Film FestivalFilm Festival Reviews: London ’02

46th London Film Festival: reviews are listed alphabetically
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Back to the SHADOWS FILM FEST page • FESTIVAL SHORTSlast update 19.Nov.02

back to the top THE EMBALMER [L’Imbalsamatore]
dir Matteo Garrone; scr Ugo Chiti, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso
with Ernesto Mahieux, Valerio Foglia Manzillo, Elisabetta Rocchetti, Lina Bernardi, Pietro Biondi, Bernardino Terracciano, Marcella Granito
release UK Nov.02 lff; US 11.Jul.03 • 02/Italy 1h41 4˝ out of 5 stars
scognamiglio and nolot This brilliantly made film alternates between quirky comedy and creepy thriller so effectively that its story gets deep under the skin. It's about a zoo taxidermist named Peppino (Mahieux) who's about 50 years old and only about 5 feet tall. Everyone calls him a dwarf, but one very handsome young man, Valerio (Manzillo), is fascinated by his work. And Peppino is fascinated by Valerio ... obsessed even. In fact, Peppino offers him a large salary to come work as his assistant and does everything he can to sabotage his relationships. Then Valerio meets Deborah (Rocchetti), and the path to true love is blocked at every turn by a very jealous dwarf!
Garrone shoots the film in warm, dark tones that highlight the thoughtful mood, then fills the film with light and very funny moments--both natural humour and more edgy, nervous comedy. Peppino looks so sinister that we don't trust him from the start--those jagged front "fangs" don't help--so we never quite understand how he gets such a hold on Valerio. This bond is what drives the film and makes it so unpredictable. Is there a mutual romantic attraction that neither men will acknowledge? Is it a professional thing? Or perhaps even a father-son need both of them have? Or is Peppino a demon playing on Valerio's deepest fears? As the story progresses it gets increasingly worrying. Tension grows in unexpected places, and the cast reveal little bits about the characters without ever resorting to what we expect. By the climactic showdown we are so unsettled by the whole thing that we're almost afraid to watch. This is startlingly sure-handed filmmaking. [adult themes and situations, language, grisliness] 19.Nov.02 lff
back to the top THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BED [El Otro Lado de la Cama]
dir Emilio Martinez Lazaro; scr David Serrano
with Ernesto Alterio, Paz Vega, Guillermo Toledo, Natalia Verbeke, Alberto San Juan, Maria Esteve, Ramon Barea, Nathalie Poza, Leticia Dolera, Geli Albaladejo, Secun de la Rosa, Blanca Marsillach
release UK 23.Apr.04; US 29.Aug.03 • 02/Spain 1h56 3˝ out of 5 stars
See also: THE 2 SIDES OF THE BED (2005)
coleman leads an indian ritual This freewheeling ensemble comedy has been a massive hit back home in Spain; it's certainly a crowd pleaser! It centres on two couples who are all good friends--Javier and Sonia (Alterio and Vega) are happily together, while Pedro and Paula (Toledo and Verbeke) have just split up after Paula announced she's found someone new. Pedro turns to Javier and Sonia for support ... but Paula's someone new is Javier, and he simply can't get up the nerve to tell Sonia. As the film progresses, it gets even more complicated as liaisons shift and several other friends, as well as a hilarious private eye (Barea), are drawn into the fray.
Not only is the film brightly funny and lively, but it's also a surprisingly serious examination of modern relational chaos. Oh, and did I mention that it's also a musical? Indeed, the characters have a tendency to break into song--full-on pop numbers complete with choreography and backing dancers (ie, whoever happens to be passing by). But even these moments seem surprisingly organic, as they spring from the scenes naturally, giving insight into the characters and maintaining the film's breezy tone. Director Martinez Lazaro and writer Serrano adeptly use humour to mask the edgy material here; all of the characters are lying to each other and themselves, and the film grapples with themes of machismo, sexuality and feminism as well. Nobody is innocent here, but they all seen to know that and this is what allows them to move forward. The cast is superb; first-rate Spanish actors creating real characters and showing sharp comic timing. In the end it all gets a bit farcical and silly, but it's still perceptive good fun. [15 themes, language, nudity] 19.Nov.02 lff
back to the top THE GOOD OLD NAUGHTY DAYS [Polissons & Galipettes]
dir Michel Reilhac; ed Olivier Lupczinsky; music Eric Le Guen
release US 28.Mar.03, UK 23.Apr.04 • 02/France 1h09 2.5 out of 5 stars
naughty! This documentary is basically a collection of found footage, short French porn films from the 1920s, when filmmakers were discovering the kinds of things they could do with the cinema. The production values are very high, mostly because they were shot on proper film sets while the main production took its days off. Excellent lighting, camera work and even acting all disguise the underground system in which these films were produced. No one used their real names, and the cast are all wearing ridiculous wigs, moustaches and beards. Today, no one knows who made them.
  Watching these films assembled here is a surreal experience. They seem so sophisticated that you almost doubt the footage is real; surely it's a joke, they just shot it last year then scratched the stock and added a silent-movie piano score. They look exactly like Charlie Chaplin-era silent films. There's a lot of imagination on display, as each film uses a theme to tell its little "story", which usually starts with a couple of women, then expands into a group orgy. Plots involve servants, schools, a cafe, voyeurism, a massage parlour, a dirty old man and a group of nuns (and their dog!). There's even one done in Madame Butterfly style, as well as a filthy animated segment that's absolutely hilarious. All of this is done so professionally, with wit and skill, that it's actually quite telling: Not only is there nothing new under the sun, but a century later we can't even be bothered to be this creative about it anymore. [R18 strong adult material, nudity, sex] 18.Nov.02 lff
back to the top SOFT FOR DIGGING
dir-scr JT Petty
with Edmond Mercier, Sarah Ingerson, Andrew Hewitt, Kate Petty, Wayne Knickel, Joshua Billings, David Husko, Mia Todd
release US Jan.02 Sundance; UK Nov.02 lff • 02/US 1h14 4 out of 5 stars
mercier and ingerson This insidious thriller has such modest production values that you don't quite take it seriously until it reaches out and grabs you. It's virtually silent, centering on a hermit named Virgil (Mercier), living in the woods around Christmas time. One day his cat wanders off and while he's out looking for it he sees a very disturbing event in the woods--it looks like a man (Hewitt) is strangling a young girl (Ingerson). He alerts the police, but there's no evidence, and as he starts to doubt his sanity he has dreams in which the girl appears to him and tells him what to do next.
Told without dialog (there are only about 20 words spoken in the entire film), the story still engages us completely. Sound effects and almost subliminal music add to the tone, as does very clever direction that catches tiny details and recurring images to add to the haunting mood. Chapter headings, like 18th century fiction, hint dryly at events to come. And the fluid camera work doesn't prepare us for the jittery moments of real horror that come later on. Yes, the New England woods have echoes of Blair Witch, but this is a much more assured film, brilliantly written, filmed and edited by Petty (age 21). And as Virgil tries to do the right thing, the film actually touches on some very serious themes ... then has a nasty, evil twist in the story. Petty is definitely one to watch. [themes, violence] 18.Nov.02 lff
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© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall