Shadows Film FestArthouse films ’06
Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
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last update 9.Aug.06
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Dirty Sanchez: The Movie   3/5
These four British guys (three from Wales, one from London) make the Jackass crew look like wimps. And their film is much more inventive and witty, with a loose story to take us through the guys' insane antics.

In a prologue, Pritchard, Dainton, Pancho and Joycey are sent to hell for their stupidity. The devil (Marks) tells them they can have another crack at life if they commit all seven deadly sins. So off they go around the world: sloth in Britain (torturing the sleeping Pancho with shaving, paint and nostril supergluing), anger in Moscow (Pritchard's fake world record for taking paintball hits), lust in Bangkok (guessing which lap-dancers are actually boys), envy in Ko Phi Phi (gambling to live either the high life or with rats and roaches), pride in Tokyo (taking on the local Shock Boys to out-shock each other), gluttony in Mexico (eating desert creatures with survivalist Hawke) and greed in the Dominican Republic (how far will they go for cash?).

Each stunt is mind-bogglingly vile, putting us in a constant state of hysterical laughter mixed with the urge to shout "No!" and turn from the screen. These guys have no qualms about inflicting pain or embarrassment on themselves or each other, and absolutely anything goes. Including permanent disfiguration (and not just the two indescribable tattoos Pritchard gets on screen).

It's only watchable because of the way it's assembled. The loose narrative structure gives the mayhem a framework, and even a few themes that actually touch on meaning, if you're looking. We get a chance to know all four of these guys as distinct characters during the film. They may not go on any lesson-learning journeys, but we do see them arrive home and show their wives and girlfriends what they've done to each other.

If I started to list everything they get up to, I'm sure some readers would never believe me. Several sequences are unforgettable, such as Pancho's anaesthetic-free liposuction operation (and the jar of fat makes a ghastly reappearance) and gruesome antics with cigar cutters, staplers and BB-guns. Not to mention the drumstick duel that invokes the film's title. You have been warned.

dir Jim Hickey
with Matthew Pritchard, Lee Dainton, Mike Pancho Locke, Dan Joyce, Howard Marks, Myke Hawke Pierce, Jim Hickey, Alfred Ruiz Vazquez, Takehisto Ohshima, Yuji Kobayaski, Toshikza Matisumoto, Michihihiko Sato
dainton, pritchard, pancho and joycey release UK 22.Sep.06
06/UK Pathe 1h40 pritchard impresses the shock boys
18 strong language, violence, nudity
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Frozen Land   4/5   Paha Maa
Based on Tolstoy's story False Coupon, this multi-strand drama emerges as a powerful Finnish variation on Crash, as a group of seemingly unconnected people struggle with life's grim realities and unexpected encounters.

The story opens as a beloved schoolteacher (Smolander) is made redundant, sparking resentment that drives his teen son Niko (Pääkkönen) out to party with his friends Toumas and Elina (Leppilampi and Tola), who are plotting something. In his stoned stupor, Niko uses a computer to print a fake €500 note, which ends up in the hands of a low-level crook (Kuoki), who meets a door-to-door salesman (Peltola) at the end of his rope. Frazzled female cop Hannele (Kuusniemi) gets on the case, and her husband Antti (Summanen) must bear the brunt of her decisions.

As the film moves from person to person, it feels like an especially emotional version of Slacker. The authentic, palpable issues really grab us. Even though life is harsh and seemingly aimless, these people cling to some sort of hope--positive or negative. They're not completely in touch with their urges or motivations, but know that if they stop moving forward their life will lose all sense of meaning. Especially in a society that doesn't care whether they live or die.

It's very strong stuff, but director-cowriter Louhimies lightens the heavy themes with generous doses of clever irony and sharp black comedy. The scenes are brilliantly interconnected, and at one point the narrative flow swirls around in time and then rejoins itself from another perspective. It also helps that there are so many characters--complex but not very detailed. If we actually spent more much time with one of them, we might be as suicidal as they are.

Louhimies keeps the quality extremely high, with beautiful camera work, inventive editing and especially raw performances. Summanen is the stand-out, in the most emotional yet dangerously churning role, while Pääkkönen has the most intriguing transformation. These characters deal with some harrowing experiences, but it's gripping to see their stunned faces give way to tenacity. Not particularly cheery, but strangely hopeful.

dir Aku Louhimies
scr Paavo Westerberg, Jari Rantala, Aku Louhimies
with Jasper Pääkkönen, Mikko Leppilampi, Petteri Summanen, Matleena Kuusniemi, Pamela Tola, Mikko Kouki, Sulevi Peltola, Pertti Sveholm, Samuli Edelmann, Saara Pakkasvirta, Pekka Valkeejärvi, Susanna Anteroinen
Leppilampi and Tola
release Fin 14.Jan.05,
US 1.Mar.06,
UK 13.Oct.06
05/Finland 2h07
18 themes, language, sexuality, violence, drugs
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Requiem   4/5
This is a more honest account of the true story that inspired The Exorcism of Emily Rose. This time, it's set in its native Germany and told without any effects as an intensely personal drama rather than as manipulative horror.

