By Joe Bendel. How can folks get up every day and go to work in book publishing? I ask myself that very question about five times a week. Yet despite frequent doomsday forecasts, the industry lumbers on. Perhaps e-books will be either the deliverance or the destruction of the business, but for now they are a mid-sized Schumpeterian disruption. Vivienne Roumani takes stock of what it all means in her documentary Out of Print, which screened as part of the Tribeca Talks post-screening discussion series at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
At the heart of OOP and Ben Lewis’s thematically related Google and the World Brain lies the question whether the digitization of knowledge is a democratizing or monopolistic endeavor. The jury is still out, but in the case of the big G, you really have to wonder. Roumani touches on the Google settlement, but if there is a corporate bogeyman in OOP, it is Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, at least when she talks to Authors’ Guild president Scott Turow.
Is the giant e-tailer cheapening the value of e-books through its pricing and merchandizing? Turow certainly has thoughts on the matter. As an interview subject, Turow is an intelligent and authoritative figure. For his part, Bezos seems to be trying to humanize his image, which is a shrewd long-term strategy, in marked contrast to the deafening silence from Google in Lewis’s doc. Indeed, Roumani gained entrée to a number of highly influential market leaders and thinkers, even including the late great Ray Bradbury (appearing primarily as an expert on libraries, but adding unspoken significance to the discussion as the author of Fahrenheit 451).
There are a number of issues raised by the film that were largely glossed over by the post-screening experts, such as the fundamental issue of storage. As Roumani points out, DVDs and hard drives have a life expectancy that can be measured in years, not decades. Simply assuming someone will figure out something more lasting is not a great strategy. Yet for the filmmaker and at least a few of her fellow panelists, the effect of the digital revolution on reading habits is even more significant. Some seriously wonder whether the majority of kids today will have sufficient interest and attention to read a full book from the beginning to the end.
Roumani nicely balances prognostications of doom and gloom with optimism for the shape of things to come. At fifty-five minutes, Out of Print is a well paced and organized overview of an industry in flux and the wider resulting social and cultural implications. It is a handy primer, but Google and the World Brain remains a more in-depth and pointed examination of the same fundamental issues. Given its timeliness, it should draw considerable interest on the festival circuit and merits public broadcast consideration.
LFM GRADE: B-
Posted on April 30th, 2013 at 1:18pm.
By Joe Bendel. To the lazy news media, the sight of damaged photographs randomly scattered by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami merely functioned as convenient visual shorthand for the enormity of it all. However, some Japanese photographers and volunteers recognized in them an opportunity to serve and comfort instead. Nathanael Carton documents the efforts of Project Salvage Memory to find, restore, and return lost family photos in the short film Recollections, which screens this Thursday at the San Francisco International Film Festival, following hard on the heels of its run at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
The images say it all. The scarred remembrances of once vibrant family lives are heartbreaking to behold. Carton nimbly walks a fine line, capturing their devastating emotional resonance without feeling ghoulishly exploitative. Indeed, the real heart of the film involves the (primarily young) volunteers who set out to console those grieving loved ones. It might have started as a simple gesture, but the Project has since recovered over 75,000 photos.
Clearly the restitution process has tremendous significance for the survivors. Obviously the photographs facilitate closure, particularly as the focal point for funerals and subsequent memorial services. Yet not surprisingly, the Project founder Carton interviews is unflaggingly modest when speaking of his work.
At just under thirteen minutes, Recollections is an informative but moving quietly film. Highly recommended, Carton’s acutely sensitive documentary was one of the best shorts at this year’s Tribeca. For those in the Bay Area, it also screens this Thursday (5/2) as part of the Shorts 1 programming block at the 2013 SFIFF.
LFM GRADE: A
Posted on April 30th, 2013 at 1:17pm.
