Toronto Reviews

by Jim Shippey

This past September, while the world was getting ready to dwell upon the first anniversary of 9/11, I went away to watch a bunch of film on Canadian soil. Yes, it just so happened I was at the Toronto Film Festival, my first taste of one of the preeminent film festivals in the world. Over the course of 9 days I saw 43 films, detailed below. Unlike some attendees, I sought out the films that held an interest to me, regardless of their likely US release. So for that week and a half, I lived on the street (waiting in line), in the dark (darkened cinemas), and breathed films. Oh what a time that was!

8 Women (8 Femmes)
Francios Ozon - France
One of two import musicals I took in during the fest. 8 Women is a wonderful treat for fans of French cinema or classic cinema of the 40's. An incredible cast of leading French actresses, headed up by Catherine Deneuve as Gaby, the matriarch of the family who discover the father with a knife in his back. Like a Technicolor filtered game of Clue set in a vague 50's wintry world, the screen is filled with suspects, each with a reason, each with an excuse, and each with a song! The barebones plot serves to set up the song pieces, interspaced with humor. Isabelle Huppert is a riot as the spinster sister Augustine, Emmanuelle Beart is wild as the naughty and iconoclastic chambermaid Louise, and Fanny Ardant is the showstopper as Pierrette, the 'bad girl' with a lust for life. She, and this film, rocks. A real charmer.

Ryuhei Kitamura - Japan
From the director of the cult film Versus comes Alive, based on the manga of the same name. Tenshu is a convicted killer on Death Row, who is given a chance to take part in an experiment when the first attempt to electrocute him fails. He winds up in a small room with Gondoh, a psychopath. Unbeknownst to them they are also sharing space with The Displacer, an engineered virus designed to transform the men into killing machines. As time goes on, the two become more agitated, but nothing happens until a woman shows up behind glass, offering herself as a prize to the one who survives a battle between the two. The observers of this are drawn into the fray, and there is a battle royal to round out the film. Quite stylish in design, the film makes us wait a bit long for the goods, certainly longer than his previous film. Still, more thoughtful viewers will appreciate Kitamura's development and the film's look.

Roberta Torre - Italy
A docudrama story of a mobster's wife, the titular Angela, who works a mule, making drop-offs under the guise of shoe sales. Into this arrangement comes Masino, a young buck from up north sent down to assist the business. Angela's husband is older and less concerned for the yearnings of his younger wife. Soon Angela finds comfort in Masino's arms. Then the feds show up. Angela is not a very daring film, falling into too man traps that make it more as a movie of the week than as a star of global cinema. The bitter fairy tale ending only reinforces this perception. One to skip.

Atom Egoyan - Canada
An astute take on a controversial subject, Ararat centers upon an Armenian descended youth who finds himself grappling with the issue of a genocidal crime unacknowledged by the world. Egoyan is deft in his design of the story; actually it's four stories, or walls, that intermesh in a fascinating collapsar of a narrative. We have actors in a film about the Turkish aggression; we have characters in the film that seemed to take control of the actor; we have art inspired by the events; and we have depictions of history. We are challenged to address the question in light of modernity. With terrific performances by Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, and David Alpay, Egoyan may have crafted his finest film to date. Stunning and thoughtful, seek this out in the early part of 2003.

Auto Focus
Paul Schrader - USA
An exploration of the darker side of actor Bob Crane, the Hogan of Hogan's Heroes, leading up to his murder by bludgeoning. Greg Kinear plays Crane with a take it or leave it performance (for those who remember Crane, Kinear is not exactly a physical analog). Willem Dafoe is John Carpenter (*not* the director of the same name), a Hollywood hanger-on who plies electronics to stars. The two get into the party circuit that fuel Crane's sexual addiction. Things go from bad to worse, and we witness the devolution of Crane from a budding television star to a dinner theatre hack, still harboring dreams of a mainstream porn film. Schrader's direction creeps along, subtly drawing us into the world of Crane's addiction, and the downward spiral he is on. By the end the film is permeated with a dark mood not hinted at the start. Worth a look.

