citylog
The E-
Edition:
CW
page
by page

Tumblr.jpg Google_Plus.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Home / Articles / Movies & TV / Film Festival /  Sundance 2007 capsules
Film Festival

Sundance 2007 capsules

By Scott Renshaw
Posted // June 11,2007 -

The following 21 films were reviewed by press time. For updated reviews, see upcoming Festival Updates Jan. 20-23 or visit SLWeekly.com.Acidente HHH

Acidente ***
tt
[World Documentary]
tCinematic “tone poems” tend not to be my cup of tea, but Cao Guimar?es and Pablo Lobato create enough undeniably arresting images to captivate even a skeptic. Largely without words, they paint a portrait of 20 towns in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, until even the English translations of the towns’ names become a kind of free verse. Passing car headlights illuminate darkened scenes, underwater bodies sway in the bubbles, fog-shrouded landscapes begin to resemble watercolors'it doesn’t necessarily add up to a unified story, but as pure visual filmmaking, it’s fairly hypnotic. (Scott Renshaw)

Away from Her ***
tt
[Premieres]
tWith a less graceful tone, it would be simply a made-for-cable movie or a Nicholas Sparks novel. Sarah Polley navigates away from those dangerous reefs as she adapts an Alice Munro story about a retired professor (Gordon Pinsent) watching his wife of 44 years (Julie Christie) begin to succumb to Alzheimer’s disease. Polley’s time-jumping narrative structure provides a sense of disorientation that frames the narrative and Pinsent’s restrained performance effectively conveys a devotion that’s part pure love, and part guilt. It may never make the leap to transcendent love story, but the filmmaking consistently engages without a single maudlin misstep. (SR)

Banished **.5
tt
[U.S. Documentary]
tMarco Williams certainly proves informative as he explores the legacy of American cities that drove blacks from their borders'like those in Forsyth County, Ga., in 1912 and Pierce City, Mo. in 1902. And there is a value simply in bringing these long-buried events to light. But as Williams follows the descendents of those who lost their land or their lives in these purges, he never quite finds a narrative through-line that gives the present-day events a sense of urgency. Like a lot of documentaries, it’s a better piece of history than it is a piece of filmmaking. (SR)

Black Snake Moan **.5
tt
[Premieres]
tEven more of a ’70s throwback than Craig Brewer’s previous Sundance hit, Hustle & Flow, this audaciously lurid button-pusher'in which righteous bluesman Samuel L. Jackson attempts to cure small-town slut Christina Ricci of her wanton ways by chaining her to his radiator'comes as close to pure exploitation as any mainstream movie in recent memory. Too bad Brewer lacks the courage of his convictions; once he starts explaining the pedestrian roots of his characters’ jaw-dropping behavior, the film quickly devolves from high-wire provocation to soggy redemption drama. Paradoxically, the less offensive Black Snake Moan gets, the more truly offensive it becomes. (Mike D’Angelo)

Chapter 27 **
tt
[Premieres]
tJared Leto makes sure to remove his shirt a couple of times to prove that he really put on nearly 70 pounds to play Mark David Chapman in this speculative account of the 72 hours leading up to his murder of John Lennon. But is there anything to Jarrett Schaeffer’s psychodrama aside from the stunt performance? Not particularly'and Leto’s performance itself, with its breathy Blanche DuBois accent, is more gimmicky distraction than piercing insight. Chapter 27 wants to show a man struggling for his sanity but it mostly shows an actor struggling for credibility. (SR)

Crazy Love **.5
tt
[U.S. Documentary]
tDan Klores’ torn-from-the-tabloids doc seems predicated (like too many theatrical thrillers) on a surprising “big twist.” His version of events, however'about the lead-up and aftermath of a notorious 1959 New York case involving jilted Burt Pugach hiring thugs to throw acid in the face of his ex-girlfriend Linda Riss'too rarely digs much deeper than shock value. It’s intriguing enough, in its creepy way, as both Riss and Pugach share their versions of the tale on camera. Yet it’s also hard to shake the sense that it spends its energy on getting you to gasp and shake your head. (SR)

Delirious **.5
tt
[Spectrum]
tTom DiCillo (Living in Oblivion) continues to mine comedy from the absurdities of celebrity culture. This uneven but occasionally affecting story stars Steve Buscemi as Les, a misanthropic paparazzo who takes in homeless kid Toby (Michael Pitt) to become his unpaid assistant. Meanwhile, a Britney-esque pop diva (Alison Lohman) becomes the object of Toby’s affection, but the stuff about fawn-tourages and backstage backbiting feels played out, and some cheap shots (a “Soap Stars Against STDs” benefit) fall completely flat. DiCillo is more grounded when observing how friendship sneaks up on Les and then begins to sneak out on him. (SR)