LFM Reviews Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story @ The 2013 Tribeca Film Festival; Premieres on TCM May 30th
By Joe Bendel. Clint Eastwood often argues that jazz and westerns are America’s two great indigenous art forms. Inadvertently, he thereby makes a strong case that he is one of America’s most preeminent artists. Tribute was paid to the actor-director-composer at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival over the weekend with the world premiere of film critic and biographer Richard Schickel’s Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story, followed by a special Tribeca Talks interview with Eastwood conducted by Darren Aronofsky (see a clip above).
Eastwood Directs will be included in Warner Brothers’ upcoming Clint Eastwood 40-Film Collection on DVD and the similarly titled 20-Film Collection on Blu-ray. It will also air on TCM. As one might expect, it combines talking head interviews with brief film snippets from Warner’s Eastwood library – and it is hard to begrudge the film’s hagiographic treatment of an icon like Eastwood. Clearly he is a serious figure if he attracts commentary from the likes of Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Brian Grazer, and Meryl Streep. It is also especially nice to see Gene Hackman reminiscing about the film Unforgiven. Someone like Eastwood ought to find a part interesting enough to get Hackman back in the game.
Directs largely focuses on Eastwood’s special talent for directing his fellow actors, giving considerable attention to his big Oscar winners, for obvious reasons. There are some nice stories and testimonials, especially from Streep, his co-star in Bridges of Madison County. While Schickel does not spend much time on Bird, he still covers Eastwood’s longstanding passion and support for jazz in reasonable detail. Though not exactly a jazz film per se, Play Misty for Me gets its due, even though it is not a Warner property (the picture of Eastwood with Erroll Garner is a nice touch).
In fact, Misty provided one of the more telling anecdotes during Eastwood’s post-screening conversation with Aronofsky. When asked about technology, Eastwood (who still prefers film but is resigned to digital’s inevitability) spoke of his brief use of “instant replay” capabilities on his directorial debut, but quickly banished it from the set when he saw the cast and crew obsessing over it.
In Eastwood Directs, Scorsese identifies Eastwood as the living link between old school Hollywood and the modern age. It is easy to see what he’s getting at. Unfortunately, Aronofsky’s skills as an interviewer did not match the insights of Shickel’s interview subjects. However, Eastwood did his best to fit anecdotes to the broad, open-ended questions and generally just offered up his gravelly-voiced Zen master-blues piano player persona to the appreciative audience.
There is something truly American about self-reinvention – and again, this is something Eastwood exemplifies. From Rawhide through the Leone westerns and critically underappreciated Dirty Harry films to his Cannes and Oscar celebrated films as a director, Eastwood has charted an independent course, while remaining within the studio system and maintaining his popular appeal. Recommended for his fans, Eastwood Directs will be included on Warner Brothers’ collections releasing June 3 and will run on TCM May 30th. The Eastwood interview is also available for streaming for those unable to attend the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival in-person.
LFM GRADE: B
Posted on April 29th, 2013 at 3:20pm.
By Joe Bendel. Evidently, vampirism is supposed to be an old boys’ club. Eleanor and her sister Clara are certainly not boys. At least they are old, though they hardly look it. Immortality is a strange existence for them in Byzantium, Neil Jordan’s return to the world of the undead, which screens as a Spotlight selection of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
For two hundred years, Eleanor has been a mixed up teenager. She routinely writes the story she is forbidden from telling, casting her words to the wind. Eleanor also drinks human blood to survive, but she only “takes” those who are ready and willing to go. She was whisked away from her orphanage and turned eternal by her “guardian” Clara. Ever since, they have not-lived on the run, eluding a cabal of vampires who never sanctioned either woman joining their ranks.
Clara does not have Eleanor’s scruples. She is a survivor, typically falling back on her old profession—the oldest one. At least she finds a decent enough chap to shack up with in Noel. He happens to have a vacant hotel they can use as a base of operations—the Byzantium. Despite Clara’s insistence on secrecy, Eleanor feels increasingly compelled to share her story, which is a dangerous proposition.