Better Luck Tomorrow
Justin Lin - USA
Modern Southern California high school culture, with an entire Asian American cast, from MTV Films. The story centers on Ben, an overachieving junior who aspires to be the most sought after college applicant in the country. He hooks up with his cousin Han and Daric, the head of the high schools 'academic decathlon' team. They start perpetrating petty crimes, and start moving into bigger and bigger things. All the while, Ben still pines for Stephanie, his lab partner, who has a rich boyfriend. No matter, Ben gets is able to become a killer when it suits him and his goals. This film garnered controversy as a result of having high school characters getting away with murder, in fact profiting by it. Still, you can admire the fresh voice that Lin puts into this film, and the cast is pretty terrific overall. Recommended.

Bowling for Columbine
Michael Moore - USA
Devastatingly funny and insightful take on the gun culture in the US, Moore has made his best film to date. Starting with the Columbine shooting, Moore examines the conditions, from gun availability to media influence, to the NRA, to Lockheed-Martin! Some associations are weaker than others, but most are dead on. Moore's confrontational style shows a more candid side of Dick Clark and Charleton Heston, who truly knows how to insert his foot in his mouth. Appearances by Matt Stone and Marilyn Manson help Moore put forth his take on what is a chronic issue in our country. A standing ovation greeted this, the best film of Toronto.

Bubba Ho-Tep
Don Coscarelli - USA
Cosacrelli, well known for his cult film Phantasm, tries to branch out with another comic-horror tale, based on a short story by Texas splatterpunk author Joe Lansdale. Premise has Elvis (Bruce Campbell) being alive through a secret switcheroo with an impersonator, now stuck in a nursing home in Mud Creek, Texas. For some reason, this home has become the target of a revivified Egyptian mummy. The King teams with another resident (Ossie Davis) who believes himself to be JFK to fight the threat. Quirky story fails to deliver the goods in the end, with only a tepid showdown with the alleged supernatural badass. A fanatic midnight crowd of Campbell devotees injected more excitement than warranted by the film. The director opined that he didn't have enough money to make the film, and it shows, sadly.

Cabin Fever
Eli Roth - USA
It's a horror movie in reverse! In Cabin Fever, we follow a group of kids coming up to the woods for frolicking fun. When they encounter a seriously disgusting looking guy, some of their ranks start falling prey of a flesh rotting disease. Guess what else it does? Nothing. No, this isn't a regurgitation of Night of the Living Dead; this is about what the normal people do when confronted with this plague. Interesting reversal, with local becoming the foes, not so unlike Deliverance. It works on one level, but I wonder if this will fly with the George Romero crowd. Worth a look.

City of Ghosts
Matt Dillon - USA
Debut feature from actor Matt Dillon, with a script he co-wrote with Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart). Modern hardboiled crime story of guys on the lam in Cambodia after committing a large insurance scam in the US. Dillon plays Jimmy, looking for his partner Marvin (James Caan) who traveled ahead of him. Intrigue brews with mixture of mysterious characters, including Stellan Skarsgård as Caspar, another con man, Gerard Depardieu as Emile, a saloon operator, and Natasha McElhorne as Sophie, an archeological preservationist. The film makes good use of the locale so foreign to western eyes. Double and triple crosses abound, with a culmination that brings together disparate forces in a seemingly lawless land. The grit and glam that makes this subgenre beautifully translates into the post Khmer Rouge countryside, a place were an ancient world meets modernity in dark corners, and the baser desires of men come out. Great first effort!

Dirty Pretty Things
Stephen Frears - UK
A cool pseudo caper film that centers on the communities of illegal aliens in London. Okwe (a standout performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a Nigerian who hacks a cab by day and mans a desk at a hotel at night. He makes a grisly discovery one night in a hotel toilet, and this leads him deeper into a sinister world dark dealings that underscore how little valued that the lives of these illegals are. This is also made manifest by Senay (Audrey Tautou) a Turkish illegal who works housekeeping for the hotel, and rents out her couch to Okwe. A friendship develops that is complemented by the wider community of illegals, from the cleaners to the hospitals. Things get sticky when it comes to light that Okwe was a surgeon back in Nigeria. A pair of bumbling Immigration agents add comic appeal. Great performances and a thoughtful, if not slightly lighthearted look at a world many of us look away from. Scheduled to come out next April, don't miss it!

