Picks, Pans, All That – Day Three: Saturday, April 5

April 5, 2008 at 6:16 pm 1 comment

Well, looks like the internets suffered a bit of an apocalyptic meltdown this morning/early afternoon. But there’s still time to get off a couple recs.

Hanna Schygulla!

The Good
The Edge of Heaven (Fatih Akin, Germany/Turkey):
I gushed about Akin’s follow-up to the attention-grabbing Head-On in the paper, and I still mean every word. A maturation of the least boring kind – see also: David Fincher’s Zodiac and P.T.A.’s There Will Be Blood – it’s a shape-shifter, starting off as a geriatric, cash-strapped version of Pretty Woman before crazy circumstances cart us off to Turkey and several other protagonists. Akin loves coincidence but Heaven never feels gimmicky – it’s a smooth, elegantly constructed film. Besides, who doesn’t love a Euro director who, on top of the world and allowed to do anything he wants, casts Fassbinder vet Hanna Schygulla? (7pm, Ritz East)

Join Us (Ondi Timoner, USA): See the paper for words on Timoner’s follow-up to her indie rock doc DiG!, wherein she trails the recently deprogrammed former members of a crazy ass religious cult. Bone chilling. (7:15pm, Ritz East)

Like a Shooting Star (Toshido Masuda, Japan): This obscurity from 1967 plays like Breathless as reconceived as a wacky yakuza romp, with a whistling lead who nearly radiates more devil-more-care attitude than Jean-Paul Belmondo himself. Told to lay low after a major hit, perpetually grinning Tetsuya Watari tries to avoid repercussions – in the form of Branded to Kill’s great Jo Shishido, an actor who actually, literally had his cheeks surgically enhanced to resemble that of a chipmunk – while putting the moves on a Jean Sebergesque dame. Masuda doesn’t do the pop of the great madman Seijun Suzuki (Tokyo Drifter), another workhorse for Japan’s Nikkatsu studios, but instead works a jazzy, laid-back feel, even when things explode into musical numbers. (7:30pm, The Bridge)

The Bloodlines Video Diary Project (various, USA): Philadelphia filmmaker Eugene Martin (Diary of a City Priest) arranges the personal, diaristic videos shot by two city youths, including one from Ebony and another from Port Richmond. Where the other hand-the-cams-to-the-kids doc First Person follows kids as they try to get into college, Bloodlines’ subjects are 14 and 13, staving off any potential repetition. (7pm, International House)

This will not be your reaction to The Visitor

The Not So Good
The Visitor (Thomas McCarthy, USA): Immigrants are nice. They shouldn’t be deported. Of use only to Joey Vento and fans of character actor great Richard Jenkins, who deserved a better graduation to lead. (He’s best known for his marvelously uptight DEA officer in Flirting With Disaster and as the dead father on Six Feet Under, though check his extensive IMDb page.) His carefully modulated performance does The Visitor a lot of favors, almost – but not quite – convincing one that this is more than a bald polemic, not to mention one where the non-white experience is inexplicably shown through a white protagonist. (7:15pm, Ritz 5)

For the Unknown Dog (Benjamin and Dominik Reding, Germany): After participating in a semi-accidental murder, a young man hightails it outta there by joining up with a group of journeymen – men who wander around the country on foot, in archaic clothes and often drunkenly. The oddness of the premise and general orneriness keep things peppy for a bit, but the fun doesn’t last. (10pm, The Bridge)

Mrs. Ratcliffe’s Revolution (Bille Etringham, UK): British Communist family emigrates to East Berlin in the ‘60; finds socialism’s not all it’s cracked up to be. First Good Bye Lenin, now this. Maybe third time’s the charm for light GDR comedies. (9:45pm, Ritz 5)

And those I haven’t seen (yet) but which possess buzz and/or look promising:
The excessively well-received I Just Didn’t Do It, from Japan, spends around two-and-a-half hours following a young man refusing to confess to a groping offense he didn’t commit (4:30pm, Ritz 5). The Pixar Story tells just that, though given their tussles with parent company Disney it ain’t going to be just bouncing lamps and anthropomorphic toys (5pm, Prince Music Theater). Stuck, from Re-Animator’s Stuart Gordon, finds Stephen Rea stuck in Mena Suvari’s windshield. And finally Blast of Silence, a low-budget noir from 1961 that’s soon to get Criterionized, follows around an assassin (writer/director/star Allen Baron) pursued by demons both real and imaginary (9:30pm, Ritz East).

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What I Peeped: Day Two What I Peeped: Day Three

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