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 22.Nov.02

back to the top BURNING IN THE WIND [Brucio nel Vento]
dir Silvio Soldini; scr Doriana Leondeff, Silvio Soldini
with Ivan Franeck, Barbara Lukesova, Ctirad Gotz, Caroline Baehr, Pavel Andel, Cecile Pallas, Petr Forman, Zuzana Maurery, Tomas Kadlec, Kamila Bednarova, Jaromir Dulava, Jitka Jezkova
release UK Nov.02 lff • 02/Italy 1h58 3 out of 5 stars
Baehr and Franeck This moody Italian drama, set in French-speaking Switzerland, is about a writer describing his complicated life. So his narration isn't wholly believable, and this adds a level of playfulness to an otherwise serious film. Tobias (Franeck) works in a boring factory where he lets his imagination run wild, remembering life in the old country (somewhere in Eastern Europe) with fellow expats in the community. Then he recognises a new worker (Lukesova) in the factory as an old school friend ... who doesn't know she's his half-sister! Even as he renews their childhood friendship, he's also stalking her and her new husband (Andel). And we haven’t a clue what he might do next.
Director-cowriter Soldini crafts a beautiful story here, with artistic filmmaking that's plaintive, gently funny, gritty and very introspective. We feel like we really get into Tobias' head as we see things from his perspective. Even though we don't remotely condone his actions or attitudes (we barely understand them!), he's a remarkably sympathetic character. The way he treats his friends--mates, girlfriends, other women--is fairly shocking, although with his awful background it's hardly surprising. But the film is unapologetic about him; like the people around him, we must accept him for what he is, a bundle of contradictions. And at the same time we wonder if any of this is true, because as a writer with a vivid imagination we know he must be making most of the story up as he goes. The film is a bit slow, using repetitive imagery that gets extremely boring (like working on an assembly line, perhaps?) and touching on some very disturbing themes. But its examination of the immigrant community is insightful and full of real meaning. [themes, language, sex] 21.Nov.02 lff
dir-scr Peter Sollett
with Victor Rasuk, Judy Marte, Altagracia Guzman, Krystal Rodriguez, Silvestre Rasuk, Melonie Diaz, Kevin Rivera, Wilfree Vasquez, Donna Maldonado
release US 28.Mar.03; UK 19.Sep.03 • 02/US 1h28 4 out of 5 stars
naughty rascals Sparkling with authenticity, this workshop-style film features unknown actors playing vivid, honest characters in a surprisingly emotional story about love and family. Victor (Rasuk) is a cocky 16-year-old--lean, muscly, horny and very sure of himself until he meets the gorgeous and very intimidating Judy (Marte). Her ice-queen demeanour puts him off balance from the start. And while she begins to break apart Victor's bravado, he begins to soften her uptight attitude. Meanwhile, Victor is also having trouble at home--his bratty sister (Rodriguez) is determined to embarrass him, his little brother (played obviously by Victor's real brother Silvestre) wants love advice, and their guardian/grandmother (Guzman) is angry with just about everything. And blaming it on Victor.