Drained **.5
tt
[World Dramatic]
tCongratulations, at least, to director/co-writer Heitor Dhalia for successfully creating a truly unpleasant protagonist. In this Brazilian black comedy, pawnbroker Lauren?o (Selton Mello) treats his fiancé like garbage, enjoys the misfortunes of his desperate clients and ogles the waitress at his favorite diner'a blackness of the soul that manifests itself in the stench emanating from his bathroom drain. It’s all rendered stylishly and sports an effective sound design with gurgling sewage always in the background. But all the funkiness starts to feel excessive and gratuitous, any attempt at narrative cohesiveness and is lost in Lauren?o’s broadly played breakdown. (SR)

Driving With My Wife’s Lover ***
tt
[World Dramatic]
tIt’s like two different movies pasted together, but it’s somehow still oddly entertaining. In the first half of Kim Tai-sik’s droll dramedy, cuckolded Tae-han (Park Kwang-jung) hires his wife’s cabbie lover (Jung Bo-suk) to drive him home. Their surreal road trip'complete with an avalanche of watermelons and a random helicopter spraying a roadside pee break back in our heroes’ faces'gives way to Tae-han meeting the cabbie’s own wife. An odd bit of a character study it is'at times silly, at times sentimental'but it’s certainly never a bore. (SR)

Enemies of Happiness **.5
tt
[World Documentary]
tAn Afghan counterpart to last year’s Iraq doc My Country, My Country, Eva Mulvad and Anja Al Erhayem’s film follows Malalai Joya, a controversial 27-year-old woman campaigning for Afghanistan’s 2005 parliamentary elections. She’s a strong, admirable subject'an educated woman who risks her life to challenge the power of regional warlords'and this seems an effective enough exploration of how she prepared for the election. But the snippets of her life'playing arbitrator in a dispute between two families; addressing security details'don’t come together into a narrative with a more intricate message than, “Good for her.” (SR)

Fido **
tt
[Midnight]
tDouglas Sirk meets Night of the Living Dead high-concept alert: Zombies live in 1950s suburbia, but they’re either kept outside by a fence or tamed to become our servants. Is it social commentary or just yet another goof on the Eisenhower years? Unfortunately, Canadian writer/co-director Andrew Currie’s film'about the burgeoning friendship between young Timmy (K’Sun Ray) and his family’s undead servant Fido (Billy Connolly)'isn’t particularly effective at either one. The one decent shaggy-dog joke comes halfway through, and whatever satire of contemporary American fears may have been intended lacks'wait for it'any bite. (SR)

Fay Grim **.5
tt
[Spectrum]
tNobody seemed to be demanding a sequel to Hal Hartley’s ribald 1997 comedy Henry Fool. Then again, Fay Grim'which shifts the focus to the title character’s estranged wife (Parker Posey)'bears only the most tenuous relation to its predecessor. Clearly alarmed by recent global chaos, Hartley effectively airlifts the original film’s principal cast into a logorrheic espionage thriller, with Henry’s oft-mentioned but ne’er-revealed eight-volume Confessions now reconceived as a geopolitical time bomb written in some kind of impossibly arcane code. The conceit never transcends its po-faced absurdity, but at least the actors'particularly Jeff Goldblum as a duplicitous CIA agent'relish the challenge of maintaining a straight face. (MD’A)

Ghosts **.5
tt
[World Dramatic]
tI’d hope we can now all agree that illegal immigrants face terrible ordeals as they seek a better life. Nick Broomfield’s docudrama'based on the experiences of his lead actress, Ai Qin Lin, when she came to England from China'unfortunately adds little to the injustices and ghastly conditions documented by Winterbottom, Iñárritu, Linklater, etc. There’s a bit more vivid characterization to the supporting characters swirling around Ai Qin, while our heroine herself mostly seems to be swept along by events the director hopes will move us to social action. A noble goal? Yes. Exceptional filmmaking? Not exactly. (SR)

Hot House **.5
tt
[World Documentary]
tFor 90 minutes, Shimon Dotan explores the way Israeli prisons have inadvertently become organizational and educational centers for militant Palestinians. The only problem? It probably should have been 60 minutes long. Dotan’s impressive access captures fascinating moments, like a complex political debate in a cell, or a Palestinian TV news anchor who reported on a bombing she orchestrated. But the key points are made early on and simply repeated through a variety of examples. The Law of Unintended Consequences is proved, intriguingly, then proved and proved again. (SR)