Adapted by Moira Buffini from her stage play A Vampire Story, Byzantium offer some intriguing twists on the familiar vampire mythos (the hat tips to Byron and Polidori are also nice touches). Yet this version is driven by the telling of the tale, which establishes quite a compelling fairy tale vibe. Jordan masterfully handles the flashbacks, while maintaining the eerie mood. He also deftly incorporates music into key scenes. There is an elegant lushness to Byzantium, much in the tradition of Jordan’s previous supernatural films and the better Hammer Horror productions.
Somehow, Saoirse Ronan projects both teen angst and world-weary resignation. It is a rather soulful portrayal of the soulless. A fully committed Gemma Arterton impressively vamps it up in every way possible as Clara. Sam Riley adds a Twilishness as the mysterious vampire Darvell (revisiting the seaside locale of Brighton Rock) with Thure Lindhardt (from Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal) and Uri Gavriel (the blind prisoner of the pit in Dark Knight Rises) bringing some global genre cred in supporting roles.
By supernatural genre standards, Byzantium is unusually engaging on an emotional level. It is a stylish production, bolstered by some evocative sets and locations. Highly recommended for those who prefer their vampire films moody and brooding rather than gory, Byzantium screened over the weekend at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
LFM GRADE: A
Posted on April 29th, 2013 at 3:19pm.
By Joe Bendel. Considering China’s rapid economic expansion, is it any wonder that its contemporary arts scene shares the same global ambitions of its manufacturing sector? In fact, multi-millionaire artist Wang Guangyi is already an industry unto himself. For his part, Liu Gang has high hopes and heaps of potential. Documentary filmmaker Mika Mattila follows the two artists and their shows over a three year period in Chimeras, which screens during both this year’s Hot Docs and San Francisco International Film Festivals.
Wang Guangyi does not have Ai Weiwei’s name recognition outside China, but he sells like Gerhard Richter to his nouveau riche countrymen. Yet, there are still opportunities for an unknown like Liu Gang to mount his first one-man show in a prestigious gallery space. It seems the former art student is well on his to joining the elite, until his follow-up show is less enthusiastically received.
Not surprisingly, both artists wrestle with the baggage of China’s recent history and issues of globalization. Wang Guangyi freely mixes Communist iconography with consumerist imagery for an ambiguously ironic effect. When it comes to ideology, the senior artist seems deliberately cagey, aside from his explicit rejection of western aesthetic standards. Frankly, he remembers the Cultural Revolution fondly, because school was canceled. Still, he readily admits in retrospect great atrocities were also committed at the time (which to his credit, Mattila forthrightly illustrates with dramatic archival stills).
Young Liu Gang also clearly criticizes commercial impulses in his work, noting with some regret how China’s gallery system is almost entirely based on the Western model. Yet, it is when he proposes a series of works inspired by China’s One Child policy, the once welcoming establishment sort of freaks.
Mattila captures this dichotomy reflected in contemporary Chinese culture and commerce solely through direct observation. There is a lot of messy reality in the film, as well as some intriguing art. While ostensibly focused on the two artists and their oeuvre, the ghosts of history haunt the margins of the film in strange and unexpected ways.
Intelligently assembled by Mattila and his editor Mikko Sippola, Chimeras (not a great title, but so be it) opens a fascinating window into an underreported sector of China. Recommended for China watchers and for those who follow the international art scene, Chimeras screens Thursday (5/2) up north at Hot Docs and Saturday (5/4), Sunday (5/5), and the following Tuesday (5/7) out west at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
LFM GRADE: B
Posted on April 29th, 2013 at 3:18pm.
