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April 7, 2008 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

World Cinema Showcase: The aftermath

Everyone’s second favourite film festival has just ended, and with it go their screenings of last year’s film festival leftovers, big name independent films released everywhere else months ago (I’m Not There was released outside of festivals in the US on 21 November) but that had not yet made it to our backwards burg, and the varied but often entertaining classic film re-releases.

It’s by far the most accessible of the two festival, the mainstream showings were varied with Margot at the Wedding (directed by Noah Baumbachdslfjk of The Squid and The Whale fame, staring Nicole Kidman and Jack Black) and Southland Tales (Directed by Richard Kelly of Donnie Darko, staring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Sarah Michelle Gellar) disappointing the majority of audience members I asked in my not quite scientific survey after a screening. “This is what happens when visionaries start doing blow,” said a Southland Tales audience member. On the other hand, Showcase films like The Edge of Heaven (the fifth film from Turkish/German auteur Fatih Akin) and I’m Not There (Staring everyone from Cate Blanchet, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Julianne Moore and Heath ‘you know you’re right’ Ledger) reminded us that at its best, film can be just as poetic and beautiful as any other art-form.

The documentary section was just as hit and miss with Helvetica showing the way with its light charm while Joy Division brought nothing new to the table and Redacted just left audiences disappointed and out $14.

This is why the World Cinema Showcase is considered the poor cousin of the grander Film Festival: its unpredictable quality wouldn’t affect a bigger festival but this year’s selection seems to be half-arsed wih only a handful of films pointing their noses above the parapets. This wasn’t helped by the early limited release over the past six months of films that would have normally fallen into the World Cinema Showcase’s spectrum, films like La Vie en Rose and Lust, Caution while The Elite Squad (a Brazilian film on the Rio special police by Jose Padilha) and Snow Angels (by All The Real Girls and George Washington director David Gordon Green) are clearly being saved for THE Film Festival.

One of the World Cinema Showcase’s great strengths used to be its screenings of underappreciated greats like The Double Life of Veronique and others that were/ are yet to be released on DVD in New Zealand, but this year we are slapped in the face with the works of Alejandro Jodorowsky, all of which have been released already and pail in merit when compared to the works of Kieslowski or the Film Society’s classic filmmaker of this year, Michelangelo Antonioni, both of whose works are better (according to me) than Jodorowsky’s no matter how high you are.


Southland Tales
Much was expected from Richard Kelly after Donnie Darko and watching Southland Tales you get the feeling he was well aware of this fact, but his film has too many half-baked ideas and not enough clarity. Like Italy’s military during World War II, Southland Tales is spread thin over too many fronts and is fucked because of it.

An anti-war semi-documentary from the director of Scarface and Mission Impossible. It’s big on the partisan editorialising and light on… well, everything.

The Holy Mountain
Funded by Yoko ‘fuck the Beatles’ Ono when she was at the height of her manic surrealist art phase, Without the aid of mind-expanding narcotics though, The Holy Mountain can’t help looking laughably ramshackle, the combination of bad dubbing, shoddy camerawork and over-the-top performances making it pretty much unwatchable by modern standards.


The Edge of Heaven
Fatih Akin is awesome, the acting is superb… just go and find it.

El Topo
Still an interesting film, even for all its flaws.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
See review below.

I’m Not There
See review below.

I’m Not There

Is about the many images of Bob Dylan that exist in popular culture, It’s a film about the world’s image of Bob Dylan, and his struggle with this. It may be fractured, non linear and vary greatly in quality between each story but its elegance and poetry raise it above anything else in the World Cinema Showcase.

The quasi-E!True Hollywood sections with Julianne Moore don’t work; they try to show the image of Dylan from her perspective but she isn’t convincing and doesn’t add anything other than wasted screen minutes. Christian Bale as the political Dylan who shuns the lime light and turns evangelical preacher is just as disappointing, while the other actors portray Dylan in a flavoured manner , Bale tries to out-Dylan Dylan and puts in one of his worst performances in doing so.

Heath Ledger as Dylan the family and Charlotte Gainsbourg as his first wife Claire are phenomenal and recreate perfectly the collapse of their marriage (which he later channelled in ‘Blood on the Tracks‘). Each act brings a unique take to Dylan and Marcus Carl Franklin (who plays young Dylan named after Woody Guthrie) is the greatest child actor I’ve seen in years.

I’m Not There’s sheer weight will put off many, but its beauty and poetry will reward those who engage with it.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is the story of two dormmates in Soviet Romania, one pregnant, the other an accomplice in her pursuit of an illegal abortion. It tails Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), in close proximity, through the day as she goes about arranging the abortion while having to face meeting her boyfriend’s parents, and deal with their underground abortionist Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), an asshole who understands the severity of the deed and what’s at stake for the girls. Meeting in a grim, foreboding hotel, Bebe terrorises Otilia’s roommate with the sickly details of the operation and the everpresent danger of being caught.

It is the darkest, most unsettling film of the this year, and left me and all those around me noticeably shaken after viewing. It’s not for the faint of heart (I counted five walk outs at the screening I went to) but its unflinching honesty is its best asset. The dark institutional feel of the Soviet bloc suurroundings and the unsettling use of the camera to stalk the characters adds to this feeling of foreboding. The actors, especially its lead Anamaria Marinca, are phenomenal and do a stellar job with a tough, psychologically draining script.

Moments of the film, specifically the scenes in the bathroom, are intensely disturbing and did make me want to put my cock in a blender but any film that has this kind of power is definitly worth a watch. But just once.


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Comments (1)

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  1. Tom says:

    the Edge of Heaven was way too pedestrian.

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