Focus on IFC Films 2010(March 19th - March 21st, 2010)
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Looking for Eric
Directed by Ken Loach.
The Focus on IFC series at BAM begins on Friday, March 19th at 6:50 PM with director Ken Loach’s new film, Looking for Eric Steve Evets stars as Eric Bishop, a twice-divorced father living with two troublesome stepsons, Ryan (Gerard Kearns) and Jesse (Stefan Gumbs). He has a lot of emotional baggage left over from his previous marriage to his first wife, Lily (Stephanie Bishop), whom he wants to get back together with in hopes of rekindling their romance from nearly 30 years ago. Ryan (Gerard Kearns) and Jess (Stefan Gumbs), his two teenage stepsons, live with him and lead a delinquent social life that threatens to put them, including Steve, in grave danger. The particular events that transpire regarding that danger won’t be spoiled here, though. In an amusing turn of events, his favorite soccer player, Eric Cantona, shows up Steve’s his home and mentors him about how to put his life back together, first and foremost, by boosting his self esteem, i.e. having him learn to say “No!” to others firmly. Screenwriter Paul Laverty does a great job of balancing the heavy dramatic elements of the film with just the right amount of comedy which serves as a form of much-needed levity. Rarely has a drama infused with magic realism been so funny and sad concurrently while keeping you oddly uplifted at times and even somewhat inspired by Cantona’s insightful, life-affirming and honest advice. It would’ve been helpful if there were subtitles, though, because the British accents are often quite thick, so you might find some of the dialogue to be indiscernible. Had the direction by Ken Loach not been so sensitively handled when it comes the pacing and transitions between scenes, the blend of genres and tones would have felt uneven and inorganic. Soccer fans will be delighted to know that soccer player Eric Cantona plays Eric Cantona and that watching him interact with Steve is quite compelling and even amusing on occasion. You’ll find yourself riveted during the film’s third act which, unlike many of ho-hum, pedestrian, lazy dramas nowadays, can actually be considered as truly unpredictable and surprising without insulting your intelligence. At a running time of just under 2 hours, Looking for Eric manages to be a tender, wise and uplifting tragicomedy that’s concurrently funny, gritty, heartfelt and, above all, honest.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens May 21st, 2010.
The Good, the Bad, the Weird
Directed by Kim Jee-Woon.
Kim Jee-Woon directs the “Kimchi” western, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, about three men along with the Japanese army and Asian bandits who desperately try to possess a precious map that supposedly leads to buried treasure in Manchuria during the 1930s. The three men include bounty hunter Do-won (Jung Woo-sung), a.k.a. The Good, bandit leader Chang-yi (Lee Byung-hun), a.k.a. The Bad, and train robber Tae-goo (Song kang-ho), a.k.a. The Weird. Although the plot pays loose homage to Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, it’s much more anarchic, outrageous and bizarre than your standard Western. Expect lots of stylized violence, fast-paced chases and crazy death scenes that never take themselves seriously. Jee-Woon uses too much fast-paced, shaky camerawork which tends to create nausea unless you have Attention Deficit Disorder and don’t mind your senses being bombarded from start to finish. Much of the scenery looks breathtaking up on the big screen, though, with all the vivid colors, so the visual impact will diminish if you were to watch it in any other medium. The Good, the Bad, the Weird is a stylish, outrageously funny western that’s often silly, inane and somewhat headache-inducing, but nonetheless entertaining on a purely aesthetic, visceral level.
Opens April 23rd, 2010 at the IFC center.
Making Plans for Lena
Directed by Christophe Honoré.
In Making Plans for Lena, Lena (Chiara Mastroianni) returns her parents countryside home with her two children where she hopes to have a relaxing vacation. Little does she know that she’s in for more than she bargained for. She meets her ex-husband, Nigel (Jean-Marc Barr), there along with her sister (Marina Foïs) who’s in a troubled marriage with her husband, José (Jean-Baptiste Fonc). Even when her former lover, Simon (Louis Garrel), shows up, she’s still in a forlorn state of mind that she can’t seem to get out of. Director/co-writer Christophe Honoré fails to flesh out the character of Lena interestingly enough so that she’d be worth caring about as a protagonist. The entire burden of the film rests on her and how she reacts to others, but during her interactions you’ll find her to be neurotic, jejune and annoying---on top of that, she needs some cheese with her all her whine. Honoré offers nothing surprising or truly insightful for that matter when it comes to his exploration of depression or mid-life crisis, so you’ll find yourself underwhelmed and wishing the dialogue were wiser and, most importantly, more engaging rather than so dull and forgettable.
Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Opens August 20th, 2010 at the IFC Center.
Tales from the Golden Age
Directed by Hanno Höfer, Razvan Marculescu, Cristian Mungiu, Constantin Popescu and Ioana Uricarus.
Tales from the Golden Age,written and based on an idea conceived by Cristian Mungiu (director of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, features a series of five different segments each of which takes place during the ultimate years of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Three of the stories, entitled “The Legend of the Official Visit,” “The Legend of the Party Photographer,” and “The Legend of the Greedy Policeman,” are the funniest among the bunch with plenty of absurd humor, clever comedy of errors, along with a few hilarious sight gags, i.e. a bunch of townspeople stuck on a carnival ride and must spin around constantly all night until the ride runs out of gas. Or in another segment, a family must figure out how to secretly slaughter a pig that they received as a prize, so they attempt to gas it. “The Legend of the Chicken Driver” and “The Legend of the Air Sellers,” though, take a more serious turn and feel a bit less interesting not nearly imaginative as the prior segments. Ultimately, Tales from the Golden Age gradually wears out its welcome as it sinks into dullness.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3
No release date yet.
Directed by Claire Denis.
In White Material, Maria Vial (Isabelle Huppert) owns a coffee plantation in Africa where there’s social unrest and violence taking place all around the country. She desperately tries to save the plantation from being destroyed even while a rebel leader known as the Boxer (Isaach de Bankolé ) reemerges and as child soldiers remain a threat to the life of her family, including her ex-husband, André (Christopher Lambert) and son (Nicolas Duvauchelle). André secretly made a deal with the mayor (William Nadylam) to sell him the plantation. Director/co-writer Claire Denis has woven a drama that’s initially intriguing and intense, but it eventually becomes tedious and unmoving because she fails to draw you emotionally into the life of the characters. Isabelle Huppert gives a strong performance, just as expected, which helps to keep you at least marginally engaged, but by the time the end credits roll, you’ll feel rather underwhelmed and wishing that the film were much more riveting and insightful while characters were much more organically fleshed out.
Number of times I checked my watch: 4
No release date yet.