By Joe Bendel. There is a second Cold War on and China is winning. Britain’s defense establishment is convinced that their only hope lies in devising killer androids enhanced with artificial intelligence. Oh, but perhaps they succeed too well in Caradog James’ The Machine (see clip above), which screened as a Midnight selection of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
Vincent McCarthy could make bank in the private sector, but he has personal reasons for laboring in a subterranean government facility somewhere in Wales. When Ava’s AI program comes darn close to passing the Turing Test, he recruits her for his double-secret research. However, on her very first day she cannot help noticing the dodginess of the place, particularly the guards, who double as guinea pigs. There seems to be something weirdly unspoken going on with the twitchy veterans who accepted AI implants to counteract their brain trauma.
When Ava is murdered under suspiciously suspicious circumstances, her pre-mapped brain is imprinted on “The Machine.” McCarthy coaches her/it to be human and humane – but Thompson, the ruthless project director, orders a battery of more lethal instructions. This leads to conflict.
It would be nice to see a film that considered the British and American military and intelligence services to be the good guys for a change, especially compared to the oppressive and increasingly militaristic Communist regime in China. Sadly, The Machine is not that film. There really ought to be an epilogue showing how China enslaves the world because of the resulting setbacks to the Free World’s R&D. Instead, we just get Messianic themes warmed over from the Universal Soldier franchise, which in turn were cribbed from Metropolis, R.U.R. and a host of apocalyptically promethean science fiction morality tales.
Nonetheless, Caity Lotz earns favorable notice for her dual role as Ava and The Machine. She presents two distinct personas, yet still credibly hints at connections between the two. Toby Stephens works well enough as the brilliant but short-sighted McCarthy. Sadly, Star Wars alumnus Denis “Wedge” Lawson is completely wasted as the dastardly Thompson, who seems to engage in unnecessary villainy solely to precipitate McCarthy’s crisis of conscience.
Very little of The Machine makes sense, starting with the moody Miami Vice ambiance. One would think a research laboratory ought to be well lit, but evidently this is not the case. Despite Lotz’s interesting performances, The Machine is predictable and heavy-handed. A disappointment, it screened this past weekend at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
LFM GRADE: D+
Posted on April 29th, 2013 at 3:17pm.
By Joe Bendel. In Russia, today’s captain of industry is tomorrow’s rogue oligarch. Even sponsoring the next head of the FSB is not enough to protect one tycoon. Instead, it makes him a liability. An agent specializing in sensitive assignments will target the shadowy money man through an attractive employee, leading to all sorts of complications in Eric Rochant’s Möbius, which screens at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Gregory Lioubov commands an FSB team pretending to be a Monaco police task force, attempting to turn Alice Redmund, a brilliant trader for with a scandalous past. Redmund works for Ivan Rostovski’s multi-national firm, but she also secretly reports to an American handler. Realizing the Russians are putting a play on Rostovski, the CIA instructs Redmund to play along with the task force she still assumes are local cops.
When Lioubov accidentally picks up Redmund to protect his cover[s], it compromises them both. Suddenly, Redmund is hiding their burgeoning affair from the jealous Rostovski while Moïse, as Lioubov calls himself, scrambles to keep his incompetent subordinates in the dark. Then things really get tricky.
Möbius is pretty steamy stuff by espionage movie standards. These spies definitely come in out of the cold. As Lioubov (or whoever) and Redmund, co-leads Jean Dujardin and Cécile de France have real chemistry and are not afraid to go all in. However, the rest of the cloak-and-daggering is not bad, either. While there seems to be a bit of an anti-American bias, at least it is rather muddled. The FSB on the other hand is clearly portrayed as a nest of vipers indistinguishable from its previous incarnation as the dreaded KGB.
In a change-up from his Oscar winning turn in The Artist, Dujardin brings a dark, brooding physicality to Lioubov. De France is a respectable femme fatale-anti-heroine, but Tim Roth nearly steals the show as the erratic, British-educated Rostovski.
Rochant nicely juggles all the feints and double-crosses as the film alternates between romanticism and cynicism – and cinematographer Pierre Novion gives it all a stylish noir polish that should satisfy genre fans. Recommended for patrons of French cinema and cerebral spy thrillers, Möbius screened this past weekend as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
LFM GRADE: B+
Posted on April 29th, 2013 at 3:15pm.