Michaela (Hüller) is 21 and finally feels in control of her epilepsy enough to venture out to university. Her deeply religious parents are split, with dad (Klaussner) supporting her and mum (Kogge) much more sceptical. But off she goes, reuniting with a friend from home (Blomeier) and discovering her very first boyfriend (Reinke). Then the attacks begin, but they don't feel epileptic as they involve demonic visions and voices that prevent Michaela from praying. Two priests (Harzer and Schmidinger) disagree about what to do next: psychiatry or exorcism.

Director Schmid and writer Lange both avoid all the expectations of the genre to present a realistic drama about a family struggling with issues far beyond their comprehension. Hüller's performance is so raw and natural that we easily identify with her yearning for independence and her fear that things are going completely wrong. And the cast around her maintain the same kind of authenticity, as people who cope with the situation in individualistic, complex ways.

The filmmakers are careful to find a balance as they tell the story, catching small moments of affection, humour and joy. Michaela's first kiss is, quite literally, breathtaking. As are her encounters with the demons that haunt her. The question of whether faith or science holds the answer is never trivialised--there are no easy answers, and no attempts to either heighten or water down the story for any effect.

This straightforward approach may limit the film's appeal--it does feel muted and gloomy, shot like a 1970s movie (it happened in 1976) that's both minimalist and gritty. There are sections that drag or seem to go in circles. But the whole religion-medicine argument is cleverly woven into the narrative (not set in a courtroom as in the other film). And the story progresses in a natural, unforced style that's increasingly creepy and ultimately emotionally shattering.

dir Hans-Christian Schmid
scr Bernd Lange
with Sandra Hüller, Burghart Klaussner, Imogen Kogge, Anna Blomeier, Nicholas Reinke, Jens Harzer, Walter Schmidinger, Friederike Adolph, Irene Kugler, Johann Adam Oest, Eva Loebau
huller release Ger 2.Mar.06,
US 20.Oct.06,
UK 17.Nov.06
06/Germany 1h33

Best actress/Fipresci prize:

London Film Fest
12 strong themes, language
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Romanzo Criminale   3.5/5   aka: Crime Novel
Based on a true story, this is an epic tale of three childhood friends who ran Rome's crime scene in the 1970s and '80s. It's a long, detailed film that's gripping, overcrowded and extremely hard-hitting.

As teens, three men adopted cool-sounding names for their life of crime: Ice (Stuart) is the soulful one, Lebanese (Favino) loves the high life, and Dandy (Santamaria) uses charm to get what he wants. They ruthlessly take on Rome's leading mob and are soon running the city's drugs and prostitution rings. The brothel madam is Dandy's ex-hooker girlfriend (Mouglalis), while Ice opts for a teacher (Trinca) outside the crime world. But a tenacious cop (Accorsi) is determined to bring them down. If they don't kill each other first.

This is a sprawling chronicle of two decades in the life of these three men and all the people around them. Little effort has been made to clarify the story for filmgoers, so the bewildering number of characters on screen, who we're clearly meant to keep straight, often leaves us utterly lost. But the central story is compelling and strong, and even if we feel all two and a half hours, it's never dull.

The narrative rushes by in a flurry of drama, sex and violence that really captures the feel of the times, interspersed with real news footage and cool period tunes. The focal trio are terrific actors with complex and well-defined characters travelling a journey that has an inevitable conclusion. Stuart is the stand-out, while Accorsi is superb as a guy who doesn't let work take over his life.

This is dark, edgy, loud filmmaking; it's also style over substance, as it only barely gets under the skin. Everyone's overflowing with testosterone, bent on extracting grisly revenge for any betrayal, large or small. This cycle of death is seriously intense, and yet we long for someone to break free and do the right thing just once. As the elegiac final sequence begins, we still haven't given up hope. Even though we've seen these stories before.

dir Michele Placido
scr Stefano Rulli, Sandro Petraglia, Giancarlo De Cataldo
with Kim Rossi Stuart, Pierfrancesco Favino, Claudio Santamaria, Anna Mouglalis, Stefano Accorsi, Jasmine Trinca, Riccardo Scamarcio, Luigi Angelillo, Roberto Brunetti, Antonello Fassari, Toni Bertorelli, Giorgio Careccia
stuart, santamaria and favino release It 30,Sep,05,
UK 3.Nov.06
05/Italy Warner 2h32
London Film Fest
15 themes, strong violence, language, sexuality
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall