New York Cool
Film

 


Vincent Gallo's
Brown Bunny
Nationwide

 

Reviwed by Elizabeth DeCoursey

Heady and mesmerizing, Vincent Gallo's film, Brown Bunny, takes the typical road movie out of the thrill or feel-good self-discovery genres and into an exploration of guilt and self-loathing. As the writer, director, editor and star, Gallo manipulates the mood of the film from start to finish. However, those seeking a film equally as irreverent and sexy as the infamous LA billboard removed for indecency will be left wanting. Chloe Sevigny's meaty appearance is withheld until the final minutes of the film, where she serves to justify and explain the entirety of the previous hour and a half.

Brown Bunny unabashedly opens with hand-held tracking shots of a motorcycle race unraveling. Immediately, the audience is subject to Gallo's omnipresent force. He both removes and reinstates sound liberally as the camera races along with one rider whipping the background into a frenzied blur. The cadence of sentiment governing the lurching rhythm and sound of this opening sequence sets the atmosphere for the remainder of Gallo's film. Refreshingly, the numb silence established on the corners of the racetrack is re-used effectively on the road as the feature progresses.

In contrast to the film's buzzing inception, the camera is never as dynamic in the body of the film as it is in the opening five minutes. Instead, it is a stable recorder of Gallo's profile as he endures all the stages of his crippling grief, or it remains trained out the bug-splattered windshield on the road ahead. Gallo's dazed countenance shifts between racking tears and desperation as he encounters a series of haggard women named after flowers in his escapist quest. Each one burned by life, but nevertheless retaining enough humanity to offer Bud Clay (Gallo) a stranger's consolation before he breaks down entirely. They are certainly the petals to Gallo's bud.

The body of Brown Bunny is a relentless drive through America that never really settles for more than a few minutes. The countless laps made in that opening race simply straighten out and set the course for the rest of the film to follow. A few pit stops along the way and the audience finally gets the reveal in a hotel room at the finish line. The last minutes of the film are so intense and jarring that they will certainly make you hate Bud Clay, if not the filmmaker himself.



Zak Penn's
INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS
OPENS: Sept 17
Sunshine Landmark Theater


Chills, Chuckles, and Chomps on the Loch!

Starring: Werner Herzog; Zak Penn; Jeff Goldblum

Reviewed by Troy Tolley

In the wake of so many "reality TV shows" (thank you, MTV!) and "fake documentaries" (thank you, Blaire Witch!), why would someone set out to make yet another of these to toss into the mix? Because now it is time to start making fun of the genre!

INCIDENT does just that, but with such subtle elegance, you may miss the intent altogether. INCIDENT doesn't even try to ask you to take it seriously, nor does it overtly take a comic stance, but it does kindly trust in the intelligence of the viewer to enjoy the fine line that IS the blur between reality and fiction.

Word was put out on the street and across the internet some time ago that renowned documentarian, Werner Herzog (Aguirre: The Wrath of God; My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski; Wheel of Time), was setting out to investigate the mysteries of Loch Ness under the title, ENIGMA OF LOCH NESS. The intent of the documentary would be to explore the importance of the monster myth to the locals and to the human psyche, more than it was an intention to find "Nessie". Herzog would be teaming up with Zak Penn, a big shot Hollywood writer/producer (X-Men2; Behind Enemy Lines; Suspect Zero) to explore this subject. Why these two would suddenly team up is as big a mystery as what may lie beneath the infamous Loch, leading to a build of tension among the crew and between the filmmakers that is only eclipsed by the shadow of the monster, itself.

While Herzog worked with Penn to film ENIGMA, a second team of documentarians would be filming the process. Needless to say, ENIGMA is never completed, and INCIDENT is the result of that tragic/comic failure, captured by the secondary team of filmmakers. What unfolds is an endearingly tense and anxiously funny ride across the misty waters of Loch Ness.

Big Hollywood Bad Boy plus Serious Documentarian mixed with a Bumbling and Begrudging Crew, all floating helplessly on the dark waters of Loch Ness with a monster not only on your heels, but beating the hell out of your ill-equipped boat, equals a playfully precarious ride that will leave you chuckling more than it will leave you chilled.

"Incident" (http://www.incidentatlochness.com) is rated PG-13 and will open Sept 17 at the Sunshine Landmark Theater - 143 East Houston Street on the Lower East Side (212) 330-8182 - 94 minutes. "Incident" is Zak Penn's directorial debut and is produced by Zak Penn and Werner Herzog.

Sunshine Landmark Theater | 143 East Houston


Persons of Interest
Opens Friday September 3rd


Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams


"First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me." Martin Niemoller

I am from Texas, the same state as our First Cowboy, George W. Bush. When I was in high school I attended a lecture at Southern Methodist University and heard Martin Niemoller. Niemoller was imprisoned by Hitler and spent eight years in prison, some of it at Dauchau. From then on, whenever he spoke he would always end with the above quote...."There was no one left to speak out for me." I really was not supposed to be there that night, we were in Dallas on a vacation and my parents heard he was speaking and wanted to attend. But like many accidental happenings, it had a profound affect on how I view life.

About a week ago, I went to see "Persons of Interest", a documentary about twelve Arabs (of the over five thousand arrested after 9/11), who were snatched off the streets of this our United States and held incommunicado, with no right to counsel, for up to twelve months. Each speaker, or group of speakers, was filmed in a bare room, furnished only with a bench, there they answered question from an unseen narrator. Each story was poignant, from the executive who was jailed because his son had a flight simulator and he had a used ticket to the World Trade Center observation deck, to the mother of three extremely rambunctious boys who was at her wits end trying to raise them without a father (her husband was deported).

Yes, we were attacked by Arabs, but we were attacked by specific Arabs with the intention to do us in, not the guys at the corner deli. Listening to the stories of these twelve men, it was impossible to not believe that most all of them had no ties to terrorists. Even the most cynical among us would have to admit that if they were terrorists, neither they not their families would have been willing to participate in a documentary about their experiences.

I was left with the horrible suspicion that our posse-in-power in Washington just decided it was time to haul in some "Injuns," and instructed their minions to grab the first Arabs they saw (the guys at the corner deli?), on the off chance that they might know "something." Many of the detainees spoke of how they had come to America because they believed America was the land of the free, with opportunity for all, and how horribly delusioned they were to find out that they could be denied basic civil rights with hardly any outcry. The one adjective that came to mind to describe them is hurt, hurt because it happened and hurt because the rest of us did little to help. They all seemed bewildered, why couldn't people just see them and realize that they were just like us? But it did happen to "them" and it is continuing to happen to "them" and (to paraphrase Martin Niemoller), if we don't speak out now, in the end there may be no one left to speak out for us, and then we too may become "them."

"Persons of Interest" was produced by Lawrence Konner and directed by Alison Maclean and Tobiase Perse. It is being presented by the Documentary Campaign and screens with "Through the Wire" (a fascinating documentary about Australian protestors storming a detention center)and "Getting Through to the President" (a very funny documentary about New Yorkers using a payphone to call the White House comment line). "Persons" is coming exclusively to Cinema Village during the Republican National Convention.

 


Nora Ligorano & Marshall Reese: Lineup: The Unofficial Portraits
&
Larry Litt: Before You Don't Vote. . .
Advice to the Angry, Apathetic, and
Alienated
The Kitchen


Reviewed by: Stephanie Alberico

I have never really been interested in or participated in politics. I
just kind of ignored them and left the voting to my elders, not unlike many
people my age. However, after attending this screening I have now
registered to vote for the upcoming election.