By Joe Bendel. Remember kids, don’t drink and plow. We’re especially talking to you up north. It causes plenty of grief for a sadsack countryman in Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais’s Whitewash, winner of the Best New Narrative Director Award at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
Bruce Landry had a pretty depressing life to begin with. The alcoholic Canadian widower’s only source of income was the occasional freelance snowplowing gig. One dark and snowy night, he jumps into his plow with his flask and proceeds to run down a man trudging along the side of the road. In a drunken panic, Landry scoops up the body and drives into the woods, eventually crashing into a sturdy trunk of old growth.
While Landry stews over his predicament, we learn via flashbacks, Landry had some complicated history with the man on the business end of his plow. After Landry convinces the soon-to-be-late Paul Blackburn not to kill himself they sort of become friends—for a while.
One would think Landry could hole up in his plow for only so long, yet his self-imposed imprisonment never seems to end. Whitewash vividly illustrates the old adages about how the mind can create its own Hell. Unfortunately, the audience is condemned along with Landry.
Granted, Hoss-Desmarais masterfully sets the scene and maintains the mood of profound melancholy, but Whitewash is still agonizingly slow to watch. The understated Thomas Haden Church nicely fits the tone of the picture and excels in the odd comic interludes without undermining the overall existential vibe. Nevertheless, there is only so much he can do to punch-up the material while staying in character.
Whitewash bears comparison to trapped-men movies like Detour and Buried, but its claustrophobic setting makes much less dramatic sense. THC admirably rises to the challenge of carrying the film almost single-handedly, but how long do you really want to watch him muttering to himself?
Tribeca’s juried award winners are often head-scratchers and this year is no exception. One can understand the recognition bestowed on Hoss-Desmarais for the atmosphere he creates, but not necessarily for his sense of pacing. Mostly recommended for nationalistic Canadians, Whitewash screened over the weekend as an award winner at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
LFM GRADE: C+
Posted on April 29th, 2013 at 3:14pm.
By Joe Bendel. An Israeli officer who survived the fog of war can go to some dark places if need be. A rogue cop and the school teacher they both suspect of being a serial killer will learn this in graphic terms throughout the course of Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado’s Big Bad Wolves, which screened during the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
A sadistic murderer is preying on young girls. A cop about to snap thinks he has caught his perp. Unfortunately, his rough off-the-books interrogation is captured on video and posted on YouTube. Placed on wink-wink suspension, Micki intends to clean-up his mess by hook or by crook. However, a grieving father beats him to the punch.
Gidi is a veteran of the war in Lebanon, whose daughter was one of the victims. Although her body was recovered, her head cruelly remains missing. He hopes to recover it and thereby reach some closure. Renting an isolated farmhouse near an Arab village, he intends to get down to business in the cellar, after coming to an agreement with the disgraced cop. However, strange complications and interruptions keep coming up.
Keshales & Papushado, the duo behind Rabies, again demonstrate a mastery of one-gosh-darned-thing-after-another filmmaking. Considering how unremittingly tragic the subject matter is, Big Bad is unthinkably and disturbingly funny. Needless to say, it is humor of a decidedly black variety. They capitalize on the claustrophobic tension to build the tension and toss each successive curveball with sly dexterity.
It would be nice to see the Israeli film industry occasionally produce an inspiring portrayal of Israeli society. Yet, the fact that Israel exports films like Big Bad as well as ideologically charged documentaries critical of the government is a testament to the country’s openness. One will not see authority figures depicted in a like manner anywhere in the popular culture of Israel’s neighbors, for fear of permanent reprisals.
Tzahi Grad is a hardnosed standout, portraying Gidi with steely gravitas, yet showing a flair for deadpan absurdist humor. Rabies alumnus Lior Ashkenazi makes a suitable meathead foul-up as Micki. Yet, it is the ambiguous clamminess of Rotem Keinan’s accused serial killer that makes the film so devilishly effective.
