Film

Film

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BETWEEN GENIUS AND UTTER ILLITERACY: THE BEST OF ESTONIAN ANIMATION

November 13 through 16, Two Boots Pioneer Theater

Estonian animation? Buckle up: Cartoonists from this ex-Soviet outland are new film-fest hot tickets, and the films cha-cha between fairy squalor and oversexed Kafka-ness (if not genius and illiteracy). A suite of pre-independence landmarks (including Rein Raamat’s epic Hell) is followed by new films by, among others, Priit Pärn, the industry’s veteran enfant terrible (his influence is visible in Rugrats and Real Monsters). Pärn’s Karl and Marilyn (2003) is a fanged indictment of fame culture etched out with Groszian nerve, featuring a scabrous Pärn film-within-a-film. Kasper Jancis’s Peeping Tom noir Weitzenberg Street (2002) is even more sexist and absurd, but both are outweighed by the clay-and-puppet works, including Rao Heidmets’s wacky creation myth Instinct (2003), Priit Tender’s Chilean-legend-as-anti-capitalist-protest Fox Woman (2002), and Mati Kütt’s stupefying cosmological parable Button’s Odyssey (2002), a twilit experience of junk and mood that rivals the Quays. MICHAEL ATKINSON


ANYTHING BUT LOVE

Written by Isabel Rose and Robert Cary

Samuel Goldwyn, opens November 14, Angelika

If this is such a cheesy, derivative movie, why did I watch it twice with such delight? Possibly because at its center it’s profoundly authentic, and because the star turn by Andrew McCarthy, a moody, mercurial characterization, saves it from fairy-tale bathos. Billie (played by co-writer Isabel Rose) wants only to be a ’40s-style chanteuse and supplements her waitressing income by singing at an airport motel. An accompanist (McCarthy) sabotages her important audition, but keeps turning up at key moments, and ultimately derails her wedding to Mr. Wrong (Cameron Bancroft as a “sellout” lawyer). Eartha Kitt as herself is a sort of deus ex cabaret, uttering the magic words that let Billie live her Technicolor dreams. ELIZABETH ZIMMER


N.I.C.E. FILM FESTIVAL

November 14 through 20, Quad

If the seven films in this festival of new Italian indie cinema fail to yield any breakthrough talent, they at least showcase a collective eagerness to cannon-ball into the swirling anxieties of contemporary life. Among the more honorable failures is Luca Vendruscolo’s Raining Cows, a Cuckoo’s Nest-lite about a conscientious objector (Alessandro Tiberi) who is assigned to orderly duty at a handicap hospital. Enduring torrents of fecal matter, our callow hero undergoes a shameless spiritual transformation, while also learning the finer techniques of catheter insertion. More aggressively artsy, Luca D’Ascanio’s The Friend is memorable only for its attempt to one-up Mike Figgis in the DV-solipsism department. Its story about an Angolan filmmaker who overstays his visit at his friend’s apartment might have been a wicked parable about globalism’s minor inconveniences, but any insight gets lost in the clumsy film-within-a-film structure. By far the strongest entry, The Island evokes the dream life of a brother and sister growing up in a tiny fishing village. Photographed in gothic earth tones, Costanza Quatriglio’s debut feature plays like a memory retrieved through arduous sense therapy—its perception of time and characters superseded by the briny bite of the Mediterranean wind. DAVID NG


MANGO YELLOW

Directed by Claudio Assis

November 13 through 19, MOMA Gramercy

A shallow Brazilian trifle, Claudio Assis’s feature debut lands squarely in a sweaty corner of Recife for a day and dallies with a community of babbling caricatures: a mincing hotel-cook queen, an embittered barmaid (who isn’t above initiating a brawl by flashing her naked crotch), a hotheaded slaughterhouse worker (watch out for the obligatory on-camera bovine takedown) who’s cheating on his evangelical wife, a necrophilic lowlife who trades pot for corpses, a quietly unhinged priest who presides over dogs at a boarded-up church. The characters’ slug-line definitions are all they get in the way of stories, and so the game cast trumpets to the back row. Assis is fond of overhead, invisible-ceiling pans—particularly if somebody’s getting dressed or showering—and he’s got a confident grip on scenes that unfurl within solid, single-shot compositions. But Mango Yellow is a glib evocation of urban malaise, flirting with situations of sexual loneliness (a delusional fat woman idly pressing an oxygen mask to her pussy is a highlight) without mustering up a single substantive notion. M.A.