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Reviews

Somersault
(2004)

Brilliance is in the the details
Cate Shortland's first full movie directorial debut is a mindfield of complex emotions in a young girl trying to grow up on her own, with no direction home. Accustomed to the Australian desert after films like Goddess of 1967 and Japanese Story, we see something that is the least expected from Australia - snow.

With a shimmering musical score and a palette of blue and red, Somersault is the depiction of a teenage girl racing as hard and as fast as she can through life, but she is still a child at heart. Growing up too fast with no hard set boundaries, Heidi makes a more than innocent play on her mother's boyfriend. Despite the protestations of the boyfriend "we were doing nothing!" this leads to a row with her mother who catches the two of them in the bedroom.

Somersault is almost a first for an audience up north - seeing snow in Australia. Set in a rough ski town called Jindabayne in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Heidi is forced to fend for herself and cope on her own. A skiing contact she had hoped to meet up with from a past goround does not remember her. With no chance of going home in her mindset, she starts digging around for a source of money, food, comfort, a place to stay. She finds excitement at night at a club and poolhall where the locals and youth hangout to drink, smoke, dance. She catches the eye of Joe, a young good-looking man - and he hers as she almost sensually dances to the rhythm of the loud music. The two of them somehow hook up and head out into the night, maybe to his place outside of town. They end up at the motel room. The degree of intimacy is beyond anything straight and physical - it is in the touch of hands and maybe a sense of Joe just looking out for her even though there is the attraction between the two.

Joe has his own day-to-day helping out his dad on the farm. Heidi is befriended by the elderly owner of the motel who runs the place by herself who gives Heidi a flat to stay in. And Heidi lands a job at the BP. With a sense of place, Heidi has what she wants, except Joe. Joe tries to distance himself from Heidi, increasingly he rejects her constant phonecalls at all hours of the night and day. Even though there is a relationship, he remains distant, a sense of trying to figure out what is the right thing. Inaction on one side leads to action of another kind by the other.

The fast editing, the loud music in the bar, the ethereal score during moments of repose, the fleeting glances of life depict the whirlwind in Heidi's mind. The consequences of the inability to deal with intimacy and real emotions in a young budding relationship are the core issues of Somersault, and lead to a somersault of actions.

Jeux d'enfants
(2003)

Cap!
Jeux d'enfants is a breathtaking vision. Taking a children's game of dares to the ultimate, the movie breathes the delight and deviousness of two children at play.

The rules are simple, they have to each accept the dare posed to them by each other. Whoever has the darebox gets to dare the other. What they have to do gets to be quite dastardly.

They continue this game without bounds throughout their lives, often to their detriment, to the ultimate end. Jeux d'enfants evokes the joy of Le fabuleux destin d'Amele Poulain. This was surely one of my favourite films at the Toronto International Film Festival 2003.

The Brown Bunny
(2003)

Somebody shoot the bunny
THE BROWN BUNNY WRITTEN DIRECTED AND EDITED BY VINCENT GALLO

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY VINCENT GALLO

Perhaps Vincent Gallo was trying to make the ultimate road movie. Showing in real time the weariness of cycle rider Bud Clay on the road going from one race where he lost to the next one across the country. Endless tedious sideshots of Clay driving or shots through the front windshield on the countless miles of highway driving by day or night. The small bits of actual human interaction prove unsatisfying and spark little relief from the monotony of the drive. Whether he be washing his face in a motel bathroom or pumping gas, the whole look of the film is minimal. Whether it be low budget or shot deliberately this badly, the film almost wastes the one performance by Chloe Sevigny which made waiting for the end of the movie almost bearable.

The whole film could have been been trimmed by 85 minutes to spare the viewer the effort if all that would be drawing the interest is that two minute scene people might have heard about. It is actually the least interesting bit in the movie.

At least this movie is not twentynine palms.

De fem benspænd
(2003)

This is how the perfect human falls
Debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival 2003 The Five Obstructions is a whimsical yet deeply philosophical dialogue between Lars Van Trier and Jørgen Leth, one of Lars Van Trier's director heroes.

The movie is based upon the reconstruction of Leth's 1967 work The Perfect Human ( De Fem benspænd ). This 1967 black and white film is starkly minimalist and humourous detailing a Danish point of view - an analysis of a perfect human and how the perfect human acts and interacts with the world. Within the film are two characters : a man and a woman each shot separately and each probed by the camera. How the perfect human eats. How the perfect human lies down. How he falls. This is the human eye. This is the perfect human's ear, eye, knee.

The Perfect Human is the perfect film.

The dialogue between Leth and Van Trier shot in the year 2001 is humourous and philosophical. Van Trier sets out to challenge Leth by making his recreate The Perfect Human but under Van Trier's terms.

