Archive for April 26th, 2010

by Joel Bocko

#57 in Best of the 21st Century?, a series counting down the most acclaimed films of the previous decade.

You’re about halfway through L’Enfant when you realize whom exactly the title refers to. Sonia (Déborah François) has just had a baby boy, and when the movie opens, she’s seeking the child’s father. He’s not at his apartment, which is occupied by a surly couple who slam the door in her face (a gesture that will be repeated throughout the film, although eventually she’s the one doing the slamming). When she finds him he’s on the street, wandering between cars stalled at a stop light, begging for change. Bruno (Jérémie Renier) is a scruffy young man, who could be anywhere from mid-twenties to early thirties. The indeterminacy of his age is telling; while his thick features suggest a manliness, his mop of hair, puppy-dog eyes, and perpetually mischievous grin suggest perpetual boyhood. Though Sonia is clearly his junior, she manages to mix a girlish playfulness (she’s constantly goofing around with Bruno, amidst shrieks of laughter) with a motherly concern for her new charge. Bruno, on the other hand, as soon as he’s left alone with the baby, tries to sell his own son. (more…)

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 by Sam Juliano

     Screening at the Village East Cinemas on the first day of the Tribeca Film Festival, Brillant Mendoza’s naturalistic Phillipine art house feature Lola, traverses some of the same territory visited by Hsao-Hsien in its humanistic underpinnings and by the Dardenne brothers in its wordless sequenes and deliberate pacing.  Yet, with the use of a hand-held camera, often jerky in motion, sustained for most of the film’s length, there is also a strain of the amateur here, which, though there’s no doubt that cinematographer Odyssey Flores captures some striking images in this story of squalor and impovrishment, beaurocratic obstinance, and the economic dictates of contemporary society.

     The symetrical story basically concerns two elderly matriarchs who must bear the financial and legal ramifications of a crime in which both their grandsons are involved.  One is murdered with a knife, while the other is the prime suspect.  While trying to sustain their families’ meagre existence in makeshift shacks along and over rising waterways in Manila, the grandmothers must navigate even more trecherous domestic waters in funeral homes, prisons and court rooms, where they are always on the outside looking in.  The conflict almost never reaches levels of vocal acceleration, rather the absence of false conflicts render the film as an acute ‘slice ofd life’ drama, much in the tradition of cinema verite.  Lola is shot on video instead of film, yet the crystal clear canvas, much of it negotiated through a steady and driving rain, unveils a beautiful panorama of the urban Manila landscape.  Mendoza posesses the social urgency of a Bahreni, with the lyrical devices of a Hsaio-Hsien, yet he’s singular in his insightful focus on the lower classes in this film and in his past work.  Lola was rather a return to the sociological roots of the earlier films, apart from last year’s Serbis, which bordered more on Tsai Ming-Liang in its sensory overload and more provocative themes, which centered around pornography. (more…)

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‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ shown at Jersey City Loews on Saturday

by Sam Juliano

Dave Hicks’s marathon film noir countdown is over, and the young man deserves all the credit and veneration that’s due to him for the tireless research, re-viewings and painstaking attention he focused on this noble enterprise for the better part of four months.  Coming on the heels of his previous project, the annual countdown that launched with 1930, Dave has demonstrated an incredible resilience and committment, that has resulted in lists that many will now use themselves as reference tools.  After admitting the overwhelming difficulty in choosing a Number 1 film between his two final choices, Dave went with Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success (1958) as his top film, with Jacques Tourneur’s seminal noir Out of the Past (1947) as the first runner-up.  Rounding out the top ten are:  Kiss Me Deadly, Criss Cross, The Killers, In A Lonely Place, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Rififi and The Asphalt Jungle.  Dave is planning a final post, where he will discuss his agnonizing numerical placement, and the final decisions to disqualify some borderline noirs in his qualification process.  Again, this was a monumental undertaking, and kudos to you Dave!

Down in the Bayou, filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman is also nearing the end of his own long-running series, choosing a best film of ever year in cinema all the way up to 2009, and Goodman’s bold and audacious choices have led to some terrific discussions in the comment sections, not to mention some fabulous personal; anecdotes of discovery and first-time viewings.  It’s bound to be a spectacular finish at The Last Lullaby, as Goodman moves further on preparations for his new film Peril.

