Thursday, April 17, 2008

Festival Day 4

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Wednesday 4/9

The Other Boy
aka: Der andere Junge
Germany 2007, 91 min

The kid’s aren’t all right in this German look at the troubles of suburban teens. Paul and Robert have grown up together as their parents are close friends but as the boys aged they became very different people. Paul is tall, smart, confident and good looking and Robert… um… isn’t. Unbeknown st to the parents Robert is the target of Paul’s bullying. One day Paul goes too far with tragic results and his parents are forced to betray their own friendships in order to protect their son. Things get tense all around as the police close in and tragedy gives way to tragedy.

This is a slow and tense film that the write-up in the festival program likens to a combination of Clark’s Bully and Haneke’s Caché. Like the later film its approach too setting up tension comes from lingering shots and a sparse soundtrack though not quite as effective as Haneke’s mesmerizing film as the plot is a little predictable. Boy plays out like an episode of Law & Order: SVU with a European art house aesthetic… turns out this is not a bad thing though.


Eye In the Sky
aka: Gun chung
Hong Kong (China) 2007, 90 min

I included this in my fest schedule because it was produced by Johnnie To, director of Exiled – best film of the 2007 festival and staring Tony Leung. Unfortunately not THAT Tony Leung, who knew? The Hong Kong Actors Guild needs to arbitrate this one stat.

This is a mentor/mentee story in the surveillance group within the Hong Kong police department, the… er… eyes in the sky if you will. The first scene of the film features “Piggy” (the new blood – everyone has an animal code name) boarding a trolley and observing as several suspicious looking men board and leave the train. One is her boss, Dog Head, and as we later find out this was her entrance exam. The other is the shadowy figure behind a team of jewelry store thieves who are actually pulling off a heist at the same time. This becomes her first case as the inevitable baptism by fire starts. This film is chock full of Yin-Yang: details of both the cop’s and the criminals surveillance methods, a scene during the exam is repeated for real later in the film and Piggy’s Sophie’s choice of sorts between work and life on 2 occasions are among them. The camera work is also evocative of the surveillance theme with a lot of dutch angles and shots from up above or far away. This is a solid procedural yarn and well worth the time.


Mystery Film!
aka: The Wackness
USA 2008, 110 min

Well, I had initially planned on seeing Roman de gare which looked really good but upon logging into my email earlier in the day I saw a message that blew the lid off of what the mystery film was going to be (thanks PFS). So I changed plans and took up with this Sundance smash. I’m SOOOOOOOOO glad I did.

The Wackness is a coming of age – check that – to paraphrase Roger Ebert, this isn’t a coming of age film, this is a coming of age film’s wet dream of itself. Set in Manhattan circa ’94 the film uses some combination of soft focus, over exposure and digital filters to achieve an enticing nostalgic, dreamy look. This is the final summer before college for Luke Shapiro who is the ultimate outsider. He is from a family with financial troubles but goes to school with upper-class kids. He is the school pot dealer so everyone knows him but he’s friends with no one. With most of his customers jetting off to summer in wherever he’s left with his fantasy girl, Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby) who’s parents are in anything but marital bliss. It just so happens that her father Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley) is one of Luke’s best customers but as a psychologist he pays in sessions. As Kingsley’s marriage crumbles he latches onto Luke and they become friends and confidants as he tries to hide a growing relationship with Stephanie. The film is filled with colorful characters including Method Man as a Rastafarian drug king and Mary-Kate Olsen as a hippie who makes out with Kingsley in a phone booth (weird) who all add to the atmosphere

This is writer/director Jonathan Levine’s second feature but seems to be set to debut before his first (All the Boy’s Love Mandy Lane) which has been sitting in the can for 2 years now. He turns in a pitch perfect pop culture dumpster dive through 1994 and characters that have rightness and truth about their motivations and reactions, and lead actor Josh Peck offers up a substantial leap from his character on Nickelodeon.

My only issues with the film are the over use of Giuliani’s NYC clean up as a reference point and the cringworthy delivery of the titular line by Thirlby “Me, I see the dopeness. But you, you just see the wackness.” Other than that this was the best film of the festival and the best of the year so far.

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