The first obstruction for instance is to have shots with no more than 12 frames each, it has to be shot in Cuba and with no set. The audience laughs as each point of the obstruction is set upon the screen.

The camera crew follows Leth around the world and records his reactions to the challenge and the process of how he sets to film the First Obstructions in Cuba. He finds the concept of 12 frames monumentously crazy. He has to find the perfect humans to cast in the country, a country he has never been to. He comes back to Denmark and they view the result: an exquisite little film which is surprising and beautiful.

The rest of the film poses the rest of the Five Obstructions - each a result of Van Trier's subsequent reactions to the films that Leth brings back.

The conversation between the two is akin to a psychoanalyst and his patient yet the two are friends. There is much laughter and delight and the results of the five obstructions are pristinely beautiful. You also get to see Van Trier's ego at work and the wheels spinning as Leth responds to the challenge. The overall film of The Five Obstructions in itself is a delight and a learning experience that should not be missed.

The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 3: From Sark to the Finish
(2004)

Monty Python gone mad
The Tulse Luper Suitcases is Tristan Shandy gone haywire - or Monty Python taken to even more absurd depths (my university English professor would be proud that I have remembered reading Tristan Shandy_ - The contents of the suitcases are revealed one by one : Suitcase number twelve : frogs. 92 Ways of Representing the World: #5 The bath. The number 92 is derived from the element number of uranium in the periodic table. Uranium - the purest of substances.

Tulse Luper is a detailed clerk, devoted to minutiae and a interminable scribbler who writes to the edges. His writings are being typed up by a huge host of female typographists whose only job from 9 to 5 is to type everything up he ever wrote by hand in an effort by the stationmaster and party propagandist to decipher the intent of Tulse Luper - and moreover to discover if he is a spy.

It is a multivisual experience with sights and sounds coming to you from all sides. This is only part 3 of an ambitious 16 part treatment of the history of Tulse Luper.

11:14
(2003)

Rachael Leigh Cook is not your typical All-american Girl anymore
Welcome to Middleton.

A very happy place to live.

Just beware of deer crossing. And missing body parts.

On one very strange night, and a young man is talking on a cellphone with someone. He is very drunk. The music on the radio is loud and blaring. You can tell by the dashboard clock that it is 11:13. Very suddenly and very loudly something smashes against the windshield. This is no deer.

Chance and happenstance is the key to this psychotic, frantic, comedic, twisted story or is it five stories. Rachael Leigh Cook, she's still all that and somehow she may be one of the links to unravelling the mystery of the missing bowling ball.

Try Seventeen
(2002)

are you 2B or not ? - wacky and hilarious
/* are you 2B or not */ Toronto International Film Festival - Try Seventeen - September 10 - Uptown 2 - 9 pm

there was going to be no empty seats in the house for this movie - not with the promise of those who had been invited to the festival in the name of Mandy Moore and Franka Potente - who just happen to be in Try Seventeen -

alas no Mandy - no Franka - but first time director (but no novice to movie sets) Jeffrey Porter's take on The Graduate and coming of age - fun, wacky, bizaare, twisted, and Elijah Woods on his own in the world, wise beyond his years - in his fantasy filled world - going to school while his mother remains in Texas - carrying nothing but a trunk he rents a room in a boarding house - on the first floor is the resident cowboy / six shooter / artist / mechanic / and the landlady - and on the second floor are three rooms 2A resided in by smart beyond her year Lisa given a perfect natural touch by Mandy Moore - 2B rented by Jones (Elijah Woods) and 2C Jane - a photographer in the guise of Franka Potente - resides smart beyond her year Lisa given a perfect natural touch by Mandy Moore and in 2C is Jane - a photographer in the guise of Franka Potente - Elijah is given lessons in life - he asks new neighbour Mandy Moore to stay but she asks him "where would I sit" for there is nothing in the room but the trunk.

So he is given lessons in life by the members of the boarding house - he acquires a couch, a bed, glasses - they share a bottle of wine - She opened the wine and started to pour - but at the end she says "I'm late, I'm drunk and I have to go" - now when would you ever expect to hear that from Mandy Moore ? Things progress between the two - he even helps her rehearse for a really bad play that would put English Patient to shame - but then she finds out his secret - and this is where Franka Potente takes over from Mandy. Franka always makes a stunning German entrance - this time it's her blue car "scheisse Auto!" giving her problems. Elijah tries to help but Franka walks quickly away towards her house and sees Elijah following her - she thinks she is being stalked - he follows her through the door - she maces him - the cowboy hears the commotion and comes out with his pistol and asks him out loud : but I won't give that away

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