Every Day God Kisses Us on the Mouth
Sinisa Dragin - Romania
Strange tale of Dumitru, a convicted killer released after 11 years back into a world of pain and isolation. It becomes obvious early on that Dumitru is not reformed, and this is part of his personal journey of alienation. Rife with Eastern European tinged magical realism, it seems only natural that Dumitru sees himself as an invincible instrument of God. This film strikes you like a grittier, less technologically advanced take on Unbreakable, in B&W.

Gus Van Zandt - USA
Bizarre but engaging non-standard narrative from Van Zandt and stars Matt Damon and Casey Affleck. Two guys named Gerry drive into the desert Southwest, and then proceed to go on a walk and get lost. The rest of the film is not about plot, but rather design; as a viewer you begin to disassociate from the characters, instead focusing on image composition, setting, object dynamics. Many people will not enjoy this ride, but it may find a cult base for those who have heard of Béla Tarr.

Manuel Pradal - France
Wow. Sometimes there is a film you love but expect everyone else to hate. Welcome to Ginostra. Harvey Keitel is Matt Benson, an FBI agent investigating the death of a protected witness survived by his son Ettore. A mystery brews, with the Italian police, the Mafia, and some sinister red nuns on the island with an active volcano waiting to blow! Everyone is not what they seem, and like a Jack London story, nature becomes an active antagonist as well. Way over the top, but it works. For those who know me know I go for the offbeat; Ginostra will take you around the bend and back! Highly Recommended, to people who like my recommendations ;-)

Tom Tykwer - Germany/France/USA
The director of Run Lola Run brings to the screen the last script from the late Krzysztof Kieslowski (of the Trios Couleurs fame). Loosely based on Dante's Paradisio, the story follows Philippa (Cate Blanchett), an unlikely terrorist, and Filippo, a translator for the Italian police. The foils become renegades when corruption in the ranks becomes apparent. Incredible Tuscan scenery plays out in this drama that may leave some of the less initiated in the audience a bit flat in the end. Nonetheless, strong performances by the leads (especially Ribisi) make this a very worthwhile experience.

Ken Park
Larry Clark/Ed Lachman - USA/Netherlands/France
From the opening graphic sequence of a skate kid blowing his own brains out, to a fully explicit demonstration of autoerotic asphyxiation, Ken Park proves that some filmmakers see shock as art. What a pity, for this garbage pile written by the now hack writer Harmony Korine is nothing but shocking drivel. We are shown uber-negative parents with equally miscreant children doing nothing but harm to each other, from the outright murder of kindly grandparents to the sickening emotional scarring of a ranting fundamentalist likening his daughter to the Whore of Babylon. Absolutely unbelievable scenarios abound (though Lachman claims they are based on fact). Sadly, such condemnation will only increase the curiosity that some will have. So be it. See it and take a shower afterward. Worthless.

Le Marais (The Marsh)
Kim Nguyen - Canada
Compelling first feature is a fine example of low fantasy, something lost in the cinema of today. Alexandre is a stout loner who takes in the club footed Ulysse to protect him from the superstitious villagers in an unidentified colonial era part of the world. When one of the women from the village disappears, they come looking for Ulysee, for he bears the marks of the devil (truth be told, he bears more marks than is genetically possible, hence more of the 'fantasy' part). Throughout the film there are images that may or may not be part of the characters' world, suggesting a greater realm of fantasy underneath the veil. The story is well paced; mood is well communicated through art direction and scene composition. The ending yields, in my opinion, a key to solving the mystery of the story, one that the director cheekily feigned ignorance to when asked. See it, if a Canadian distributor can crack the US market. Worthwhile.

Les Diables (The Devils)
Christophe Ruggia - France/Spain
Interesting tale of two renegade street children, one streetwise, one autistic. They travel through France, with the vague dream of a home that never appears. They have alienating encounters with the authorities, whose offer of help is quickly spurned. The stakes become more dire, as does the magnitude of their self-discovery. Some unbelievable plot contrivances do not kill the film overall.

