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Back to the SHADOWS FILM FEST page • last update 11.Apr.02

back to the top BORSTAL BOY
dir Peter Sheridan • scr Nye Heron, Peter Sheridan
with Shawn Hatosy, Danny Dyer, Eva Birthistle, Michael York, Lee Ingleby, Robin Laing, Marc Huberman, Jer O'Leary
release US 1.Mar.02; UK Apr.02 llgff • 01/Ireland-UK 1h33 2½ out of 5 stars
hatosy as behanREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
Based on autobiographical novel by Irish writer Brendan Behan, this story of troubled teens is gripping on several levels, even if it's all a bit too soft. It's 1942 when Brendan (Hatosy) is caught carrying explosives into wartime England. Being underage, he's sent to borstal, a reform school where he considers himself an IRA soldier held as a prisoner of war. He quickly befriends a fellow inmate (Dyer), who's gay and makes Brendan question his sexuality. This is amplified when he discovers the writings of Oscar Wilde, a fellow Irishman who was also imprisoned in England. But Brendan is also attracted to Liz (Birthistle), the sexy daughter of the tough-but-kind warden (York). Escape attempts, an all-male production of The Importance of Being Earnest, and lots of self-discovery follow. The story is very good, and there is some real insight in the way it delves into the teen psyche, looking at influences and self-expression in an unusual way. This helps the film transcend the potholes of both the time period and Behan's turbulent life. Hatosy is fine, albeit rather timid, in the central role, while his castmates spark with fire and life around him. The engaging Dyer is superb as usual; Ingleby is excellent and terrifying as the class bully. Director Sheridan (brother Jim is exec producer) gives the film a lush, warm feel that undermines the story's obviously gritty edges in a way that removes us from the reality. Whether this is due to budget restraints or a desire to focus on the characters, I don't know. But the personal drama is so good that it might have been better if the story had been removed from the period, as so little is made either of the Irish Troubles or the Battle of Britain, both of which were at fever pitch, apparently. [15 themes, language, violence] 7.Apr.02 llgff
back to the top THE CROSSING [La Traversιe]
dir Sebastien Lifshitz • scr Stephane Bouquet
with Stephane Bouquet
London L&G Film Fest Apr.02 • 01/France 1h25 2½ out of 5 stars
stephane bouquetREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
This deeply personal documentary is quite moving, even though it never quite gives us what we want to see. French filmmaker Lifshitz (Come Undone) follows his friend Bouquet on a journey in search of Bouquet's long-lost father, an American serviceman who never knew that he'd left his girlfriend pregnant in 1960s France when he was transferred away. He begins his search in New York, where he always dreamed his father lived, then moves on to Washington DC, then buys a car and drives cross-country to deepest Tennessee. The film is an assembly of long quiet travelogue segments, silent except for ambient music or sound, then narrated thoughtfully and almost poetically by Bouquet as he runs through his own story, his expectations and dreams. There's a real tension as he gets closer and closer, wondering whether this man he never knew will recognise him or accept him in any way, especially with Middle America's well-reported intolerance of homosexuality. Strangely though, the camera shies away at the final point, so we not only never see any part of their meeting, but we get surprisingly little of Bouquet's own reaction, as it's all just too fresh for him to sort through. Still, it's a lovely, mesmerising, touching film, beautifully shot in wide-screen and capturing the lush textures both of the cities and countryside. [themes, language] 3.Apr.02 llgff
back to the top FRIENDS AND FAMILY
dir Kristen Coury • scr Joseph Triebwasser
with Greg Lauren, Christopher Gartin, Tony LoBianco, Tovah Feldshuh, Beth Fowler, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Edward Hibbert, Meshach Taylor, Louis Zorich, Brian Lane Green, Patrick Collins, Bruce Winant
release UK Apr.02 llgff; US 16.May.03 • 01/US 1h27 3 out of 5 stars
gartin and laurenREVIEW BY RICH CLINE
Piling twist upon twist on the usual comedy of errors, this extremely funny film barely misses a trick as it combines broad slapstick with some rather intense themes, in a squeaky clean sort of way. Danny and Stephen (Gartin and Lauren) are a wealthy New York couple who panic when Stephen's nosey parents come to visit. No, Mom (Fowler) and Dad know they're gay; what they don't know is that they're ruthless bodyguards for the mafioso Don Patrizzi (Lo Bianco). Meanwhile, the Don's sons are a bit too girly for his liking (unlike the very "straight" Danny and Stephen), while his daughter is bringing home her non-Sicilian fiance (Green) and his hick parents (Feldshuh and Collins), who unbeknownst to anyone lead a religious-right militia group. As the over-the-top banquet approaches, bringing all these characters together, it's quite obvious that we're being set up for a farcical climax of epic proportions. This has rightly been called "a cross between La Cage aux Folles and The Sopranos." While the zany comedy is very silly indeed, the film works best in details that fill the edges. There are so many hilarious little touches that barely a minute goes by without a solid laugh. Performances are equally layered--over the top but with just enough reality beneath the surface that the characters spring to life. It's utterly ridiculous, but such harmless fun (even the gunplay is subdued) that we can't help but enjoy the romp. OK, most of the humour is aimed so specifically at gay audiences that those unfamiliar with the subculture may feel left out. But if you're in on the joke, it's a riot. [adult themes, language] 6.Apr.02 llgff
back to the top HEY, HAPPY!