It seems appropriate that Big Bad hits the festival circuit around the same time as the restoration of Fritz Lang’s M returns to revival theaters. While there are considerable narrative differences, the two films seem to speak to each other in strange ways, particularly in terms of the social chaos wrought by such horrific crimes. Recommended for fans of dark, subversive thrillers, Big Bad Wolves is sure to find extensive play in Israeli film showcases following its Spotlight screenings at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
LFM GRADE: B
Posted on April 29th, 2013 at 3:12pm.
By Joe Bendel. Once described as “the most beautiful face of socialism,” she would eventually pose for Playboy. As a back-to-back Olympic gold medalist, Katarina Witt represented the greatest success of the East German athletic program. Yet, in light of subsequent revelations, she might be the most deeply confused former East German about the Communist era. At least, such seems to be the case judging from Jennifer Arnold & Senain Kheshgi’s documentary profile, The Diplomat, produced as part of ESPN Films’ Nine for IX series, several of which screen during the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
Witt clearly had the X factor at an early age, attracting East Germany’s preeminent figure skating coach and abundant state support. She was duly grateful for both. As she began winning championships, Witt became an important symbol for state propaganda. She did her part willingly. Yet, she was always aware her opportunities to travel outside the closed country were a rare blessing.
What Witt did not realize until after the fall of the Wall was the level of surveillance the state maintained on her, despite her dutiful service. She was also shocked to learn several friends spied on her for the dreaded Stasi, including a remorseful fellow figure skater, whom Arnold & Kheshgi interview at length.
Although she remains an important international sports figure, Witt still seems unsure how to process everything that happened post-1989. We see how staggered she was by the outpouring of East German resentment when the size and extent of GDR state subsidies to athletes was revealed. She argues that Olympics medalists like her did something extraordinary on the world stage, thereby earning their compensation. That is a completely reasonable position, but a far cry from “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
While they are understandably reluctant to dig-in and challenge Witt, Arnold & Kheshgi thoroughly establish the oppressive nature of the GDR and the intrusive methods of the Stasi, much to their credit. Some of their best talking head commentary comes from the post-Unification custodians of the Stasi Archives. For further creepy context, they also scored a sit down with Moscow’s final GDR hardliner Egon Krenz, who once headed the captive nation’s athletic machine, but would eventually be convicted for crimes committed against the German people.
For many Americans watching the Olympics, Witt was always a kind of ice queen. The Diplomat offers a fuller, more complicated picture. It is hard to say how much she was and still is in a state of denial. Yet, it is clear anyone born into such a system with any sort of talent would have to navigate some thorny situations. An intriguing portrait of a gifted athlete representing a system rife with “internal contradictions,” The Diplomat screens again as part of a double bill with No Limits this Saturday (4/27) during the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
LFM GRADE: B
Posted on April 25th, 2013 at 11:13am.
By Joe Bendel. L’Île de Ré is sort of like the French Martha’s Vineyard. It is pretty dead during the off-season, but if you wait long enough you are sure to spot someone famous. Gauthier Valence is such a celebrity. He hopes to recruit a retired colleague for a production of The Misanthrope in Philippe Le Guay’s Cycling with Molière (trailer here), which screens as a Spotlight selection of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
The success of his medical drama even embarrasses Valence. Serge Tanneur’s career went in the opposite direction following a legal spat with a producer. Retiring to his late uncle’s ramshackle house on the isle, Tanneur has given up all acting ambitions until Valence comes calling. Of course, the TV doctor wants to play Alceste. He is the star. Yet, when Tanneur balks, Valence suggests they alternate between the lead role and Philinte. Neither saying yes or no, and Tanneur keeps him on the hook during a week of trial rehearsals. Sometimes they click, just like the old days, but there will be complications.