Lilya 4-ever
Lukas Moodysson - Sweden
From the director of such upbeat works like Show Me Love and Together comes a darker tale of 13 year old Lilya, daughter of a woman heading to America with a new boyfriend. She is disappointed to learn that she won't be traveling with the couple, and instead is given over to her aunt, a grumbling babushka who becomes the first of a long line of characters that exploit the young girl. She tries desperately to survive, befriended by the even younger Volodya, who shares his own jaded views, while at the same time being life affirming. When Lilya is entreated to travel to the West by a young man, Volodya raises an alarm, while Lilya goes on with her willful sense of denial, her survival mechanism. It does turn out to be too good to be true, and Lilya is forced into prostitution. Lilya comes to see death as the only respite from her condition, something that hauntingly resonates in the title by the film's end. This polemic on the crisis of youth prostitution across Europe is not always easy to watch, but it never relents in its message. Moodysson has moved into another direction and has found success once again.

Love Liza
Todd Louiso - USA
Debut feature from the actor who was the sensitive Dick in High Fidelity. Starring vehicle for Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing Wilson Joe, a software engineer in the aftermath of his wife's unexplained suicide. A manic turn of events leads him simultaneously into the worlds of radio control models and gas huffing, all the while trying to come to terms with his mother-in-law (Kathy Bates). Hoffman shows more depth that he has had the chance to do in the past, and in doing so gives one of his best performances in his career. Highly recommended!

Menno Meyjes - Canada/Germany/USA
If only art could stop war. If only an artist could dissuade a hegemon. If only a film that takes on such a folly proved more adroit than Max. Set in the early days of the Weimar Republic, Max Rothman (John Cusack) is a modern art dealer and gallery owner who comes into contact with a bitter soldier returned from the war, an aspiring artist named Adolph Hitler (Noah Taylor, in a scenery-chewing performance). In spite of his antisocial behavior and dubious talent, Max finds himself intrigued with the young man. Max becomes the antipode to the rancorous men who whisper the mantras that will define the Nazi line to young Adolph, even when he starts mouthing anti-Semitic remarks. Meyjes wants us to believe that young Hitler is somehow vulnerable to change at this time, yet he also shows a complete lack of faith in his audience by having him at several points in the film be given over to tirades echoing Hitler circa 1938, not 1918. There are some mildly interesting arguments made about art and it's position in society, but they are usually dumbed down to the point of being trite. Oh the irony. Fair, but don't go out of your way to catch it.

MC5* A True Testimonial
David C. Thomas - USA
More DV crap. A paean to a forgotten 60's band, radicals who regained some life when The band The KLF sampled MC5's rally cry "Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!" The film spends most of it's time trying to convince us how radical and noncommercial they were, and virtually nothing about their music. What are they, activists or musicians first? Apparently these surviving founders of the 'White Panther Party' are confused as well. Just as well, since nobody cares these days. A snoozer

Movern Callar
Lynne Ramsay - UK
Another festival dud from the director of Ratcatcher. The titular character has the misfortune of finding her boyfriend's suicide on Christmas morning. He leaves her a manuscript and a list of publishers in his suicide note. From there, we are treated to the tedium of watching Movern stumble though Spain with her livelier partner Lanna like a zombie. In scene after scene we see the same thing: Movern stares blankly, the world moves around her. Zero amount of character development, no insight into Movern's mindset, and a trite, almost Fantasy Island ending. A waste of time.

My Little Eye
Marc Evans - UK
Another crap DV film, this one trying to play on The Real World. A group of 5 youths have been living together in an endurance test, all the while being viewed through a myriad of small webcams. In comes an interloper and then it begins to go south. Characters suddenly change face in a gross example of poor scripting. Cheap gags are employed, like sudden loud noises, restricted field views, and flashbulb eyes. The two females characters are exploited in both sexual and sadistic ways, to the point of discomfort to the audience. The smartest character in the bunch gets whacked when, in the middle of searching for the killer, decides to stop and play video games. This film holds nothing for fans of the genre, and even less for fans of good cinema. Trash

Jean-Pierre Limosin - France/Spain/Switzerland
Working the same riff of Memento without the hard-boiled edge, Novo is the tale of a man, Graham, who has to relearn the world anew each day, like an inverse Groundhog Day. People around him, from his boss to the new office girl, use Graham. He goes through a series of exploits (and couplings) through which we learn of another life he once had. Decent performances, but not that compelling overall. Average.