At Wonders in the Dark, Allan’s new millenium Top 100 countdown is already attracting loads of comments, though it’s just barely moved into the 80’s, with nearly three months more capsule essays ahead, as the polling winds all the way down to Number 1.  Voters are urged to enter their own Top 25 at the corresponding tab over the site header.

Finally, last but by no means least, Dee Dee will be interviewing Film Noir specialist Tony d’Ambra on some of the greatest noirs in a post that will appear at Darkness Into Light (Noirish City) and WitD over the upcoming days.  The chemistry between these two will no doubt result in a priceless converstion, and I simply can’t wait!

With a wedding occupying my attention on the prime viewing night, Saturday, I worked out a viewing schedule that included the afternoon of that same day, as well as an appearance at the Jersey City Loews Landmark movie palace on Friday for a screening of Robert Mulligan’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird with the kids, that proved to be a most memorable evening.  At midnight I raced over to Manhattan to catch an exhilarating Asian feature The Good, the Bad and Weird, which appeared on the countdown last week, as per Allan’s great regard for it.  I was disappointed with the latest James Ivory-Ruth Prawer Jabvala collaboration, The City of the Final Destination, though as always it’s lushly filmed and very well acted, (especially by Laura Linney)  But it’s dramatic underpinnings are listless, with events failing to connect, and nothing ever reaching a boil.  Having seen what we got with The Remains of the Day, Howards End, Maurice, A Room with a View and Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, lets just say that this is less than a minor footnote.

A superb Phillipine film, Lola launched the Tribeca Film festival on Thursday, and although I was rather disappointed not to win approval for a press pass, and was not thrilled with paying $19 a ticket, but still bit the bullet and attended the first of what will be four appearances at the festival this week with Lucille and Broadway Bob, including the highly-controversial Ticked Off Trannies With Knives, which may be picketed by members of the angry gay and lesbian community, who feel the film offers some slanderous stereotypes.  I hope to have a review of Lola topping the diary here.

Lola **** (Thursday night; Tribeca Film Festival; Village East Cinemas)

The City of the Final Destination ** 1/2 (Sat. afternoon; Montclair)

The Good, the Bad and Weird **** (Friday at midnight; IFC Film Center)

To Kill A Mockingbird 1962  (Jersey City Loews; Friday night)

As usual, the blogosphere offers some great stuff: (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 2001 89m) DVD1/2

Aka. Bizita Q

Anyone got any vinegar?

p  Susumo Nakajima, Reiko Arakawa, Seiichiro Kobayashi  d  Takashi Miike  w  Itaru Era  ph  Hideo Yamamoto  ed  Yasushi Shimamura  m  Koji Endo

Shungiko Uchida (Keiko Yamazaki), Kenichi Endo (Kiyoshi Yamazaki), Kazushi Watanabe (visitor), Fujiko (Miki Yamazaki), Shoko Nakahara (Asako Murata), Jun Moto (Takuya Yamazaki), Ikko Suzuki (Sasaoka),

Let’s not mince words here, this is a film to truly appal just about any denomination, race, creed or age.  It is sick, disturbing, twisted, and any other adjectives you care to pluck from a handy thesaurus.  It is also the most devastating attack on contemporary society and morality that has been offered and, in future years, may come to be seen as not only Miike’s finest film, but also a surreal masterwork of 21st century cinema. 

            It centres around the middle-class and seriously dysfunctional Yamazaki family, headed by Kiyoshi, who is in the process of making a documentary on the violent and sexual urges of the youth of today.  In one of his undercover visits to a brothel, he finds his daughter there, who proceeds to seduce him.  Soon after, he is hit over the head with a brick for no apparent reason by a youth who is then invited back to Kiyoshi’s house.  Here his son Takuya takes out his frustration at being horrifically bullied at school by beating up his own mother, who in turn takes to prostituting herself.  The visitor gives each family member in turn a life lesson that will change their lives forever. (more…)

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