Collision Courses

The spectacle of British paras firing point-blank into a running, crawling, cowering crowd—executing one wounded man at close range and putting a bullet in the brain of another who's frantically waving a white handkerchief as he attempts to rescue a comrade—is as visceral in its way as any such staged atrocity since the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin. Bloody Sundaydoesn't surrender its grip on the viewer even after the action shifts from the streets of Bogside to a local hospital where the weeping masses are still under the guns of the war-painted British soldiers.

Bloody Sunday, which was attacked as "viciously anti-British" by one Conservative MP when it was televised last winter, compounds its shock value by showing the Brits planting evidence and then leaving us to ponder the decorations that the officers responsible subsequently received from Her Majesty the Queen.


Being Adam Sandler: with Emily Watson in Punch-Drunk Love
photo: Columbia Pictures
Being Adam Sandler: with Emily Watson in Punch-Drunk Love

Details

Punch-Drunk Love
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Columbia
At the New York Film Festival, October 5
Opens October 11

Bloody Sunday
Written and directed by Paul Greengrass, from the book by Don Mullan
Paramount Classics
At the New York Film Festival, October 2 and 3
Opens October 4

Heaven
Directed by Tom Tykwer
Written by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Pieslewicz
Miramax
Opens October 4

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An art film without the NYFF imprimatur, Heaven is a peculiar amalgam—a Miramax package (without the hype), directed by German hotshot Tom Tykwer under the eye of Anthony Minghella, from a script with which the late Krzysztof Kieslowski had planned to inaugurate a new trilogy named for the Divine Comedy.

Kieslowski set Dante to music in The Double Life of Véroniqueto enigmatic effect, and this resurrection initially appears to be just as wacky a conceit. Pale and resolute, the estimable Cate Blanchett plays a widowed Englishwoman in Turin—an "innocent" terrorist whose plan to eliminate a local drug lord goes terribly awry. Immediately captured by the Italian police, she initially appears to be totally nuts, although the young carabiniere (Giovanni Ribisi) who translates for her is transfixed—and not just because she turns out to be his kid brother's English teacher.

Conjuring a series of alternate futures, Tykwer's calling-card success Run Lola Run was something of a power-pop analogue to Kieslowski's more staid Blind Chance. But here Tykwer's treatment seems to slow Kieslowski down; Heaven doesn't have the pulverized feel (or the crazy mysticism) of the Polish director's final movies. A cooler version of Lola's frenetic video aesthetic is implicit in the enigmatic opening sequence, which derives its images from an airplane flight simulator. Tykwer's streamlined compositions tend toward the static and balanced. Although not necessarily a fatalist, he fastidiously evokes the horror of "blind chance." This is exemplified by the superbly choreographed shot of Blanchett walking away from the office building where she has just planted a bomb; in the background, an exterior elevator can be glimpsed carrying her unknown victims to their fate.

How literal is the title? The detached patterns produced by the frequent overhead lateral pans suggest a divine perspective, and Tykwer is disinclined to judge his characters. Blanchett grows increasingly ethereal, while Ribisi never loses the open expression of a wise fool. The would-be avenging angel and her smitten guardian angel escape their earthly bounds to travel by train through Tuscany, across an empty, timeless, "virtual" landscape. Even before the Bonnie and Clyde finale, the movie has intimations of an afterlife.


Related story:
"Troubles Every Day: The Filming of Paul Greengrass's Bloody Sunday" by Jessica Winter

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