The first video was presented by Nora Ligorano & Marshall Reese and
explored the nature of politics and the public's distrust with government
officials. This video consisted of "mug shots," of President George W. Bush
and his cabinet. These "mug shots," were digitally manipulated from old
master paintings of these government officials featuring a frontal and
profile picture of each of them. This portraiture also included audio
clips quoted from each person and sound effects of closing jail bars. All
of the images and sound bites were downloaded from the internet.
According to the press release, the mug shot has become the preeminent
form of portraiture in America today, because more people are incarcerated
in the US than any other country. From beginning to end, the video features
President Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell,
John Ashcroft, Richard Perle, Karen Hughes, and Paul Wolfowitz. The
combination of sound and imagery was eerie and thought-provoking.
The video took a stand on the betrayal of the public's trust and took a
negative and biased outlook on Bush and his administration. It opens the
viewer's eyes to misleading information and how much of this government
information is misconstrued. Should we trust the government? Probably not.
Should they be behind bars? Maybe. But, that's an issue for each voter
to decide for themselves.

The second installment of the exhibit was created by Larry Litt. It
consisted of the opinions and perspectives of different people on the topic
of voting. These people covered almost every demographic with people from
every race and every age-group. It basically encouraged voting in the youth
of our nation, because adults 18-25 are the least likely to vote.
According to the film summary, people who talk about politics and discuss
them are more likely to vote and participate. The video took a humorous
approach to politics and put an upbeat spin on topics which most youth might
find boring. It was a simplistic, open-ended question discussion with
everyday people and their thoughts on the president, apathy, politics,
democracy, and even money. The video aims to raise consciousness and debate
during time of political crisis.

These two films are in conjunction with the Imagine Festival and are being
presented by The Kitchen Art Gallery (www.thekitchen.org) through September 3. However, Larry Litt's documentary will be screened at various academic and at institutions prior to Election Day. Both videos reflect concerns about public betrayal from the government and the importance of voting participation. Please
visit www.imagine04.org, www.pureprocutsusa.com or www.blameshow.com for more information.

The screening was enlightening and educating. The Imagine Festival
provides an important foundation for Americans as they respond to party
conventions and the controversial election in November. No matter who

you're voting for, get off your couch and stand up for something!



The Ramones

End of the Century
The Story of the Ramones

Reviewed by Josh McLane

"1-2-3-4"!

I had no expectations when I walked into the theater to see "End of the Century." I like the Ramones. I'm not their biggest fan, but I think they're a great band and I was lucky enough to see them on their farewell tour. Before I saw the film, I really did not know much about them except for some basic facts - they were the first real punk rock band, all members changed their last name to Ramone, they sniffed glue etc. etc.

The film put all the hype into perspective and opened my eyes to the loud and often-times harsh world of the Ramones. It was one of the most impressive, thought provoking, concise, sobering and hilarious documentaries I have ever seen. What really impressed me were the raw candid interviews. Everyone involved spoke their mind, they didn't hold back, they just came right out and said what they thought. (continued)




Garden State
In Theaters

"When I'm with you, I feel safe-like I'm home." Andrew Largeman

Starring: Natalie Portman; Zach Braff; Peter Sarsgaard

Reviewed by Stephanie Alberico

My father always said home is not a place, but instead it is the people
that surround you. Garden State, a new film written and directed by Zach Braff, is a movie about the people who make us feel home.

Andrew Largeman, played by Zach Braff, is the lead character who returns to his hometown of New Jersey for the first time since he left nine years before. Braff stars in the TV series, Scrubs.

In the film, Large has returned home to attend his mother's funeral. He left home nine years earlier to attend boarding school and pursue an acting career in L.A. Andrew is welcomed home by his group of friends whom seemed to never have left Jersey. He also meets and falls in love with a girl named Sam, played by Natalie Portman.

Largeman is a complex character who has been pumped full of medication his entire life. Before he gets home he decides to experiment by altogether discontinuing his use of Lithium, Paxil, and Zoloft. The film continues to follow this man on his journey to turn his life around.

Largeman is accompanied by his best friend, Mark, played by a convincing Peter Sarsgaard. Mark ventures to cheer up his friend by "tracking him down" a present, before he leaves home again.