The realistic characters and dialog make this a superior example of a New York indie style film, because these people are just so true! The script strangely avoids the back-stories, only hinting at Victor's parentage and Judy's obviously rough past. But as the film progresses, the approach is quite fresh; this is how things are, let's move forward not dwell on the difficulties of the past. Meanwhile, the characters' selfish actions, which are often hilarious, are clearly a self-preservation mechanism. Then each character realises that he or she has a much better chance of survival if they cling to the people around them. To say this, writer-director Sollett never resorts to cliches or sermonising; he just lets the characters be who they are. And as a result, there is a raw tenderness at the heart of the film that actually catches us off guard at the end. This is a moving, thoroughly engaging film that's worth looking out for. [themes, language] 21.Nov.02 lff
back to the top THE THREE MARIAS [As Três Marias]
dir Aluisio Abranches; scr Heitor Dalia, Wilson Freire
with Marieta Severo, Julia Lemmertz, Maria Luisa Mendonca, Luiza Mariani, Tuca Andrada, Enrique Diaz, Wagner Moura, Carlos Vereza, Cassiano Carneiro, Fabio Limma, Taveira Junior, Lazaro Ramos
release UK 30.Jan.04; US 30.May.03 • 02/Brazil 1h27 3 out of 5 stars
mother and daughters Stylishly filmed and full of passion and emotion, this is also the blackest of black comedies. The film opens with the three grisly deaths of a man and his two sons. His widow (Severo) is understandably distraught, and asks her three daughters to get revenge on the men responsible. The eldest, Maria Francisca (Lemmertz), is sent to find a notorious hitman (Diaz) so he can take care of the villainous ringleader Formino (Vereza). Maria Rosa (Mendonca) goes after a cop (Andrada) who can help find Formino's older son (Carneiro). And Maria Pia has to help the convict Jesuino (Moura) escape from prison and track down the younger brother (Limma). Got that? Well, nothing at all goes as planned. And then we discover why all this happened to begin with.
The film has a lurid, epic quality to it that immediately draws us in--saturated colours, lush music and an absurd sense of humour soak the film, as well as visceral longing of biblical proportions. This is a life-or-death struggle with justice, and it's in the hands of the women. Because all the men are gripped by weakness, stupidity, arrogance and/or lust. It's a very physical film, and in this sense it does draw us in. But it strangely shies away from any real tenderness, and it's very harshly edited. For such a complex storyline we leap and bound through the plot, skipping key scenes and only filling in some of the gaps later. This is somewhat irritating, because it is so beautifully filmed, and the examination of the nature of vengeance is rich and powerful. But it leaves us feeling like we missed something. [15 themes, violence, grisliness] 20.Nov.02 lff
back to the top WRECKED ON ROAD 17 [Les Naufragés de la D17]
dir-scr Luc Moullet
with Patrick Bouchitey, Iliana Lolitch, Mathieu Amalric, Sabine Haudepin, Jean-Christophe Bouvet, Bernard Palmi, Gerard Dubouche, Lionel Briand, Eberhard Meinzolt, Antonietta Pizzorno, Arnold Barkus, Jean-Claude Dumas
release UK Nov.02 lff • 02/France 1h21 1½ out of 5 stars
lolitch tales a roll in the hay This oddball comedy centres on a sparsely populated valley in southern France so remote that highway D17 has never even been finished. Into this area bumbles a rally driver (Bouchitey) and his assistant (Lolitch), where they promptly get stuck in the sand and then offend the only farmer with cows who can help pull them free. From here we dart around the valley, seeing the daft adventures of the inhabitants and various interlopers: a group of paranoid soldiers (it takes place during the Gulf War, everyone's terrified of Saddam Hussein); some tired hikers; a few crusty old men; an archaeologist; a Japanese tourist; a film crew making a cowboy and Indian movie; a goat farmer and his string of women, including the keeper of the local observatory (Haudepin), whose husband (Amalric) is getting increasingly crazed.
As all these people become more and more intertwined, the farce builds to ridiculous levels. It starts out as a gentle comedy of manners, looking at relationships of all kinds and poking fun at self-conceit. Then it gets sillier and sillier, and eventually crosses the line into being deeply annoying and obnoxious. Earthy humour and unexpected gags give way to contrived madness as the film drags on and gets increasingly desperate for a laugh. The film is poorly constructed and edited; most of the plot threads are built up without a payoff. And the final "joke" is actually quite offensive (both racist and cruel). There's also a basic problem in the premise: For such an isolated, unpopulated, inaccessible place, it's absolutely heaving with people! There's probably a funny film in here somewhere, but this certainly isn't it. [themes, language, nudity, grisliness] 20.Nov.02 lff
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© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall