Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Day Three

KINSEY (see previous post)

Though it’s not as much of a homerun as Pawloski’s first feature, the small but glorious gem, Last Resort this film is still an intriguing character study of a brother (Paddy Considine --who is great in the film) who has been ‘born again’ and his frustrated younger sister (Emily Blunt) who feels maddeningly alone in the world until she falls in love with a vacationing rich girl. Pleasingly naturalistic with some great scenes. But still in the end something about it is a little slight. Based on a novel but only very loosely.

I chose this because I thought it would be a nice break from the heavier fare (from my experience shorts tend to be one joke films or at the least lighter in spirit.) And it was but scheduling two of them for one week was probably a mistake so I’ll skip the second on Tuesday. Highlights of this collection were in ascending order: Guy Maddin’s Sissy Boy Slap Party which is silly and wonderfully edited. The editor in fact is the one we should all bow down to. It’s no masterpiece of a short like Heart of the World but it’s still pretty damn fun. Another intriguing short was titled something like "The Sadness of Joe Jangles" --the title is longer than that but the name escapes me at this writing. A very odd but impressively singular gay/western/surreal/musical/fantasia about a man who gives birth to a donkey and his partner's fury that it's not a horse. It's even weirder than it sounds. And best and funniest was Disaster, a short about a Frenchman born to American parents. Very clever and will be especially embraced by Canadians and French. It's got enough sight gags and clever spins to keep it’s running time jumping (it was the longest short in the bunch). For Francophiles it’s just too delightful.

Best of the fest so far. Susanne Bier’s brutal but compassionate drama concerns a the family of a military man (Ulrich Thomsen) whose emotional bonds are tested and all but ripped to shreds by his service in the war in Afghanistan. The film is beautifully performed (even the child actors don’t strike one false note), emotionally potent, and politically savvy enough to make the realities of war into personal tangible drama. Brothers is also gorgeously shot on DV though it often looks as rich as celluloid. Between this and demonlover I am now a firm believer in Connie Nielsen. I never thought I would say that. (Interestingly enough this is Nielsen’s first Danish feature.) I was already a believer in Ulrich Thomsen (Celebration) and Nikolaj Lie Haas (sp?) (The Idiots) who play the titular brothers.

On an Oscar side note, I must say that having now seen the picture... I am as shocked as many Danish readers of the film experience who wrote to tell me they were upset that it was not chosen to represent Denmark in this year’s Oscar race. It is artful and intelligent enough to please critics and accessible enough to have people crying in the theater ~that’s a magic Oscar combo if i’ve ever seen one. And for Michelle Pfeiffer pfans out there, pray that the early rumors are correct that Bier will be guiding Pfeiffer through her next drama Chasing Montana. Bier’s tremendous skill with actors is readily apparent in her filmography. If Bier’s talents transfer into English language intact (and without studio interference) expect that film to be a major Oscar contender whenever it’s released.