Global Swarming

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

Twelve and Holding
(March 31, April 1 and 2)

Michael Cuesta's follow-up to the glib L.I.E. is likewise a poisoned valentine to suburban adolescence, focusing on a trio of 12-year-olds from floridly dysfunctional families. Sullen Jacob plots revenge for the accidental death of his twin brother; lonely Malee develops an age-inappropriate crush on a construction worker; and fat Leonard, to the disapproval of his fat family, is compelled to slim down when he loses his sense of taste. The film's tonal shifts are alternately ambitious and irrational, and the terrific child actors lend some credence to a self-canceling mode that might be called humane Todd Solondz. An IFC release, opens in May. 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
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  • Close-Up
    Dennis Lim reviews Half Nelson

  • 13 Tzameti
    (March 31, April 1 and 2)

    Part of an impoverished Georgian family in France, 20-year-old Sébastien (George Babluani) gets a job doing roof repair for an aged drug addict; the guy kicks the bucket before he pays up, but Sébastien has gotten wind of what sounds like a hugely profitable arrangement, so he appropriates his employer's train ticket and Paris hotel room and just follows instructions, with horrific results. With shades of The Passenger, Hostel, and Seven, Géla Babluani's assured and terrifically tense black-and-white debut is an unnerving noir on the sin of covetousness, even if the last act loses steam. A Palm release, opens in August. WINTER

    Things That Hang From Trees
    (March 31 and April 1)

    A pint-sized Southern Goth indie set in late-'60s Florida, twentysomething Ido Mizrahy's debut movie doesn't pick and choose its clichés, but scoops them up by the payloader: a philosophical drunk, an abusive white-trash father, wayward kids (the hero is a bullied asthmatic), a caricatured old-school Christian (Daniel von Bargen as a barber so impacted he can't masturbate for throwing up), a diner-as-community-hub, and Deborah Kara Unger as a haughty, vampy, doped-up single mom. Mizrahy, adapting a novella, imbues everything with an adolescent sense of portent, and so it all proceeds as if it's underwater. ATKINSON

    My Country, My Country
    (April 1 and 2)

    Laura Poitras, an experienced progressive doc-maker, makes the definitive nonfiction film about the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and as a counterpoint to acres of the usual cor porate-spun, power-tweaked non-news, it is indispensable, heartbreaking, and fe rociously wise. Time and again, Poitras manages to be where platoons of U.S. telejournalists were afraid to go, as she follows a Sunni activist-doctor around the Triangle in the year leading up to the 2005 elections, even accompanying him to the fences around Abu Ghraib: "We're an occupied country with a puppet government," Dr. Riyadh says to the pleading prisoners. "What do you expect?" Never intruding on her own movie, Poitras rides with the Kurds, records U.S. military briefings, listens to security contractors try to make sense out of chaos, sits in Sunni living rooms as shells fall in the street—it's a month's worth of visual experience packed into 90 minutes, and the most valuable piece of film to emerge about the war in all of its three years. ATKINSON

    Wild Tigers I Have Known
    (April 1 and 2)

    The stifling, cloying tale of an adolescent boy's sexual coming-of-age, Cam Archer's nominally experimental debut doodle plays like a lobotomized Tarnation (or like an improbably straight-faced The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things). The erotic provocations are sometimes vapid, sometimes precious, and almost always unbelievable.A mannered attempt to capture the absurdity of hormonal pubescence, the film does achieve one dubious distinction: It often feels like it could have been made by a 13-year-old. LIM

    Toi et Moi
    (April 1 and 2)

    Julie Lopes-Curval, she of 2003's Seaside, coasts on her demographic a bit with this fluffy ditz-fest: Two Parisian sisters, Ariane and Lena (Julie Depardieu and Marion Cotillard), struggle with unsatisfying long-term relationships as other options and dalliances emerge, all of it interpolated with candy-hued digital tableaux out of the soapy "photonovels" Ariane writes. Lopes-Curval is alive to her actresses' energies, but the mess of romantic fumbles and misconnections is unoriginal and sitcomy, edging dangerously close to being a My Big Fat French Infidelity. ATKINSON

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