World in Motion
Heading into its 28th year, this annual Film Society of Lincoln Center Museum of Modern Art coproduction remains the most international of local film series ranging the globe from Indonesia to Cape Verde to Park City, Utah, in search of fresh talent. As only a handful of the 28 features have distribution and half of those are English-language this two-week extravaganza offers the best opportunity to sample the sleepers that have buzzed the international film festival circuit. We've seen more than half, look forward to the rest.
Judy Berlin The black-and-white cinematography is first-rate, but Eric Mendelsohn's sentimental comedy is warmed-over Woody Allen. A young director, rejected by Hollywood, takes refuge in the Long Island town where he grew up and surprises himself by finding true inspiration there. Mendelsohn labors the point that the film his alter ego is inspired to make is the film we're seeing. (Amy Taubin) March 26 And 27
Run Lola Run German hotshot Tom Twyker's tale of three alternate futures in which a Berlin punk goddess has 20 minutes to save her dummkopf boyfriend's life a sort of power-pop variation on Kieslowski's Blind Chance burst upon the Toronto Film Festival scene amid a crescendo of cell phone static. It's glibly entertaining, and the vermilion-haired heroine, a cartoon character with a glass-shattering scream, is a sort of all-purpose cinematic muse you can imagine her enlivening anything from Muybridge to Mad Max to "Metal Gear Solid." (JH) March 26 and 27
West Beirut A vivid coming-of-age story set during the Lebanese civil war, Ziad Doueiri's first feature has been a festival crowd-pleaser from Toronto to Rotterdam, and it's easy to see why. A former assistant cameraman for Quentin Tarantino, Doueiri gets strong performances from the young actors (not least his own brother, Rami Doueiri) and gives his semiautobiographical material an appealing tender-tough treatment. (Dennis Lim) March 27 and 28
Of Freaks And Men No less mordant than but otherwise a total change of pace from his previous film, the contemporary gangster flick Brother (one of the best '98 releases you never saw), Alexei Balabanov's deadpan, purposely archaic tale of porn, photography, and exploitation is set in a sepia, prerevolutionary Petersburg. The effect is ghostly and Gogolian. (JH) March 27 and 28
Victor Love triumphs over the dangers and brutality of poverty in this dark fairy tale about a lost little boy who may have murdered his father and the sexually abused woman who takes him under her wing. French filmmaker Sandrine Veysset manages to create a threatening atmosphere but her filmmaking is clumsy and formless. (AT) March 28 and 29
Passion György Fehér transposes the murderous triangle of The Postman Always Rings Twice to a dank and rainy industrial nowhere someplace in the darkness of 1930s Hungary. Bela Tarr worked on the screenplay and presumably contributed to the elemental, durational sense of narrative. Three years in the making, Passion is a "difficult" film but from the first shock of raw squalor to the final ferocious Old Testament epitaph, it's a totally uncompromised vision. (JH) March 30 and 31
Orphans Actor Peter Mullan's writing-directing debut is a performance- driven Brit drama with stronger flavors than usual, incorporating wildly irreverent humor, magic realism, and a semen gag to rival There's Something About Mary's. The night before their mother's funeral, four Glaswegian siblings (one high-strung, one disabled, one homicidal, one suicidal) embark on separate misadventures that are absurd and poignant in varying degrees. The film is all that a comedy about grief should be: messy, cathartic, and deeply humane. (DL) April 2 and 4
Following An aspiring writer spends his days following random strangers around London. The trouble starts when he becomes obsessed with one of his subjects and finds himself in a situation beyond his control. Christopher Nolan's accomplished first film is a classically tangled noir exercise, adroitly collapsed into a chronology-scrambling, paranoia-heightening structure. This ultra-low-budget British thriller beats most Amerindies at their own game. (DL) April 2 and 3
Barrio Surprises don't abound in Fernando León de Aranoa's debut feature, which is set in a depressed suburb of Madrid and follows the fates of three unhappy, impoverished, adorable kids as they drift into criminality think of it as The 1200 Blows. But León's precise, expressive sense of place prevents the film from drifting into the easy sentimentality that too often defines this excessively familiar festival genre. (Dave Kehr) April 3 and 5
Dribbling Fate The unfortunate title refers to the lifelong soccer obsession of the midlife-crisis-riven protagonist: a fiftyish Cape Verdean bartender who bemoans the sporting career that never was, and resents his wife for it. A trip to Lisbon for a much-anticipated cup final proves revelatory, but not necessarily in the expected ways. Fernando Vendrell's first film is simplistically plotted and borderline sentimental, but salvaged by gracefully understated performances. (DL) April 4 and 6
Buttoners Droll and playful, if not quite the throwback to the freewheeling exuberance of the Czech New Wave that's been advertised, Petr Zelenka's cleverly constructed narrative resembles Run Lola Run for being predicated on fate and chaos theory. It's more serious, however, for evoking the end of the Cold War and the forgiveness all around that's required. (JH) April 4 and 6
Head On As in her short film, Only the Brave, Ana Kokkinos betrays her subject every time she tries to out-macho her male filmmaking peers whether gay or straight. Kokkinos slips over the line from realism to exploitation in her brutal depiction of a young gay man who tries to escape his repressive Greek- Australian family. (AT) April 7 and 8
Lovers of the Arctic Circle Ana and Otto knew they were meant for each other even before his father set up housekeeping with her mother. The suggestion of incest fuels their passion. Director Julio Medem inscribes their tortured romance in a landscape that blends fire (Spain) and ice (Finland), but the film becomes merely decorative in the second hour. (AT) April 7 and 8
Sitcom The introduction of a white laboratory rat into a conventional French suburban family unleashes a horde of repressed desires from incest to transvestism to murder. François Ozon follows his creepy, perfectly structured short feature See the Sea with a film that's more baroque and more conventional. It's preceded by Sara Sugarman's Anthrakitis, a disturbing glimpse of old age seen through the eyes of a fearless filmmaker. (AT) April 9 and 11
Leaf on a Pillow One of three street-kid movies in the festival (see also Barrio and Trans), Garin Nugroho's film looks at the plight of homeless children in the teeming back alleys of Jogjakarta. Indonesian star Christine Hakim, who also produced, plays a maternal figure to the young scamps (all nonprofessional actors), who meet horrible fates with depressing predictability. Heartfelt as it is, the film is undermined by its schematic, heavy-handed feel. (DL) April 10 and 11
Trans Julian L. Goldenberger's depiction of a 16-year-old Florida kid with nowhere to run is The 400 Blows of the '90s. Goldenberger has an extraordinary sense of place and he gets an emotionally complicated, haunting performance from Ryan Daugherty. The score by Fat Mama and her Transworld Orchestra is brilliant. That Trans was relegated to the experimental section at Sundance is proof of how calcified that festival has become. (AT) April 10 and 11
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