Think Global, Act Local
Closing out its third decade, the annual "New Directors/New Films" series is the closest local film culture provides to the experience of rummaging through the unknown byways of a large international festival. The current edition of this Film Society of Lincoln Center-Museum of Modern Art co-pro includes selections from Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Slovenia, Turkey, and the currently hot South Korea. There's a buzz on the Rotterdam prizewinner Suzhou River (hyped as a Chinese Vertigo), the kitchen-sink magic realism of Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher, and the Mexican political satire Herod's Lawalthough the promising selection gets off to a conventional start with the tepid action comedy Adrenaline Drive and the lame romantic teaser A Pornographic Affair. Both titles are misleading, although I hear that the latter's distributor is contemplating a change. (How about Rudy Giuliani's Pornographic Affair?) J. Hoberman
A Pornographic Affair Structured as a he-said-she-said postmortem, Frédéric Fonteyne's exercise in bourgie titillation burrows into the mind-sets of two fortyish strangers who meet to act out an unspecified erotic fantasy and become no-strings fuck buddies. Nathalie Baye and Sergi Lopez bring a degree of integrity to their roles, but despite its implicit claims to sexual and psychological candor, the film is, in the end, both timid and fraudulent. For local release, Fine Line plans to rechristen it An Affair of Lovewhich makes as little sense as the original title. March 24 and 25 (Dennis Lim)
Adrenaline Drive Don't let the come-on kid you. Japanese writer-director Shinobu Yaguchi's absurdist yakuza caper is overly long, pain-fully slow, and exceedingly mild. Despite a few nasty car wrecks, the jokes have less to do with jolting velocity than unmannerly behavior. The film is due for an early May run, courtesy of the Shooting Gallery. March 24 and 25 (JH)
Hidden River Mannered, murky, and embalmed in noirish lighting, Mercedes Garcia Guevara's tall tale (her first feature) concerns a young working mother from Buenos Aires who impulsively travels hundreds of miles to a hick town where she falls in love with a brother-in-law she didn't know existed who may or may not be a murderer. Confuse it not with Emilio Fernandez's splendid Mexican melodrama of the same name. March 25 and 26 (Elliott Stein)
Idle Running The antihero of this super-low-budget Slovenian slacker comedy is a brooding, scruffy perpetual student with a leather jacket as beat-up as his car. The movie itself is scarcely less funky. Neophyte director Janez Burger studied at the Prague film school FAMU, and his obliquely farcical character study has some of the droll humanism of the '60s Czech new wave. March 25 and 26 (JH)
Suzhou River In his second feature, Chinese director Lou Ye boldly reprises Vertigo with a stylish, circuitous tale of obsessive love and a bewigged doppelgänger. The narrator is unseen, possibly unreliable, and a videographer, instantly establishing the voyeuristic mood and allowing for some playful shifts in perspective. There's a snag or two in the go-for-broke windup, but at its best, the movie invokes the keening romanticism of vintage Wong Kar-wai. Strand will release it in the fall. March 25 and 26 (DL)
Nowhere to Hide Lee Myung-Se's sixth feature was a box-office smash at home in Korea, where his distinctive sense of visual frolic is well-known. Brutal fistfights become Minnelli-esque excuses for biff!bang!pow! shadow plays, an assassination sequence is choreographed to the Bee Gees' delightfully mawkish "Holiday," and an ongoing series of epic foot pursuits transpire so breathlessly that a slo-mo swashbuckler like Chow Yun-fat would be left wheezing in the rain. March 27 and 28 (Chuck Stephens)
Voyages Empathetic yet analytical, writer-director Emmanuel Finkiel's first feature is a precisely observed and admirably worked-out three-part ensemble portrait of elderly Polish Jews, variously displaced in France or Israel and still searching for the past that was taken from them a half-century before. The tone is anything but sentimental, and the largely nonprofessional cast is remarkable. The film has been picked up by New Yorker. March 27 and 28 (JH)
Slight but compelling, Josue A. Mendez's Parelisa (with Crane World, April 3 and 4) explores the interaction between a teenage girl prostitute and a male acquaintance. Joan Stein's One Day Crossing (with Martin, April 3 and 4), set in WW II Hungary, dramatizes the attempt of a Jewish mother to save her son. Demanding most attention is Dewey Nicks's Hell House (with Idle Running), a doc on a theme park-cum-religious pageant created by a Colorado minister to put the fear of homosexuality, abortion, fornication, drugs, and Satan into Christian teens. Looking like a cross between Death in The Seventh Seal and a demented Kiss fan, he's the star of the show. Nicks's subject may believe the film supports his cause, but it's clear the reverend finds hell more thrilling than heaven. (Amy Taubin)
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