The Island **
tt
[World Dramatic]
tIf you groove to desolate, ice-blue landscapes, have we got a film for you. Pavel Loungine directs the story of World War II Russian sailor Anatoly (Pyotr Mamonov), who betrays his captain during a Nazi attack; 34 years later, he’s still trying to atone while living as a hermit in a remote island monastery. There’s an attempt at grim humor in portraying Anatoly as a weird practical joker, but the film never finds a consistent narrative tone to match its consistent visual tone of winter bleakness. I’m not sure I understand who these people really are, but I know they’re cold. (SR)

The Last Dining Table ***
tt
[Frontier]
tWith a nod to Roy Andersson’s Songs from the Second Floor, Korean director Gyeong-tae Roh creates his own series of master-shot tableaux and a similarly poetic portrait of contemporary alienation. Roh falls into that avant-garde trap of mistaking unattractive, unerotic sex for an obvious artistic statement, but most of his individual scenes find more interesting ways of conveying loneliness and frustration. As he follows a few characters'a mourning mother; a performer who appears to be living with AIDS'through enigmatic narratives, he provides moments that stick with you even without much cumulative impact. (SR)

Offscreen ***
tt
[Frontier]
tIf The Blair Witch Project were rendered as grim pop-culture satire, it would look like Christoffer Boe’s creepy psychological drama. The conceit finds Boe putting together footage recorded by actor Nicolas Bro as he documents a year in his life, including the disintegration of his marriage and the subsequent disintegration of his own mind. Boe cleverly observes Bro’s futile attempts to re-cast himself as a romantic hero, while mixing in a swipe at the reality-TV era’s compulsive self-exposure. The third-act turn goes perhaps unnecessarily over the top but the slick editing creates a fascinating portrait of artistic egomania. (SR)

Once ****
tt
[World Dramatic]
tAs a story, it’s almost embarrassingly simple: A part-time street guitarist (Glen Hansard) and a recent Czech immigrant (Marketa Irglova) begin making music together in Dublin. But writer/director John Carney’s sort-of-musical/sort-of-love story simply sets the two characters in motion, and refuses to force them in the most obvious directions. There’s a simple, lovely charm to the way these two sad people become one another’s muses, and to the naturalism of the performances. As for the breathtaking original songs by gifted musicians Hansard and Irglova: I want the soundtrack (download The Swell Season from iTunes), and I want it right now. (SR)

Red Road **.5
tt
[Spectrum]
tAndrea Arnold’s grim exercise in vengeance and voyeurism was the only debut feature selected for last year’s Cannes competition slate. She wasn’t quite ready for prime time yet, but you can see why she caught the programmers’ attention. The tale of a lonely, grief-stricken woman (intense newcomer Kate Dickie) who sees something that startles and disturbs her on one of the numerous video security cameras she monitors for the city of Glasgow, Red Road covers much the same dramatic and thematic ground as another, far superior recent Cannes entry. But I can’t reveal which one without giving away the film’s secrets, which are none too mysterious as it is. (MD’A)

Reprise ***
tt
[Spectrum]
tSuicidal psychosis, disintegrating romance, shattered dreams'that’s Norwegian comedy for you. OK, perhaps “dramedy” is a better descriptor for Joachim Trier’s tale of lifelong pals Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) and Erik (Espen Klouman-H?iner) who both dream of being published authors but whose lives take different paths. There’s a cheeky side to Trier’s omniscent narration, and to the way he skitters between the past, the present and the maybe-future. Yet he also employs those methods with a mournful grace in scenes where Phillip’s attempts to re-create an idealized past collide with reality. Even through its bumpy stretches, Reprise showcases a lively, unique new voice. (SR)

Waitress ***.5
tt
[Spectrum]
tI’d like to think this would’ve seemed just as charming and bittersweet without the tragic death of writer/director Adrienne Shelly'but, sadly, we’ll never know. Her story casts Keri Russell as Jenna, a small-town diner waitress and pie-making savant whose despair over her loveless marriage isn’t improved a bit by the discovery that she’s pregnant. Shelly treats with genuine compassion the lives of people who settle for whatever happiness they can find and fills the script with droll humor and lively supporting characters. Real-world events add another touch of heartbreak, but Shelly’s talents earn more than sympathy applause. (SR)

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Post a comment
 
 
Close
Close
Close