Global Swarming

Precocious kids and old joys at 35th annual showcase of up-and-coming directors

 The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros
(March 22, 23, and 25)

An incongruous vision of lipsticked, hip-swiveling fabulousness, 12-year-old Maximo (Nathan Lopez) flounces through his Manila shantytown, a beacon of beatific flamboyance in the gritty (but mostly tolerant) 'hood as well as a doting mother hen to his petty-criminal father and brothers. All is improbably well, until Maxi's undisguised attraction to a strapping policeman sparks tensions at home. Even more so than Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin, Auraeus Solito's feature debut confronts the taboo of pre-teen sexuality with extraordinary openness. No less than its precocious protagonist, the film is alarming, endearing, and utterly unflappable. A Film Movement release. DENNIS LIM

Beatific flamboyance: Maximo Oliveros
photo: Film Society of Lincoln Center
Beatific flamboyance: Maximo Oliveros


New Directors/New Films
March 22 through April 2
Film Society of Lincoln Center and Museum of Modern Art

  • Close-Up
    Dennis Lim reviews Man Push Cart

  • Close-Up
    Dennis Lim reviews Half Nelson
  • October 17, 1961
    (March 23 and 24)

    Made for French TV, Alain Tasma's tense and engrossing docudrama re-creates the political terror—both police and revolutionary —of the Algerian War as it played out in France. A veteran assistant director, Tasma orchestrates his large cast through the buildup to a long-suppressed political scandal, the police massacre of a peaceful group of Algerian demonstrators (also referenced in Caché). Modeling his movie on The Battle of Algiers, Tasma plunges to the vortex of a dozen intersecting lives. For those unfamiliar with this history (and who of us isn't), the movie is strong stuff. J. HOBERMAN

    Look Both Ways
    (March 23 and 26)

    The two romantically entwined depressives in Australian animator Sarah Watt's feature debut see death everywhere, and in the film's primary stylistic innovation, so do we: Both are arty types, and their morbid fantasies are visualized accordingly. An illustrator returning from her father's funeral, Meryl (Justine Clarke) imagines grisly fates in animated watercolors. A photographer reeling from a cancer diagnosis, Nick (William McInnes) pictures metastasizing cells in quick-fire montages. The film's determined reticence, though refreshing, often slips into preciousness, and Watt undermines the potently awkward mood with relentless sub–Aimee Mann balladry and unsubtle bids for Magnolia-style cosmic misery. A Kino release, opens April 14. LIM

    (March 24 and 25)

    Tati-influenced and tainted with the punk-expressionist parody vision of flat, robotic, pastel domestic suburbia, this deadpan, almost dialogue-free Belgian comedy chronicles an overlooked mom who gets locked in her ice cream shop freezer for a night, and then falls completely off her family's radar afterward, in search of things frosty. Written and directed by its three stars (Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, and Bruno Romy), the movie makes the most of their extraordinarily long circus-performer limbs and abject homeliness (they're all Oyls), but having every composition conceived as a dry joke is, soon enough, a wearisome strategy with a patronizing tone. Being tame and far from reliable, the campy comic rhythms do not rescue the day. MICHAEL ATKINSON

    (March 24 and 25)

    In the largely Hispanic, rapidly gentrifying Echo Park neighborhood of L.A., Magdalena (Emily Rios) is gearing up for her 15th- birthday party (the ceremony named in the film's title) but discovers she's pregnant, though she insists her virginity is intact; meanwhile, her troublemaking cousin Carlos (Jesse Garcia) becomes a lust object for a gay couple and their rather predatory friends. Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland's movie means well, but its affected reverence for community standards mutates into bipolar condescension (the Latino leads are literal saints, the whiteys either dumb or mean) and a weirdly puritan voyeurism, especially when it comes to its Madonna figure. A Sony Classics release, opens in August. JESSICA WINTER

    (March 24 and 26)

    Made for little more than the cost of two plane tickets to Manila, this brilliantly resourceful debut by Filipino American duo Neill Dela Llana and Ian Gamazon uses a real-time ransom countdown to orchestrate a stricken tour through the slum-ridden titular town. (The location DV camerawork is sensational.) Traveling home from San Diego for his father's funeral, Adam (Gamazon), a lapsed Muslim, promptly finds himself a pawn in a terrorist plot, taking instructions via cell phone from an unseen Abu Sayyaf operative who has kidnapped his mother and sister. This impressively tense and sweaty little thriller is a guerrilla descendant of Larry Cohen's beat-the-clock contraptions (Cellular, Phone Booth). Fueled by the visceral alienation of the returning expat, it's also some kind of landmark in diaspora cinema. A Truly Indie release. LIM

    (March 25 and 26)

    So bad boy Carlos Reygadas has a partner in crime. An assistant director on Reygadas's cannily outrageous Battle in Heaven, Amat Escalante has produced a kindred ritual in neorealist sexual performance. A devotedly domestic working-class couple, played by a pair of stoic nonactors and most often seen at home, push each other into the maw of a bloody crime. If Sangre's uninflected stylization (presenting the action head-on in long static takes) seems more suggestive of early-'70s Fassbinder, there's a ceremonial quality to Escalante's filmmaking, as in Reygadas's, that heralds the invention of a really new Mexican cinema. HOBERMAN

    A Soap
    (March 25 and 27)

    In a run-down apartment building, the unstable bitch from hell meets the self-loathing transsexual prostitute. They meet, clash, bond, make curtains, perform symmetrical rescue missions, and, true to the movie's self-referential approach, watch soap operas, while Bitch negotiates with her pathetic ex and Self-Loather juggles family strife and various clients. The tipsy camerawork and arch narration ("Why is it so hard for her to find happiness?") soon grate, and despite its up-front title, this glib Danish entry is a sheepish drama queen—it's not a soap so much as "a soap." WINTER

    Next Page »

    Now Showing

    Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

    Box Office Report

    Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!