Kiss Me Deadly

Shot on digital video, Chuck & Buck has an engagingly slapdash quality—there's some occasional scan-line wiggle and the lighting is uneven. Surprisingly, though, the filmmakers know where to take this nightmare. Chuck & Buck compounds White's psychodrama as Buck writes his own autobiographical play, Hank and Frank, which he manages to get staged (once) at a community theater rented for the occasion. "It's like a homoerotic misogynistic love story," the practical house manager Buck's hired to direct tells him—not unkindly. Lupe Ontiveros's down-to-earth, smoky-voiced performance adds another dimension of humor, especially since the playwright doesn't know what she means. The proceedings begin to darken as Buck gets involved with his actors—one of them 10 years old, the other an adult with a mental age of perhaps even less.

Chuck & Buck has the same sense of mounting hysteria as Arteta's Star Maps, although the narrative is better held in check. The deadpan attitude, if not the filmmaking, has some resemblance to Rushmore and Happiness. (The main theme is a perky pop madrigal with an idiotic refrain: "Ooodly ooodly ooodly—fun fun fun!") A knowing little movie about the end of innocence and its dogged persistence, Chuck & Buck has one joke but the riff is sustained.


portrait of the artist as a young man: Zidi and Giraudeau in Water Drops on Burning Rocks
photo: Zeitgeist Films
portrait of the artist as a young man: Zidi and Giraudeau in Water Drops on Burning Rocks

Details

Water Drops on Burning Rocks
Written and directed by Franois Ozon
from the play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
A Zeitgeist release
Film Forum Through July 25
Opens July 7

Chuck & Buck
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Written by Mike White
An Artisan release
Opens July 14

The Wisdom of Crocodiles
Directed by Po Chih Leong
Written by Paul Hoffman
Angelika
Opens July 14

The week's worst love is that purveyed by silky bloodsucker Jude Law in the British vampire-cum-serial killer thriller The Wisdom of Crocodiles. His name a string of consonants, Law's character calls himself a species of one. The normal Dracula regulations no longer apply. Law ventures boldly by day and fondles a crucifix. He's an artist who can draw simultaneously with both hands, cloud men's minds, and find pretty victims virtually at will.

As directed by the veteran Hong Kong all-rounder Po Chih Leong on a more modest scale than his historical epics, The Wisdom of Crocodiles is inoffensively glib and innocuously arty. It's set in a posh chrome-and-glass London where the cops interrogate suspects in what looks like the Tate, the street gangs come regulation multiculti, and everyone has a good haircut—even Timothy Spall, as the Catholic police inspector with whom Law enjoys toying. Spall can't hope to compete, although Law does meet his match in Nadja star Elina Lowensöhn, a structural engineer with a ready store of Chinese proverbs and the capacity to perform instant surgery with a pocketknife.

Lowensöhn's brooding, delicately sculpted features—her lips aren't curvy so much as italicized—give her one of the most eloquent faces in the movies. Her mysterious Central European accent insures that, so long as there are vampire flicks, she'll never lack roles. (If Hammer Studios still existed she'd be the new Barbara Steele.) The cast also includes an actor named Hitler Wong. The story behind that moniker might be weirder than the movie.

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