Nowhere in Africa
Caroline Link - Germany
A pseudo-epic focusing on the travails of a small family of expatriate German Jews in Kenya at the onset of WWII. Walter, a lawyer by profession, went ahead to make arrangements for the family; Jettel is his wife, a provincial woman with no taste for the wild; and Regina, a young girl who becomes the reflection of the story. We see her growing up, befriended by Owuor, the native cook that Walter hired. As the war rages on, Walter is detained as an 'enemy alien' but makes his way up through the ranks with the British army. Jettel's stance softens, as we can expect from anyone who sees their life dependent upon know the ways of those you are wary of. Regina makes the greatest transformation, going native in the face of her schoolmaster. The tide of events, coupled with the beautiful and mysterious countryside, makes Nowhere in Africa an enjoyable place to be. Recommended.

Phone Booth
Joel Schumacher - USA
There is something about a special relationship between a director and a repeat actor; sometimes the sum is greater than the parts. Such is the case with Joel Schumacher and Colin Farrell. Schumacher is generally thought of as a hack in many circles, responsible for killing the Batman franchise with Batman Forever. Then in 2000 he made a small film with Farrell called Tigerland. What a turnaround that was! Well, lightning does strike twice with Phone Booth. Working off a script by B-Movie scribe Larry Cohen (It's Alive, The Stuff) is a compelling scenario that challenges our notions of sweep and scope for a good story. Farrell plays Stu Sheppard, a fast talking publicist who uses one of the last public phone booths in Manhattan to communicate with Kelly (Katie Holmes), a young actress Stu hopes to have an affair with, since his wife checks his cell phone records. This proves fateful one morning when the phone rings for Stu. The menacing voice on the other end (one most people should recognize in about 24 seconds) engages as the moral arbiter of Stu's life, at the end of a sniper's scope. As it becomes clear that he is trapped, the complications multiply, from street denizens to cops to a media circus. Gallows humor intertwines with steely tension in a taught 80 minutes. Highly Recommended.

Public Toilet
Fruit Chan - Hong Kong/China/Korea
Oh my god. The stereotype of the pretentious art house film that is crap is manifest with Public Toilet. An amateurish effort on all fronts: visually (horrendous DV), story (the catalog entry for the film admits that he made the story up as he went along!), acting (on par with The Real World). The story, as it is, is a collection of different episodes that center around a toilet, from the exploits of Dong Dong, abandoned as child in a toilet, to a dock worker who finds a girl with no bones, who claims to be a fish (and enjoys swimming in the septic tank). Don't take my word for it, check out the website: Don't have this joke played on you; run away from this crap!

David Cronenberg - Canada/UK/France
The latest from one of the best directors working today. Based on the novel by Patrick McGrath (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Cronenberg), it is the story of Dennis Clegg (Ralph Fiennes), a man just released from the mental institution that housed him and treated his schizophrenia. He goes to a halfway house, and there we witness, in a masterful stroke of visual storytelling, both the events that led to his mental illness initially as well as his decline back into schizophrenia. Fiennes gives a fantastic performance, a very believable take on how an actual schizophrenic patient interacts with the outside world, and then we get to go inside. Cronenberg's most understated film to date (save, perhaps, M. Butterfly), it is also one of his most powerful in recent memory. Do not miss this one!!!

Jonas Åkerlund - USA/France
An all-star cast in a forgettable mess from the video music director Åkerlund. Frenetic edits and camera moves that at once look like a cheap rip-off of Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream for the crystal-meth set. No plot, no point, either.

Sweet Sixteen
Ken Loach - UK/Germany/Spain
Surprisingly touching tale of a young boy named Liam, growing up in the poorer area of Glasgow (with a thick brogue to brook as well). Liam's mother is in prison, and his stewards, her boyfriend and his grandfather, both who deal drugs on a petty basis. Liam longs to get away from this, but he takes the low road in doing so: he muscles in on the business. In an echo of Little Cesar, Liam starts to climb the ladder of the local organized crime operation. As he does this, he alienates his best friend, who was not invited to the party so to speak, as well as his sister, estranged from her mother. It all comes to a head when Liam's mother is released, and his has a reckoning with the boyfriend. Very well done.

Talk to Her (Hable con ella)
Pedro Almodovar - Spain
Wonderful follow-up to his Oscar winning All About My Mother. Two men, Marco and Benigno, form a friendship through the common but absurd bond the men share: both have feelings for two women in comas. In Marco's case, it is with a woman toreador who was injured in the bullfighting ring. In Benigno's case, it's a delusional relationship with the woman he never knew in her waking life. Almod?var plays around with supertitles to clue the audience into the couple in question, with a strong measure of closure at the end. Recommended

Lynn Hershman Leeson - USA
Gak! A 'techno film' that is clueless about science, Teknolust is the garbage out story of Dr. Rosetta Stone (Tilda Swinton, we get the joke already), a geneticist who has 'downloaded' her DNA code into a cloning project, against lab rules. This results in three clones of Dr. Stone, each with their own color scheme: the green Olive, the blue Marine, and the red Ruby, the most forceful of the trio. She is the one who goes out to obtain 'genetic material' (read: male semen) that is brewed like tea for the clones to drink and refuel (kudos to those of you reading that have already spotted the half dozen elements of wrong science that sticks in you as you suffer through this mess). A Swinton look like she had fun in the multiple personas, but it's much less fun for the audience. Jeremy Davies shows up, as does Karen Black in a bizarre, self-deprecating role as a special agent investigating the clones. A waste of time and celluloid, beware of those who make this out to be some worldly statement on technology's hazards. A failure of a film.

The Eye
The Pang Brothers - Hong Kong/Thailand/UK
Great example of the new wave of non gun-fu or wire-fu coming out of Hong Kong. The story centers upon Mun, a young woman who has been blind since childhood, who undergoes a radical cornea transplant. As she starts to gain sight, she starts to see …other things. Soon her visions begin to unnerve her (and the audience, which was howling in fright-induced joy at the midnight screening I attended). She travels to Thailand to try to find the source of her new corneas, something that might explain her new sight. Throughout the film, the Peng Brothers (Danny and Oxide [you got to love that name!]) have deft hands in evoking mood and tension and suggestion (in one great example, poor Mun is menaced by an apparition in an elevator car. The partition looks normal except it's face is wrong. Not gore, but something patently unnatural. It got under everybody's skin. Genius!. Obvious western influences abound, but the film shies away from being derivative with its fresh approach to horror. One of the best of the fest.

The Four Feathers
Shekar Kapur - USA
Dumb and overblown tale of a coward who quits the British army only to go right out to the same area where the army was deployed. Goofy soap opera elements in a love triangle between Heath Ledger, Kate Hudson, and Wes Bentley. All have done much better work elsewhere, as had the director (he also made Bandit Queen). I suspect that the source novel by A.E.W. Mason reads better than it played out on the screen. Not even worth putting your brain on hold for this one.

The Guys
Jim Simpson - USA
An adaptation of the Off-Broadway play written by Anne Nelson, who co-wrote the script, The Guys tries to put a writer's sense of frustration over the 9/11 attacks in perspective. The story has Sigourney Weaver as Joan, an editor, who meets up with Nick (Anthony LaPaglia), a fire captain who must eulogize eight fallen men who were under his command. Over the course of the film, their discussions address issues of perceived heroism, social egalitarianism, and renewal in the aftermath. Joan is given over to a rant of denial near the end of the film that seems rather immature coming from a character lamenting the marginalization if intellectuals in the recovery process. Talky and not especially cathartic (maybe a bit more for NYC intellectuals, perhaps)

The Last Great Wilderness
David Mackenzie - UK
First of a couple of crap DV films I saw in Toronto. The film starts with a comic buddy film set up: Charlie, a Londoner on a mission to burn down the house of a rock star who stole his wife, meets up with Vincent, a sly Scotsman on the lam from gangsters. They run out of gas outside a remote hotel filled with a host of strange characters. Humor ensues, but then comes to a jarring halt when the gangsters show up to mutilate Vincent (including crucifixion and a double eye gouging). Suddenly, this mess falls apart.

