What I Peeped: Day Ten

April 13, 2008 at 4:50 am 2 comments

Behind Forgotten Eyes

Behind Forgotten Eyes (Anthony Gilmore, USA): If only a strong subject (the Japanese kidnapping of Korean women for use as sexual slaves for soldiers in WWII) and an adventurous approach (throws in animated recreations and interviews with violated and violators alike) were all it took. Gilmore’s doc lightly prods us on the horrors of the wartime mindset, specifically the former soldiers, now elderly and settled down, who try not to dwell too much on all the things they’ve done. But the mid-film move from the personal to the bigger picture of today – Japan still hasn’t formally apologized for the acts, and some Japanese historians refuse to acknowledge it even took place – turns an emotional experience into the equivalent of a 60 Minutes segment or even an infomercial. It loses focus is all, though it’s undeniably powerful in spots; one interviewee admonishing Japan for not following in the footsteps of Germany post-WWII – choosing to ignore rather than acknowledge and treat – has repercussions with today’s war that one can’t shake off.

Lucky Miles (Michael james Rowland, Australia): Few things slow down my pulse quite like culture clash and/or fish-out-of-water comedies, so kudos to first-time director Rowland for pulling off the near-impossible. Following a setup so prolonged it requires aggressive use of backpedaling/following a different character, we traipse along with three illegal immigrants – two Cambodians and an Iraqi structural engineer – lost in the Australia desert en route to scenic Perth. The possibility of weepy and/or hard-hitting polemic might seem like a logical third act tonal switch, but not only does that thankfully never happen, it becomes apparent not too long in that this is just not that kind of movie. Rowland has a prankish sense of humor, and the film is wealth of gags, most of them involving the frustration of simply trying to stay alive in a seriously foreboding locale, or trying to cross the desert in a beat-up truck holding together “by gum.” Basically I laughed my ass off and the film never gave me reason to stop.

Like Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence before him, this guy's got Nothing to Lose

Nothing to Lose (Pieter Kujipers, Netherlands): Star Theo Maassen is the only reason one needs to bother with this Dutch thriller, about an escaped killer who holds a 13-year old girl hostage on a trans-European road trip. Reportedly a popular comic actor in his native country, his casting is roughly equivalent to what Eric Bana’s casting was in Chopper, although Maassen’s role never once approaches the bottomless rage and wholly sincere guilt of a Mark “Chopper” Read. Basically Maassen conveys general decency yet something unmistakably but ambiguously off, as though he’s a psycho but you’re not sure what kind yet. It’s too bad this is a Last Minute Twist film, and there’s no way you don’t see this switcheroo coming around the fifteen minute mark. Happily both Maasen and his pubescent hostage create any and all of the film’s tension.

Chop Shop (Ramin Bahrani, USA): One of those movies that intently follows around an intensely focused blue collar worker from menial job to menial job. The twist is said worker is a 12-year old Dominican-American – a cute little moppet (arresting non-pro Alejandro Polanco) who just happens to know fake jeans when he sees them and can talk blow job prices. This is classic neo-realism, and sure enough, a melodrama soon crops up, one that’s not terribly different from what you’d see in the films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Rosetta, The Child). Yes, capitalism is once again raked over the coals, but Chop Shop – much like Bahrani’s Man Push Cart allegedly, which I still haven’t seen – is more about showing it as it works rather than making a Statement. Sure, this kind of thing is borderline cookie-cutter, but it’s a nice design.

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Entry filed under: Reviews.

Picks, Pans, All That – Day Ten: Saturday, April 12 Picks, Pans, All That – Day Eleven: Sunday, April 13

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