dir-scr Noam Gonick
with Jeremie Yuen, Craig Aftanas, Clayton Godson, John Simone, Dita Vendetta, Chelsey Perfanick, Sylvia Dueck, Lola Wong, Zane Procyk, Canon Beardy, Terrance Thompson, Conrad Merasty
London L&G Film Fest Apr.02 • 01/Canada 1h15 2 out of 5 stars
With heavy echoes of the 1975 post-apocalypse classic A Boy and His Dog, this unhinged pre-apocalypse film is completely and utterly unhinged. Set in the wastelands around Winnipeg, the story is about Sabu (Yuen), an outdoor porn shop clerk by day and an outdoor rave DJ by night. He has set a goal to sleep with 2000 men before the coming floods, and he only has one to go. His target is the simpleton Happy (Aftanis), who is obsessed with UFOs and hears alien voices. But Sabu's quest is being thwarted by the pierced drama queen Spanky (Godson), who gets even more vicious when Sabu and Happy actually fall in love. The characters and situations are so insanely wacky that it's hard to care about the story or the central romance, even though writer-director Gonick obviously hopes we will be touched by Sabu and Happy's love amid the chaos. But there's no chemistry at all between them; Yuen is the only actor who even remotely creates a character we can make any sense of. The mood of the film is strangely desolate and quiet, with witty, trippy asides and scenes of vulgar violence that make it feel like a desperate attempt to overlay John Waters on Rocky Horror. But it's far too clunky and awkward to ever become a cult classic. OK, so there's an intriguing idea at the centre, and some nice shots along the way to the imaginative finale. But honestly. [themes, language, violence, nudity, drugs] 10.Apr.02 llgff
back to the top IGNORANT FAIRIES [Le Fate Ignoranti]
dir Ferzan Ozpetek • scr Ferzan Ozpetek, Gianni Romoli
with Margherita Buy, Stefano Accorsi, Serra Yilmaz, Gabriel Garko, Luca Calvani, Lucrezia Valia, Koray Candemir, Carmine Recano, Erica Blanc, Rosaria De Cicco, Barbara Folchitto, Andrea Renzi
release UK 25.Apr.03 • 01/Italy 1h45 3 out of 5 stars
the gang at flat 10REVIEW BY RICH CLINE
This sensitive Italian drama deals with concepts of grief and family ties inventively--often effective but ultimately somewhat fragmented. When her husband dies, Antonia (Buy) discovers that he had been having an affair for seven years. What she's not prepared for is the fact that his mistress was actually a man named Michele (Accorsi), and that he was part of a close-knit group of society outcasts (mostly gays and ethnic minorities) who take care of each other. After overcoming the initial shock, Antonia discovers that she and Michele have more in common than loving the same man. And she also finds a supportive "family" in the most unexpected place. Director-cowriter Ozpetek (Hamam) has a wonderful way with a camera, capturing emotions and feelings beautifully. The storyline itself is somewhat rough around the edges though. There are irritating scenes that refuse to resolve themselves, distracting and unnecessary sidelines, and the writers seemed unable to sort out the plot at all. But along the way, the marvellously colourful characters and situations keep us gripped. Buy and Accorsi give a strong centre to the film; they have real chemistry that's sometimes rather frightening, but very realistic. This is a moving, involving and thought-provoking film. Especially when it asks the question: How can you be honest with the people who love you, when telling the truth may mean they won't love you anymore? [15 adult themes and situations, language] 2.Apr.02 llgff
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© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall