREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
From Los Angeles, this tale of homeless crack addicts living in an innercity park has a powerful story at its centre, but suffers from trying to say too much. The focal point is Cody (Byrd), almost a father figure among the park's residents, who is one day approached by a young man (Adams) who turns out to be the son he abandoned years ago when addiction destroyed his life. Over the next couple of days, Cody's life unravels, as death and violence swell to nearly epic proportions. Can he finally take that step to make his life right again? A sense of place is very nicely established through a lovely use of cinematography and the rhythms of the characters who inhabit the park. Streetlife is slightly sugarcoated--despite the sudden violence, there is a clear-cut path to redemption for these characters, if only they will accept it. And there's just a bit too much death telescoped into about 24 hours of Cody's life--very personal, devastating stuff, which seems dramatically created rather than authentic. But despite this rather timid storytelling, the film is full of fascinating characters beautifully played with real humour, energy or viciousness. And the film's overall message about getting clean while you still can is powerful indeed. [themes, language, violence] 9.Nov.01 sliff
back to the top MORTAL TRANSFER [Mortel Transfert]
dir Jean-Jacques Beineix • scr Jean-Jacques Beineix, Jean-Pierre Gattegno
with Jean-Hugues Anglade, Helene de Fougerolles, Miki Manojlovic, Valentina Sauca, Robert Hirsch, Yves Renier, Denis Podalydes, Catherine Mouchet, Jean-Pierre Becker, Riton Liebman, Vantha Talisman, Laurent Bateau
St Louis Film Fest Nov.01
Canal+ 00/France 2h02 4 out of 5 stars
the shrink goes to a shrinkREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
After the likes of Diva (1981) and Betty Blue (1986), Beineix is a director worth looking out for, and this one is well worth the search. It's a twisted comedy about murder, with more than a few echoes of Hitchcock as innocent psychologist Michel (Anglade) falls asleep during therapy and wakes up to find sexy patient Olga (de Fougerolles) has been strangled. Instead of go to the police, he gets himself deeper and deeper into Olga's violent life. Beineix finds comedy in the strangest places, and there's a serious black streak here as Michel struggles to hide the body and figure out what's going on. But Beineix holds all the cards, and it's a delight to watch him clearly and stylishly tell this convoluted story, keeping the final bits of information for the very end. Amid the wicked humour there's a real sense of both suspense and emotional resonance as Michel sorts out his romantic life. There are bits of slapstick and deranged insanity that somehow sit comfortably alongside the sexiness and internal drama. And while it does drag on a bit, it's also beautifully filmed and terrifically played by the entire cast. Beineix is so in control of every aspect of this film, that we can just sit back and enjoy the ride, knowing that he will tie up all the loose ends tidily at the end. [adult themes and situations, nudity, violence] 14.Nov.01 sliff
back to the top 6IXTYNIN9
dir-scr Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
with Tasanawalai Ongartittichai, Lalita Panyopas, Black Phomtong, Sritao, Arun Wannarbodeewong
St Louis Film Fest Nov.01; US release 20.May.05
99/Thailand 1h54 3½ out of 5 stars
With a vicious flood of black humour, this gruesome Thai crime thriller keeps us laughing as the body count grows ... and grows. It centres on a recently unemployed young woman who discovers a box of cash outside her apartment door--because the number 6 on the door has a habit of spinning around to look like a 9. Soon everyone is after the cash, from boxing hitmen and "helpful" cops to pampered crimelords and mysterious mafiosos. What's an innocent girl to do? The comedic streak is so strong that we can't help but giggle even as things get more and more horrific. Little details and comic gags interrupt every scene, usually at the least expected time ... and often in witty fantasy sequences that let us see a sort of wacked out alternate reality to what's actually happening. The cast plays it dead straight, which makes it even more effective, especially when the plot takes some emotional twists. For all the deranged grisliness, it's surprising that the filmmaker can keep us laughing all the way ... but he certainly does, with more than a few sequences that are utterly inspired in their silliness. And he even has a few decent points to make along the way about urban life and, most strikingly, blood money. [themes, language, violence, gore] 13.Nov.01 sliff
send your review to Shadows...
back to the top

© 2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall