Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Day Three - "What's wrong with the fucking Bee Gees, anyway?"

Films seen today: 6
Films seen so far: 13
Films seen so far this year: 204

Jindabyne

Australian drama based on a short story by Raymond Carver, about a group of men who find a dead body while on a fishing trip.

This was the film I'd most been looking forward to and it didn't disappoint. It's set in Australia and based on the Raymond Carver short story "So Much Water So Close To Home" (also used in Altman's Short Cuts), in which a group of men (Gabriel Byrne plus three Australian actors) go into the mountains for a fishing trip, find the body of a naked woman and decide to finish their fishing weekend before reporting it. However, it adds several other elements (the girl is from a local tribe so racial tensions erupt; Byrne's having problems with wife Laura Linney; the other characters have problems too etc) so the script is incredibly multi-layered. There's even a disturbing serial killer element that's reminiscent of Wolf Creek. Anyway, it's terrific. Great performances from Byrne and Linney, superb photography / use of landscape and a superbly written, complex script. Five stars.

Neo Ned

Drama starring Jeremy Renner as a neo nazi who falls in love with a black girl (Gabrielle Union) he meets at a mental institution.

Weird little indie film starring Jeremy Renner as Ned, a neo nazi who falls in love with Rachael (Gabrielle Union), a black girl he meets at a mental institution who thinks she’s Adolf Hitler. However, it really isn't the film that that summary might lead you to expect - there's no America History X-style violence, for one thing. In fact, it's surprisingly warm-hearted with a very funny script and a bizarre, yet strangely fitting feel-good / feel-bad finale. There are some terrific scenes (e.g. Ned attempting to woo Rachael with a crudely drawn picture of bees and swastikas) and some superb lines – as Ned says, “Just because I’m a racist, doesn’t mean I’m not sensitve.” Renner is a revelation – he’s utterly brilliant and really makes the character his own, right down to his odd little staccato laugh. Ned’s na├»ve and maybe a little crazy but he’s also sweet-natured with a child-like enthusiasm for life – his crushed delivery of the line “What about the zoo?” is heart-breaking. I hope it gets a proper release. Four stars.

Them

Thriller based on a true story, in which a French couple are terrorised by an unseen menace outside their house.
This wasn’t as good as it sounded. Based on a true story, it stars Olivia Bonamy and Michael Cohen as Clementine and Lucas, an expat French couple living in an isolated house in the woods outside Bucharest. One night, they are suddenly terrorised by an unseen menace outside their house. There’s no real way to discuss the film without revealing what that menace is so please look away now if you want to remain unspoiled. Basically it turns out it's kids, the little bastards, and according to the titles at the end, a group of around 5 10- to 15-year-old kids really did murder a French couple. Kids today, eh? Unfortunately, the film doesn’t really work. There was far too much wandering around the house and going "Eek!" at strange noises for my liking. There’s also an awful lot of just waiting for something to happen and when it finally does happen there’s just a lot of running and screaming. A horror-movie style prologue with a mother and daughter doesn’t do the film any favours either, as it’s misleading (particularly when the poster features three silhouetted kids in hoodies). Despite several cheap shocks and some admittedly effective low-level lighting the film just isn’t scary enough and you can’t help but wonder if telling it from the victims’ point-of-view wasn’t the wrong decision. Two stars.

The Sacred Family

Chilean drama about a son and his father competing for the attentions of the son’s self-obsessed girlfriend.

This was tedious beyond belief. The write-up said it was like an Eric Rohmer film and I suppose it was, only not in a good way. Annoying son Marco Jnr brings his self-obsessed girlfriend Sofia round to his parents' holiday home on the beach. His mother gets called away for the weekend and his dad, Marco Snr, tries to pull Sofia. Meanwhile Marco Jnr is off out getting off with his best friend (who hardly ever speaks and is therefore the best character), while a couple of gay students work through their own relationship problems in a neighbouring house. Admittedly, it sounds good from the description, but their conversations were excruciatingly dull. You know you’re in trouble when your peripheral characters (in this case the gay couple and the best friend) are a lot more interesting and sympathetic than all three leads. The ending's a bit rubbish too. One star.

Deep

Dutch coming-of-age drama starring Melody Klaver as a 14-year-old girl who discovers boys, sex and drugs while attempting to cope with her parents’ separation.

The Edinburgh Film Festival always seems to be full of films about young girls coming of age – for some reason these films don’t get the post-Festival distribution they deserve. Simone van Dusseldorp’s Dutch drama is a case in point, although it has a couple of underage (non-sexual) topless scenes which will probably render it persona non grata at the BBFC. This is a pity, because it’s beautifully made and very enjoyable. Melody Klaver stars as Heleen, a 14-year-old Dutch girl whose parents have just split up. As she and her brother are bounced around from one parent to the other (and their new partners) she begins to discover boys, sex and drugs, as a result of her childhood friend Axel (Stijn Kooms) and his “cool” American friend Steve (Damien Hope). There are several well-observed scenes and the general theme of “Boys are rubbish” is sure to strike a painful chord or two, though Hope almost lets the film down by virtue of being a terrible actor. There’s strong support from the rest of the cast though (especially Jorik Scholten as Heleen’s younger brother Emile) and Klaver is excellent throughout - she reminded me a lot of Lacey Turner (Stacey Slater on EastEnders) at times, while the film itself was reminiscent of Somersault with its use of close-ups (entire scenes are played out through close-ups of Klaver’s eyes) and generally gorgeous camerawork. Four stars.

Special

Low budget comedy-drama starring Michael Rapaport as a traffic warden who thinks his experimental pills have given him superhuman powers.

A good end to the day. Directed by Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore, this low budget indie (which -rejoice!- has a November release) stars Michael Rapaport (remember him?) as Les (pronounced "Less"), a traffic warden who starts taking some pills as part of an experimental drug trial. The pills are meant to reduce self-doubt but they make him think he's a superhero, with increasingly hilarious (or actually decreasingly hilarious, as the film gets darker as it goes on) results - the scene where he thinks he's telepathic is extremely clever and very funny. Rapaport is really, really good in it too - he must have been taking acting lessons in his absence. There’s also good support from Alexandra Holden (as a checkout girl with a stutter than Les has a crush on) and from Josh Peck as his comic-store-owning best friend. Three stars.

Meme spotting

Both Neo Ned and Little Miss Sunshine have a running gag with people trying to jump-start a car.

2 comments:

su lizhen said...

Loved Neo Ned. Made me cry and hoot with laughter. Almost simultaneously. And the funy run with no shoes on!

fleabird said...

You are wrong about Sacred Family... strong, quirky - low production but great dialogue, dogma-esque gem. But I agree on Jindabyne - Wolf Creek 'big outback trucker freak out' mixed with Ice Storm atmosphere and weird-out, paranoia inducing children. Deep - nice to see youthful sex celebrated rather than the young lead turning into some drug ravished whore for her sins!