In this elliptical ensemble piece, which marks the directorial debut of indie bad boy Harmony Korine, the teens of tornado-scarred Xenia, OH, kill cats, tape their boobies, arm-wrestle, bathe, cross-dress, huff glue, avoid perverts, pay to have sex with retarded girls, lift makeshift dumbbells to the strains of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” fight, cuss, shave their eyebrows, undergo cancer treatment, euthanize senior citizens, and pee on passing cars. A hallucinatory barrage of images and scenarios with little in the way of traditional plot, Gummo has been variously described as a surrealist joke, a visual poem, and a worm’s-eye view of white-trash suffering. The main characters include Solomon (Jacob Reynolds), who sells cat carcasses to a middleman who procures them for use at a local Chinese restaurant; his mother (Linda Manz), who teaches him to tap dance while reminiscing about her dead husband; Tummler (Nick Sutton), a mullet-haired local sex symbol; a midget (Bryant L. Crenshaw); a pair of boy-crazy, bleach-blond sisters named Dot (Chloe Sevigny) and Helen (Carisa Bara); a slut with a lump in her breast (Lara Tosh); a group of drunken louts; and Bunny Boy (Jacob Sewell), who wanders the town enigmatically in a pair of long pink ears. In between scenes of these characters enacting their bizarre routines, Korine intersperses impressionistic and quasi-documentary scenes with voice-over narration that ranges from incest memoirs to arty dialogue along the lines of “He’s got what it takes to be a legend: He’s got a marvelous persona.” Shot just outside Nashville, TN, Gummo includes costume designs by Korine’s then-girlfriend, Chloe Sevigny, who also plays Dot and who previously starred in the Korine-scipted, Larry Clark-directed Kids. Jacob Reynolds would go on to appear in Getting to Know You, though few of the director’s other discoveries have appeared on film since.___by Brian J. Dillard Continue reading
Teenage angst was never this heartwarming., 13 October 2004
Author: el-p from The North East, England
Having just recently seen director Lukas Moodysson’s teen prostitution exposé, Lilja 4-ever, I was expecting a similarly bleak film in Fucking Åmål. Not so. This is the story of two teenage girls who find each other, against peer and family pressure, and their own insecurities.
It is the differences between the two girls that initially make their relationship so touching. Agnes is a loner, with only a girl in a wheelchair for a friend, who she soon insults and alienates. Before she meets Erin, we rarely see her without tears in her eyes. On the surface, Erin couldn’t be more different. She can pick and choose boyfriends and has dozens of friends. However, she is disillusioned with this life. She fights constantly with her sister, has falsely been given a reputation as a slut by those in her school, and, unlike Agnes, does not have a stable family. So, when she discovers that Erin is a lesbian, she is intrigued, if a little insensitive at first.
The bulk of the narrative concerns Erin’s attempts at coping with her homosexuality, but Moodysson also provides us with a snapshot of smalltown teenage ennui. The teens have nothing better to do than to sit around, waiting for night to come so they can get drunk, and/or have sex. This obviously leaves a lot of time for petty insults and peer pressure to build, which is the dominant them of the film, or rather, accepting difference, and not caving in to peer pressure. Continue reading
Richard Harris stars as a foreign entrepreneur, who ventures to Russia in 1885 with dreams of selling a new, experimental steam-driven timber harvester in the wilds of Siberia. Julia Ormond portrays his assistant, who falls in love with a young Russian officer, played by Russian star Oleg Menshikov, and spends the next 10 years perfecting the harvester and pursuing her love, who has been exiled to Siberia.
Europa (retitled Zentropa for the American release) is an hallucinatory Danish film set in postwar Germany. Jean-Marc Barr plays a young German who aspires for a job as a street conductor. But this is no mere “Joe Job;” Barr’s adventures on the line are designed as a metaphor for the emergence of the “New Europe” following the war. Barbara Sukowa costars as the daughter of a railroad magnate–and possible Nazi sympathizer. Many of the special-effects sequences are computer enhanced, but even the “live” scenes have an unsettling, surreal quality to them (colors changing abruptly, backgrounds shifting without warning, etc.) This experimental film left some viewers confused, which may be why English-language prints of Zentropa are narrated by Max Von Sydow. Continue reading
Plot Synopsis by Michael Betzold
Veteran Russian writer-director Nikita Mikhalkov’s film about the impact of modern civilization on an idyllic part of Mongolia won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Film. A farmer (Bayyartu) and his wife, who live in a rural part of Inner Mongolia, have three children. Chinese population control policies prevent them from having any more. The farmer sets out for the nearest town to obtain birth control. He comes upon a Russian truck driver (Vladimir Gostyukhin) who has ended up in a lake. The farmer takes the man back to his farm, and after initially being appalled at the lack of civilization, the Russian becomes enchanted with the peaceful life of the backwards countryside and decides to stay. But his presence presages big changes for the peasants.
Review by Scott Tobias:
A giant pet stork, with scanning eyes that quietly observe the human folly surrounding it, lends sanity and stability to Otar Ioseliani’s cracked comic roundelay Farewell, Home Sweet Home, perhaps because it’s the only character comfortable with its lot in life. The others, mainly members of a wealthy Parisian family, are leading absurd double lives in secret, illustrating the cliché, “the grass is greener on the other side.” With exceptionally fluid camerawork and a gently mocking touch, Ioseliani’s virtually plotless slice-of-life borrows elements from several great directors at once, combining the class-conscious irony of Luis Buñuel and the near-silent comedy of Jacques Tati with the daisy-chain elegance of Max Ophüls’ The Earrings Of Madame De… It takes time to get oriented to the peculiar rhythms of Ioseliani’s world, which establishes characters through behavior rather than dialogue, and takes only a slightly skewed perspective on the repetition and tedium of everyday life. There are no punchlines, no dramatic outbursts, and no traditional three-act structure, just an association of events that poke fun at the fickleness of human nature. Centering on the inhabitants of a suburban château, the characters attempt to escape their own lives by taking on separate identities. A well-to-do 19-year-old (Nico Tarielashvili) moonlights as a lowly dishwasher at a Paris bistro and hangs out with scruffy beggars; his mother (Lily Lavina), a businesswoman who flies to and from work in a helicopter, fancies herself a singer; and her father (Ioseliani) plays with a child’s train set while drinking himself into a stupor. Meanwhile, a penniless sailor (Philippe Bas) dresses up in a suit and picks up women in a rented Harley Davidson, including a pretty barmaid (Stephanie Hainque) who rebuffs Tarielashvili’s advances. There are at least another dozen other minor players, connected by the gliding camera movements that seamlessly link one comic vignette to the next. With its assured, breezily unassuming design, mapped out with architectural precision, Farewell, Home Sweet Home may sound like the work of an egghead formalist. But Ioseliani’s warm, open-ended style, combined with his remarkably adroit use of non-actors, impresses with the unpracticed spontaneity of real life. Continue reading
In La Goulette, a small harbour town in the Tunis suburbs, Youssef, the Muslim, Jojo, the Tunisian Jew, and Giuseppe, the Sicilian Catholic, are as inseparable as their three 16-year-old daughters, Meriem, Gigi and Tina. In a fit of provocation the three girls all swear that they’ll lose their virginity on the day of the feast of the Madonna, each with a boy from a religion different to hers ! Once this taboo is brought out into the open, all three families fall out. But the friendship between the three fathers is so strong that it reconciles them, closer than ever before… until the eve of the Israel-Arab Six Day War in 1967 that forces apart Jews and Arabs all over the world. Continue reading