"I'm ok with being unimpressive, I sleep better." Mark tells his mother, in one scene. Mark is a sarcastic pot head who is nagged constantly by his mother to purchase real estate videos and therefore get a "real job."

This is a coming-of-age film about friendships, life, love, family, and
inner-conflict. It was fresh and fun. The music which accompanied the film was perfectly matched with each scene. It seemed to keep the movie flowing and make it more emotional. I definitely recommend buying the soundtrack.

The production was realistic and clever. It proceeds to become a love
story hidden within a creative and imaginative delivery.

Largeman resolves many important conflicts by the end of the film. He
explores the feeling of living a "real life," complete without medication and instead pain and hardship. He mends his relationships with his father, who was also his shrink. Large realizes he must make his own decisions about his life and not always follow his father's instructions. Life is not always happy, but instead painful and real.

Garden State was a hilarious satire about real-life people and situations. The actors were insightful and believable. It was a feel-good movie which left me hopeful and inspired.




Mike Bencivenga's
Happy Hour
Opens October 22nd.

Reviewed by Jessica Cogan

Happy Hour begins like so many other tales of the city - soulful music, view of the New York skyline at night. But what ensues in Mike Bencivegna's film is a very personal look at deceptively stereotypical characters and what happens when happy hour ends and real life resumes.

The story follows Tulley (Anthony Paglia), a boozy smart ass who had once showed great promise as a writer but has since buried that talent under years of meaningless work as a copy editor and about 35,000 gallons of whiskey. Tulley is accompanied on most of his benders by his sidekick Levine, himself a writer suffering from lack of confidence and the inertia good times with Tulley brings on. One night at "the bar" Tulley meets Natalie (Caroleen Feeney), a school teacher who doesn't like children and seems tired out by life. The two hit it off (and hit the sheets) and soon the trio is inseperable.

But relationships built on such liquor-saturated ground are rarely stable, and when Tulley learns that his years of liver abuse have caught up with him, the dynamic of the friendships shift. Tulley feels death's urgency in finishing his novel - seventeen years in the works. Levine sees in Tulley his own future if he stays his present course. And Natalie must determine whether love is worth the pain it can cause.

The film is very atmospheric - great shots of the city, its (pre-Bloomberg) smoky bars and soaring corporate fortresses. LaPaglia's ragged voice over and the moody score round out the gritty-city feel. And while the film is heavy on drama, there are more than a few laugh-out-loud lines- mostly Tulley's - that lighten the mood. LaPaglia, Feeney and particularly Stoltz deliver fine performances and play off one another naturally.

Despite the rather gloomy subject matter - following an alcoholic in demise is hardly cheery - the film is finally hopeful. You just may not want to go out for a beer afterwards.

Cinema Village| 22 E. 12th St




Kang Je-gyu's
Tae Guk Gi
The Brotherhood of War
Korean with English Subtitles
Opens Sept. 10, 2004

Reviewed by Stephanie Alberico

I hate subtitles. I don't feel reading should be a prerequisite for
movie-going. However, Kang Je-gyu's new war film, "Tae Guk Gi," is an
exception to the rule. My understanding of the film came solely through the vivid imagery and not the words. Its message was strong and clear.

Director Kang Je-gyu delivers a courageous story about honor and betrayal, but most of all about brotherly love. The Brotherhood of War takes a look at the effects the Korean War had on its country, society, and families.

Kang Je-gyu is the acclaimed director of the foreign blockbuster, "Shiri." He has brought audiences another touching and emotional tale with this film. He proves his ability to create a distinct war film that features mammoth battle scenes and an underlying story about a divided nation, and a family torn apart.

According to the press release, "Tae Guk Gi," is the most expensive Korean film ever produced at a budget of $14 million. It has also become Korea's highest grossing film of all time. Kang Je-gyu is now opening his movie in the United States after the amazing success it has seen in Asia. "Tae Guk Gi," is named after the national flag of South Korea. It symbolizes the universe and nature.