The Misanthrope’s significance to Tanneur is so fitting, Le Guay barely gives it nodding acknowledgement. Instead, he concentrates on the actors’ craft and the demands of the verse. Frankly, even after watching the film it is hard to say whether Valence and Tanneur are friends, frienemies, or rivals, which is quite a rich ambiguity. There are some exquisitely bittersweet scenes, as when the old thesps do a reading with Zoé, the island’s young aspiring porn star. Yes, they even run lines while biking. That is how island folk seem to roll, after all.
While Cycling is extremely accessible, it is about as French as films get. Le Guay’s screenplay, based on an idea co-developed with co-lead Fabrice Luchini, has considerable wit, but it is defined by a sense of longing and regret. It also rather tastefully avoids big pay-off learning moments, instead remaining true to its characters’ flaws and foibles.
Luchini (whose recent credits include Laurent Tirard’s Molière and Le Guay’s charming Women on the 6th Floor) is overdue for a major American retrospective, but Cycling would be the perfect film to build it around. He is completely convincing as a frustrated actor doing a mostly convincing Alceste. His facility with language and brittle insecurities all feel right. Lambert Wilson is perfectly fine as Valence, playing off Luchini quite well in some key scenes. Yet, Maya Sansa nearly steals the show as Francesca, the Italian divorcee who attracts the attention of both men. Likewise, Laurie Bordesoules makes the most of her brief but charming appearances as Zoé.
Cycling never really reinvents the wheel, but it is a refreshingly elegant and literate film. The scenery is quite pleasant, while Luchini’s work still has real bite. Recommended for all regular patrons of French cinema, Cycling with Molière screens again tomorrow (4/25) and Sunday (4/28) during this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
LFM GRADE: B+
Posted on April 24th, 2013 at 2:42pm.
By Joe Bendel. Insert your own family dinner joke here. Or don’t bother. New Zealander Danny Mulheron’s fearless cannibal comedy will make them all for us. Questions of good taste will entirely depend on the viewer’s palate when Fresh Meat (trailer here) screens as a Midnight selection of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
Rina Crane is a very proper young Maori lady who has come home from boarding school. She is thinking it is about time to drop the lesbian bomb with her family, but they beat her to the punch, revealing the new family diet. In hopes of finally achieving tenure, her academic father Hemi Crane has revived an ancient mystical cannibal cult. Eating will flesh will give them supernatural powers or so the theory goes. His new faith is about to be put to the test when a reckless gang of fugitives invades the Crane home.
For the freaked out Rina, this sudden turn of events is not all bad, largely because of Gigi, the ringleader’s less than enthusiastic girlfriend. She happens to bear a strong resemblance to the fetish superhero character Rina created as a focus for her fantasies. Clearly, the two share an instant attraction, at a time when Rina’s family loyalties are somewhat fraying.
Basically, Fresh combines elements of Desperate Hours with We Are What We Are, adding all kinds of politically incorrect humor. At one point Hemi Crane declares: “we are not Maori cannibals, we are cannibals who happen to be Maori.” Whew, feel better everybody? The treatment of Lesbian themes is about as sensitive, with scenes clearly included for maximum leer value. Oh right, there’s plenty of gore too.
You have to give Briar Grace-Smith’s screenplay credit for jumping on every third rail it could find. Likewise, Temuera Morrison embraces the gleeful mayhem wholeheartedly as Hemi Crane. As Rina, Hanna Tevita keeps her head above water amid all the bedlam, even conveying a measure of sensitive teen alienation.
If you don’t know by now whether this blood-splattered teen lesbian cannibal comedy is your cup of tea or not, I really can’t help you. For what it’s worth, Mulheron maintains a brisk pace, allowing little time for the wrongness of it all to sink in. Recommended for anyone out for some good clean fun at the movies, Fresh Meat screens again this Friday (4/26) and Saturday (4/27) as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
LFM GRADE: B
Posted on April 24th, 2013 at 2:40pm.