By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
Complain though we might about access to international cinema, contemporary New York filmgoing can afford an awesome opportunity to participate in a conversation with the planet. This week, it's the Dutch, thanks to an outfit called American Premieres, which has hosted Belgian and Icelandic series in prior years. By the looks of things, the Dutch industry is going great guns in its bid for global recognition: Many of the films erupt like cannon fire into flying Aronofsky-Wong-Run Lola Run visual tantrums. Dana Nechushtan's Total Loss begins with a Ballard-ly fetishized car crash (got to love the cutaway to the falling speedometer as the car becomes airborne) and then spirals back through the three male passengers' previous 24 hours of unrequited roommate ardor and psychological betrayal. Nechushtan has less of a subject than he thinks, but enough editing-room petrol to propel him to America. Cut and shot into a similarly riotous there's-no-more-coke state of anxiety, Robert Jan Westdijk's Siberiaplunges into another uneasy domestic setup: Two wily buddies make a living by bedding and then ripping off female tourists (the pilfered passport ID pages line a shrine in their apartment) until a lithe little Russian girl moves in and pulls a Yojimboon their ass. Flashy and fun (though never attaining the Blier-ness it strives for), Siberiais notable as our introduction to cat-eyed star-to-be Vlatka Simac, whose Russian-Cheshire smile is the most mysterious at work anywhere.
Perverse family arrangements are a common theme. Karim Traïdia's Golden Globe-winning Polish Bride focuses with all due sentiment upon an isolated farmer and the battered Polish girl he finds on his doorstep, while Alex von Warmerdam's Little Tonytracks the considerable comic fallout of a farmland ménage between an illiterate schlub, his obese, childless commander of a wife, and the understandably skittish woman hired to teach him reading and pressured into service as a surrogate mom. Traïdia has a disarming and confident feel for abrupt images and narrative ka-thunks, even better displayed in Les Diseurs de Vérité, the series' centerpiece feature and a dreamlike tour of Algerian journalist Said Mekbel's last days before being assassinated. Fictionalized and universalized, Traïdia's movie is very nearly Iranian in its meta-ness, and strangely disquieting in its refusal to lash itself to factsAlgeria is never even mentioned by name. The experience of oppression and paranoia for the Speakers of Truth in a nation tyrannized by the Islamic jihad is fact enough.
Factualization drives Jean van de Velde's Leakas well, although this speed-rock depiction of an actual police corruption scandal starts out in lurid old Absurdburg (with a credits sequence of flamethrower torture and murder foregrounded by a drug kingpin crooning into a karaoke mic). The film tracks a young cop's descent into an undercover tar pit that climaxes Woo-style: with an unhinged, pistols-firing thug settling business while wearing his newborn daughter in a Snugli. But the truest transporting experience here is the new appropriation by Peter Delpeut, who beats out his previous found-footage-isms Lyrical Nitrate and The Forbidden Quest with Diva Dolorosa, a rhapsodic, heartrendingly scored tone poem about fin de siècle Black Romanticism that uses only footage from doomed Italian melodramas from the teens. Anyone with a weakness for the naked tragedy of frozen cinematic time will succumb without struggle.
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