Global Swarming

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

Eleven Men Out
(March 26 and 29)

After a pleasingly no-nonsense opening—a Beckham-esque stud from a top Icelandic soccer team casually announces he's gay during a locker-room interview—this low-key comedy settles into an obvious, if curiously unenthused, routine of underdog affirmation. Director Róbert I. Douglas himself seems a little fed up with the exigencies of the coming-out odyssey and the redemptive sports fable—the jokes and clichés are sheepishly muffled, which doesn't make them any fresher. By the time the movie culminates in a Big Match on Gay Pride Day, its glum Scandinavian deadpan seems more like ill-concealed boredom. 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

  • Calls waiting: Toll-Free
    Film Society of Lincoln Center

    John & Jane Toll-Free
    (March 27 and 30)

    Globalization gets a human face and outsourcing a spiritual dimension in Ashim Ahluwalia's semi-staged, sometimes jaw-dropping HBO documentary about life under the harsh fluorescent lights of an Indian call center. John & Jane Toll-Free is a hybrid film in a hybrid world. Spending their nights fielding calls from frantic Americans, the operators indulge their own fantasies about America, take American names along with their virtual identities, and even convert to Christianity: "It was kind of an American feeling that I started having." See this haunting little movie and you'll have to wonder exactly what that is. HOBERMAN

    In Bed
    (March 27 and 28)

    Two Chilean hotties hook up for a long night of talking and fucking in an overdesigned motel room. Having just met (and proceeded right to the shtupping without retaining each other's names), the fetching couple (Blanca Lewin and Gonzalo Valenzuela) post-coitally reveal and rewrite personal histories, debate pop culture and the existence of God, and puncture the inevitable monotony with back rubs, headstands, and pillow fights. Director Matías Bize likewise strives to jazz up this airless two-hander—jumpy camerawork, mismatched cuts, pointless split screen—but the gimmicks are tiresome, the dramatic reversals predictable, and the stakes negligible. LIM

    Old Joy
    (March 27 and 29)

    A dozen years ago, Kelly Reichardt made a wonderfully desultory, nearly avant-garde riff on the last romantic couple. If her River of Grass was a comic, slacker Bonnie and Clyde, the more elegiac Old Joy is a diminished, grunge Easy Rider. An aging Oregon hippie, one step from sleeping on the pavement, persuades his cautiously domesticated buddy, soon to be a father, to come out and play. The two spend a night in the woods and . . . nothing happens. Or maybe everything: Reichardt's evocatively low-key sense of nature seems closer to classic Japanese than current Amerindie cinema. Will Oldham is brilliantly annoying as the cow-eyed free spirit, provocatively named Kurt. HOBERMAN

    Iron Island
    (March 28 and 30)

    A Kino release. Opens March 31, reviewed next issue.

    Pavee Lackeen
    (March 29 and 31)

    Photographer Perry Ogden's debut film isn't a documentary, but his slyly nonfictional eye makes it feel like one. Moreover, also in the Iranian New Wave tradition, Ogden has a genuine Irish traveler family play themselves amid the family's battle with trailer evictions and the eldest daughter's fierce attempts to overcome her status and participate in the world as a functioning teenager. As herself, Winnie Maughan is iconic and natural, but opaque; Ogden's more immediate achievement is the chilling portrait of modern Euro poverty, down to pre-adolescent huffing, on the last rung of what has become one of the richest countries in the E.U. The slurry brogues are necessarily subtitled. ATKINSON

    First on the Moon
    (March 29 and April 1)

    The fake film object has become something of a Russian specialty—a means of evoking Communism's lost world (and its synthesized past). First-time director Alexei Fedorchenko combines artfully distressed "documentary" footage and actual Stalin-era propaganda to tell the tale of the lost 1938 space flight that a Soviet cosmopilot and his comrades took to the moon. Too eccentric and wistful to merit the mockumentary label, First on the Moon reaches an early peak of factoid delirium with an invented NKVD "instructional" film on use of a spy camera. HOBERMAN

    (March 30 and April 2)

    According to Fausto Paravidino's debut film, there are areas in the Italian Alpine foothills that are Bush State–obsessed, down to the western saloons, U.S.-pop-loaded jukeboxes, and blackout drinking. The invasive Americanisms amount to little in this attempt at a despairing, self-destructive my-gen tapestry, beginning/climaxing with a rape and a shooting, and retracing the steps of three buddies as they hunt for pussy, booze till they fall down, and in one case, get tangled up with a hot married teacher (Valeria Golino). Hot to trot, Paravidino (who also stars) serial-steals the glibbest syntax from Tarantino, Boyle, González Iñárritu, Meirelles, Wes Anderson, et al., but the stereotypes and contrivances slow it to a crawl. ATKINSON

    Into Great Silence
    (March 30 and April 2)

    A portrait of the secluded Grand Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps, where monks of the Carthusian order have lived a silent, austere existence for centuries, Philip Gröning almost wordless, barely structured, nearly three-hour documentary itself aspires to be an object of contemplation. Filled with lushly grainy, time-killing shots (of candles, snow, dozing monks), blanketed in a great echoey hush (interrupted by the odd Gregorian chant), the film means to strong-arm viewers into a state of awed reverence. Already a prizewinner at Sundance and a surprise hit in Europe, and no wonder—it's the visual equivalent of a New Age meditation CD. LIM

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