Tuesday, September 12, 2006


MONDAY: “Red Road,” a first feature from the Oscar-winning (for live action short) English director Andrea Arnold, is set in the grimmest corners of Glasgow and stars Kate Dickie as a pretty-grim-herself cop who sits all day in a control room watching monitors of video surveillance cameras positioned around the city. (Her department: City Eye.) This isn’t some futuristic thriller; it’s the here-and-now, and this quiet, coolly observed psycho-suspenser is about what happens when Dickie’s character abuses her position – her ability to literally zoom-in on people’s lives – when she discovers a guy who’s been released early from jail, and who clearly did something awful to her (it's the Scots answer to the German opening-nighter, "The Lives of Others"). The story transpires in bleak, barren council housing and grimy cafes; the accents are thick, tangled Glaswegian. There are English subtitles, and you need them.
Interview at the Intercontinental with Guillermo del Toro, the cheerful, articulate Mexican filmmaker (he taught himself English reading Mad magazine, he says) for “Pan’s Labyrinth.” On the table in front of him is a leather-bound notebook: his journal, and notes, and amazing sketches in colored ink for the monsters and fawns, faeiries and Fascist officers that populate his surreal saga. (He has a notebook for each of his films – one day, he says, he might publish them – although the personal stuff (“Monday I do my laundry”) would have to be deleted.) Just here from Venice, where he served on one of that fest's juries, del Toro is in serious pre-production on “Hellboy 2.”
Back into the dark: “Thicker Than Water,” from Iceland, about a couple expecting their second child who are thrown into a domestic maelstrom of doubt and betrayal when the husband discovers that his first son, now a frail preteen, is not his biological progeny. It’s “The Last Kiss,” sort of (Himar Jonsson even looks like Tom Wilkinson), except a generation older and it’s in Icelandic and everyone’s drinking a lot and living in Ikea showrooms. Message of the movie (and “The Last Kiss,” and “Little Children,” and who knows how many other festival entries: Marriage – It’s Rough.)
Next: “The Killer Within,” a documentary about Robert Bechtel, a successful academic (in environmental psychology)who, 50 years after the deed, comes clean to his grown daughters, his family, friends, his students and faculty coworkers: In 1955, as a student at Swarthmore, he murdered a dorm mate. Found innocent by reason of insanity and sent to a state mental hospital for only four years, Bechtel went on to have a distinguished career, and a loving family – now confronted with this shocker from the past. Produced by Discovery Channel, Macky Alston’s pic is disturbing on all sorts of levels: why’d Bechtel do it? Where’s the remorse? Can people really change? What about the victim’s family, and his cruelly aborted life? Is Bechtel the father of Columbine? And why did he, his wife, and their two girls agree to go through this psychic torment for the camera? Am interviewing the daughters, Amanda and Carrah, and Alston, tomorrow.
“Black Sheep” is an early-Peter Jackson-ish genre romp from New Zealand about a flock of genetically mutated sheep gone wild: Zombie sheep who go for the jugular and turn their human victims into, yes, zombie sheep. Shot in the glorious Land of the Long White Cloud (the Maori name for Kiwiland), also known as Middle Earth, it’s a cautionary tale of bioengineering with a Cain and Abel overlay -- well, actually, it’s just silly, fake-blood-and-oozing-offal stuff, with a few funny, gross gags and a good kicker. (A sheepdog sequel?)
“Mon Meilleur Ami” ("My Best Friend") finds the great, prolific veteran French director Patrice Leconte (“Monsieur Hire,” “Girl On a Bridge,” “Man On a Train”) in humorous mode, with Daniel Auteuil likewise shedding his grave “Cache” vibe to play an all-work-and-no-play Paris antiquities dealer who realizes he has no friends. He goes about finding one, thanks to the help of a sociable, sincere and smiling cabbie (Dany Boon). It’s light, maybe too light, but gets better, and slightly stranger, as it moves along, ending with a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” game show sequence. Maybe it's a cultural thing, but the premise seems sabotaged somewhat by the fact that Auteuil’s character is surrounded by people who care about him (a daughter, a lover, his beautiful lesbian business partner), even if – and as -- he doesn’t seem to care about them.
There’s a late screening of “Renaissance,” the animated French futuro noir (English-language version, with Daniel Craig in the lead voice). It’s a graphic novel-come-alive, and a dazzling vision of a “Blade Runner”-esque Paris in the later 21st century.
Bonne nuit.


Anonymous John Brumfield said...

Hi Steven,
Re that Icelandic movie, Thicker Than Water, does it also star that fabulous Margaret Vilhjamsdottir who starred in 2001's The Seagull's Laughter? Don't know how many gorgeous and talented movie stars a country of 300,000 people can produce but it can't be that many, can it?
Your colleague from the 2nd floor

8:21 AM  
Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Hello Mr. Rea ... I enjoy reading your movie reviews, so I'm glad you're posting dispatches from the TIFF ... I'm really looking forward to Pan's Labyrinth .. It seems like just the kind of mix of reality and fantasy that i really dig

2:41 PM  

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