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Movie Reviews

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    Dark Victory: Patrice Chereau's "Gabrielle"

    I anticipated a fairly fitful sleep after catching a late screening of "Gabrielle," Patrice Chereau's adaptation of Joseph Conrad's short story "The Return." Relationship dramas can rarely be described as spooky, but "Gabrielle," like Conrad's story, is a bona-fide creepshow, complete with scaremonger "jumps" of the horror variety. Sure enough, I was up at four in the morning, racked by Caligari-esque nightmares involving a skeletal figure in white belle-epoque couture, nastily brandishing a parasol and addressing me in the voice of the film's narrator, Pascal Greggory. Losing sleep over a movie may not be everyone's idea of a good time, but ...

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    Sand Trap: Laurent Cantet's "Heading South" By Sarah Silver

    Early on in "Heading South" ("Vers le sud"), we are introduced to Brenda (Karen Young), an American who has traveled alone to a picturesque beach. In her late forties, Brenda appears comfortable in her own skin, even though the setting, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the Seventies, predates the "40 is the new 30" credo of a Sex-and-the-Citified world. She speaks in halting French to Albert, the maitre d', and nonchalantly strides through sprouting umbrella patches along the shoreline, obviously a seasoned visitor to the island. We follow her to a distant point on the blaringly white beach, where a lanky black body lies in contrast to the sand. ...

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    Death Metal: Chris Paine's "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

    The movement of documentaries into the mainstream has brought forth its share of negatives to go along with the obvious positive of a more inclusive market. Coupled as the upsurge has been with the rise of reality TV and the accessibility of DV, I suppose it shouldn't come as a shock that the popularization of the nonfiction film has -- instead of bringing on a cinematic revolution -- progressively led to a distressing dilution of the form. With frequently disheveled entries making their way into theaters, most containing nary an aesthetic bone in their body and lacking any desire to interrogate the typical talking heads format, recent effort...

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    Chamber Drama: Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross's "The Road to Guantanamo"

    Though it will likely play to a different crowd, make no mistake: "The Road to Guantanamo" is a not-too-distant cousin of Paul Greengrass's recent "United 93." Both represent the same tendency towards visceral, present-tense cinematic reportage that, through the integration of actuality footage and ...

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    2006 Half-Time: A Sidelong Glance

    It's mid-June, and much has been made of the dearth of worthwhile cinema thus far in 2006. Week after week has gone by in which we have heard fellow cinephiles (and those less inclined) cry of their disinterest in going to the movies, that there's just nothing worth seeing. The truth of the matter is that there have been more than enough very fine films, and even a handful of masterpieces (the Dardennes, Hou, Puiu) to find "wider" distribution in early 2006 post 2005 festival runs -- more than enough to make an already pretty impressive top ten. With Altman's delightfully morbid "A Prairie Home Companion" marking the year's definitive midpoin...

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    Death Takes a Holiday: Robert Altman's "A Prairie Home Companion"

    How appropriate that Robert Altman should follow his honorary Oscar with a film like "A Prairie Home Companion." Career achievement awards usually invite a sanctification of a body of work and a sensibility, and "Prairie Home" is itself a kind of grand summary: there's something quintessentially Altmanesque in its sprawling cast of characters, its regional and musical milieu, the overlapping dialogue, and the wandering, zooming camera, and the film's preoccupation with death and the passage of time that feels grand and conclusive. But "A Prairie Home Companion" is also a kind of rejoinder to this brand of late-career sanctification. When grea...

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    Front and Center: Deborah Scranton's "The War Tapes"

    Attempting to achieve a delicate balance between a respect for and a critical stance toward the subject, with a constant awareness of the moral and ethical dilemmas potentially undermining the epistemological foundations of their projects, war documentaries arrive onscreen carrying a host of artisti...

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    The Heartbreakers: "A Lion in the House"

    [indieWIRE's weekly reviews are usually written by critics from Reverse Shot. This week, they've handed their column over to Steve Ramos who takes a look at Reverse Shot's first theatrical release. ]

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    The Children's Hour: Michael Cuesta's "12 and Holding"

    Though his films tend to have an air of rawness and "brutal honesty," Michael Cuesta, judging by his first feature, "L.I.E." and his latest, "Twelve and Holding," seems more interested in creating angsty tween soap operas than surveying what it's really like to be a prepubescent. Cuesta treats the humiliations and emotional minefields of childhood from an admirably passionate subjectivity (like these kids, these films are thoroughly immersed in their own solipsistic pain), yet he isn't able to balance it with any sort of adult emotional insight. "L.I.E.," through Brian Cox's conflicted neighborhood pedophile, hinted at extraordinary empathy; ...

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    Black Reign: James Marsh's "The King"

    A big gloppy heaping of Southwestern Grand Guignol, James Marsh's "The King" is nevertheless shot with all the patience and "artfulness" we've come to expect from serious indie dramas in the new millennium. Never intent to call out its own trash as trash, "The King" couches its head-slapping melodramatics in turgid metaphor and gross self-importance. Like "Monster's Ball," that inexplicable and dishearteningly popular piece of portent that was like a Stanley Kramer tolerance drama aspiring to Wim Wenders-esque regional dislocation (in other words, a hopeless muddle), "The King" was partly written by Milo Addica, who, with "Birth" also on his ...

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