Posted by: kfugrip | April 6, 2007

Six

The Girl from Monday, by Hal Hartley is one of the most beautiful DV films I’ve seen. It has the typical, as I understand it, Hartley aesthetic with long takes and carefully composed shots but executed with a technology that doesn’t lend itself to that. There were none of the signature DV wide angle closeups in the film, where the lens is inches away from the actor’s face and slightly distorted because of the curvature of the lens. The images stutters and smears, much like film, during kinetic scenes.

The performances are underplayed, which is par for the course with Hartley, and the script is interesting and political. I enjoyed Hartley’s vision of the future where sex is a commodity to be traded to increase one’s market value. Fascinating and cutting edge in the manner of early science fiction where Asimov or William Burrogh’s fictional elements become reality (satellites for the former, AIDS for the latter).

The missing element for this film was a cohesion and clarity to the story. It felt like too many elements were attempting to come together and failing. I give it 3 stars.

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Lonesome Jim, by Steve Buscemi is another DV movie, made under the InDigEnt banner. Thank goodness they exist because films like this don’t get made today and if they are they are much maligned by the critics as being too bleak. In an article that I will not bother to look up, a critic said of Sundance 2007 that the picture of America being painted by independent cinema was depressing and bleak. Given the climate of fear, paranoia, and hopelessness that I feel we are living in, is there any wonder. This film is about a failure who moves back home after a stint in NYC where he attempts to become a writer but instead walks dogs and works at Applebees. While I haven’t moved home yet, I feel automatic sympathy for this guy… until the plot takes shape. His moaning and general malaise, eventually causes the attempted suicide of his older, sadder, brother, the imprisonment of his mother, and the dashed hopes of a young boy.

This looks more like a DV movie but is well directed, with great performances, by Buscemi. Not as meaningful, and more commercial in execution, than Trees Lounge, this is an effective portrait of middle America, minus the spread of Oxycontin use in the economically depressed areas of the same part of the country.

While there was a lot going for this movie, it eventually fell back into what I can only describe as independent-movie-genre-cliches to achieve it’s point. This is a good movie but it should be better than the 3 stars I’m giving it.

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Hardcore, by Paul Schrader held high hopes from me. I wanted this movie to be good. It’s about a conservative christian from the midwest whose daughter, while on a church camp outing to California, runs away and enters the porn industry. George C Scott plays the father, and he sets about finding his daughter, going so far as to impersonate a porn producer. That’s right up my alley. Dark by nature, it seemed to me it was about exploring how a person does a thing like that, go into the sex industry. One hears all the time about girls from good families having sex for money but how exactly does that happen. This is about that but there was a mystery element that drove the plot. You are the father and you sympathize with him and his search. We don’t know if the daughter was coerced or chose to do it, all we know is that he can’t find her.

Some of the more powerful moments, when he sees his daughter on film for the first time, are a strong base for the film but something is missing. I hate making statements like that but it’s all I could feel during the movie. There are great actors, Geroge C. Scott and Peter Boyle, and interesting character elements but I think it skirts the line between character piece and thriller/mystery too much. I think a choice in either direction, to own mystery or character piece, would have been a benefit.

The worst part of the film was the end. Without giving it away, I’ll say it was forced. Too bad. This movie had classic written all over it. Instead it’s a 3 star movie. Paul Schrader letting me down again, like he did with Affliction (similar review from me).

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Dreams for an Insomniac, by Tiffanie DeBartolo is a bad movie. This is what is wrong with independent movies as a marketing tool. My question after watching this movie, is; why is it an independent film? Why wouldn’t this be a studio movie, a romantic comedy with quirky characters spouting quotable quotes and falling in love without us actually seeing it happen. My only clue as to it’s independent nature is that one of the characters is gay, though the issue is dealt with in the most unrealistic and shallow fashion. I don’t know if I expected for it to be something with actual consequences but a few lines of dialogue later, and everyone has forgotten that the character’s homosexuality was ever an issue in the first place.

Everything in this film felt forced to me. None of the characters seem like the are actually struggling against anything. Perhaps they are but the trappings, the quirky baubles, and ridiculous way in which one character adopts a different accent for every scene and that the main character can’t sleep and wakes her cousin/neighbor every day by throwing rocks at his window, or (my favorite) the fact that the main character needs a man with blue eyes to fall in love. It’s absurd. These gimmicks don’t actually create interest.

There is a scene where the two leads, who fall in love, have a “pissing contest” in regards to their knowledge of famous quotes. Ione Skye smiles her way through the scene, and MacKenzie Astin plays “doe eyed” until… poof… the scene is over and they are in love. What? The only actor, including Seymore Cassell (who I like a lot… but not in this movie) who isn’t simply reading lines with no awareness of what the other actor is doing, is Jennifer Aniston. You wouldn’t know she is present and performing though, because she’s using different accents in every scene. See, she’s an actress, her character that is, and see… actresses use accents… and she’s an actress… get it? Yeah I didn’t care either.

Initially I rated this movie 2 stars. I thought that it was bad but not complete garbage. On further review I can’t really remember anything funny or interesting in the entire movie. What would lift this movie above a single star? Nothing. So… 1 star.


Russian Ark, by Alexander Sokurov, a stunning, dizzying, technical exercise. Which is not to say it isn’t a film, and that there is no other reason to watch this movie, there are many reasons to watch it. Russian Ark is a film done in a single, ninety minute take that spans the 300 year history of Russia and the Hermitage Museum, where the picture was shot. We are lead by a floating camera and voice-over done by the fictional narrator/film maker (and the actual) as he explores the museum and follows a nineteenth century Marquis doing the same. The actual plot, of which I can see none, is a skeleton on which the history lesson is placed. Scenes from Russian history are acted out and paintings that were purchased by Catherine the Great are referred to a number of times both artistically and the method in which they were acquired.

The Steadicam lends to the style, which possesses a dream-logic, that appears aimless but after the narrator or the Marquis expand upon what we are seeing, we understand that we are witnessing events important to the creation and acknowledgement of the museum and the culture of Russia.

This is all very interesting, but not drama. There was no tension. It’s was a character piece with the Hermitage Museum as the main character. Not a bad idea but unable to elevate to the heights of great drama. The only tension I felt was the occasional “how did they pull this off” moment, which is outside the context of the drama and ranks right up there with a “cool” special effect (note: I don’t care for special effects-based movies), a failure. Not a waste of time though. I’m glad I saw this film as it does a terrific job of maintaining interest without any tension being present. The frame, even when static, is active and your brain does not wander.

3 stars (I’m seeing a pattern with this batch, aren’t you)

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I Am A Sex Addict, by Caveh Zahedi is a comedy. It’s about a film maker who is addicted to whores and honesty, an interesting combination to say the least and it creates some dramatic moments with his wives. The movie is made like a diary, with a framing device, where Caveh talks directly to the camera/audience and comments about the events. Wit is the soup du jour in this film. While nothing is laugh-out-loud funny there are many funny moments, including some self-conscious bits where he admits he couldn’t afford to shoot a scene is Paris so he is using another town as a poor double. All the women are much more attractive than their actual people, which is to be expected but there are many similarities in physical type.

There are a few cheap jokes and most of the cutting is for laugh but the film never achieves truly moving heights, despite it’s naked honesty.

3 stars.

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aaaaaand that takes me to 50 (or 49 1/2 if you count the commentary version of Brown Bunny as 1/2 instead of 1)

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