The Other Side of the Bed
Emilio Martinez-Lazaro - Spain
The other import musical of the fest, this film was equally joyous, with more modern wink at the audience. We are introduced to two couples, Sonia and Javier, and Pedro and Paula. Paula tell Pedro she's found someone else, but doesn't tell him it's Javier. That starts into motion the plot of Pedro, from friends that try to help him out of his depression, to a woman he is set up with (Pilar, played by Maria Esteve - I'm in love!), to Javier trying to keep things from getting him in trouble. A riotous sex-farce with some really imaginative song and dance sequences, you'll have a great time with The Other Side of the Bed!

The Sea
Baltasar Kormákur - Iceland/France/Norway
Follow-up by the director of 101 Reykjavik. A man who operates an obsolete fishery is getting pressured to sell, but he resists in the name of the community. He calls his children home to pass the business on, but instead opens generational and internecine wounds. It culminates in violence that results in the antithesis of hope. Not much else is there: some of the characters are vaguely interesting, others are more summer stock. A largely unsatisfying experience from a director with a chip on his shoulder.

The Three Marias (Las Tres Marias)
Alusio Arbranches - Brazil/Italy
A woman's silent spurn of a man's advance leads to the gangland murder of three men. The woman, we learn, is Filomena Capadocio, and the murdered men were her husband and two sons. Filomena convenes the surviving members of her family, three daughters, to lay out a plan for revenge. The daughters, Maria Francisca (Julia Lemmertz, star of Arbranches previous A Glass of Rage), Maria Pia, and Maria Rosa are tasked each with retaining the services of three of the country's most notorious killers, with such melodramatic names like The Cobra and The Devil's Horse. The three spread out (illustrated with a map a la Raiders of the Lost Ark) to engage their targets. In each case there is something occurs to bring in the question of the gender roles established by the permeating machismo of the neo-Western countryside. The Three Marias abounds with humor and insight that transcends language and culture. Look for this one!

Volcano High
Kim Tae-kyun - South Korea
It's Ferris Bueller meets The Matrix. Live action anime-styled story about internecine battles at Volcano High, the last high school for the malcontented with super powers. Kim is our friendly hero, expelled from his old school at the beginning by returning a piece of chalk hurled at him by an instructor at bullet speed. He gets sent to old VHS along with the likes of Dark Ox, Icy Jade, and Orange Head. High camp via wire-fu ensures, capped with some really sharp FX work. One of the most fun films of the whole festival!

Welcome to Collinwood
Anthony and Joe Russo - USA
Film crime. An absolute disaster of a film from producers George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh. Ensemble cast of mainly well-known character actors, headed by the usually great William H. Macy strain themselves trying to force laughs from a bad script, allegedly based on the Italian caper film Big Deal on Madonna Street, transplanted to Cleveland. Is a whinny man with a baby strapped to his chest inherently funny? Los Bros. Russo apparently think so. Ditto for having Michael Jeter dropping his shorts. There is nothing worse in cinema than a failed comedy, especially when there are bereft of unintended laughs. This was the worst film of the fest hands down, and it looks like Warner Bros. is dumping this off in an exclusive in Gaithersburg before this mess winds up in home video and cable hell.

White Oleander
Peter Kosminsky - USA
Better than average outing for The Virgin Suicides set. A great performance by Alison Lohman as Astrid, a young girl who bounces between foster homes after her artist mother (Michelle Pfieffer) murders a boyfriend. As Astrid goes from home to home, the influence of each new matriarch gets reflected through her. The struggle for Astrid's identity becomes one between each of the foster mothers and her biological mother. Kudos To Pfieffer for trying more dark roles, but boos to the make-up and art departments for making her look more glamorous after three years in the hole!

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