The movie begins modern-day. An elderly South Korean man, Jin-seok Lee, and his granddaughter receive a call about some bones found from the Korean War. The man then flashes back to the 1950's to begin telling his story. Jin-tae Lee, played by Jang Dong-gun, is the older brother of the two and supports his family by shining shoes. Jin-seok Lee, played by Won Bin, is the younger and more educated brother.

They are both involuntarily drafted in the war and ripped away from their families. Jin-tae watches protectively over his younger brother during the war. He tries incessantly to get him discharged from service to return home and care for their family. The two brothers are thrown into a viscous war of violence and tragedy.

Most of the scenes look like something out of a horror film, with blood and guts covering the screen. These scenes are gory, bloody, and gut-wrenching. Think "Saving Private Ryan," Korean-style. In one scene, a soldier's leg is blown off and blood pours out of his stomach from a bullet-wound, as he fights for his life. Make sure to leave the kids at home.

The battle scenes are also visceral and extravagant. One soldier cannot handle the pressures of war, so shoots himself in the head with a rifle. A close-up reveals his head in a pool of blood. Another soldier's torso is diseased with maggots. Soldiers burn corpses and murder innocent victims. Half of a man's face is burned off, as smoke billows from his head. Men's limbs are blown off in every direction.

Sound repulsive? It was. I even had to cover my eyes for many of the
scenes. Nonetheless, the horror and reality left me on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what came next. But don't worry, the director didn't forget to leave room for comic relief either. After the soldiers have been starving for days, they are rewarded with a banquet of food. They shove their faces with food and giggle like school children. I felt the relief and enjoyment of this meal right along with the men. Jin-tae even brings Jin-seok a giant Hershey's bar and gives him a drunk pep talk.

This film not only depicts the atrocities of war, but the effect the
violence had on the psychological descent of the soldiers' minds. Jin-tae soon becomes crazed and obsessed with the violence as he gains power at different battle scenes. He then focuses his motivation on winning the medal of honor, at all costs. Jin-seok recognizes his older brother's fatal mistake and tries to remind him of the life he left behind-his home, his fiancée, and their mother.

Back home, Jin-tae's fiancée, Young-Shin, is forced to sign up for rallies to feed their family. The government could not provide food or supplies for their people. Many starved to death.

"Join the communists or die," becomes the central theme of the film. Kang Je-gyu's resentment and hatred for communist North Korea becomes obvious throughout the film.

After some victorious scenes, it seems as though the war may end and both brothers will return home safely. Jin-tae wins the medal of honor for capturing a sergeant alive. But as in all tragedies, the war and the story take a turn for the worst. Even more death and tragedies occur and Jin-tae's mentality deteriorates completely.

"He is not the brother I once knew. He has changed," Jin-seok dictates. The war's destructive path continues and kills more innocent people. Massive explosions and horrendous battle scenes fill up the film until the very end. I felt sick to my stomach by the end of the film. My head was pounding and I was fighting back tears.

Finally, bomber jets attack from the air and machine guns spit bullets
from every direction. Yet, the action never gets in the way of the movie's most important lesson: A brother's love is unconditional and they are willing to kill and die for each other.

The film is an emotional and tear-jerking adventure in and of itself. It had the ability to make me jump from fright, cry, and then suddenly laugh out loud. I was so entranced by the film, I even forgot all about subtitles.

Jang Dong-gun and Won Bin provide award-winning performances, which is sure to leave audiences riveted. I fell in love with Won Bin for his heartfelt performance. Jang Dong-gun portrayed an emotionally unstable, psychotic soldier with ease.

The Korean War or "The Forgotten War" was a brutal fight, which tore
families apart and left most Koreans confused about what they were fighting for. One of the ending scenes will forever be burned in my mind. Jin-seok returns to the war to try to save his brother one last time, but Jin-tae is so far gone that he does not even recognize his own brother. Jin-tae tries numerous times to kill his own brother and they are brutally beating each other to the verge of death. Jin-tae finally snaps out of it and recognizes his brother, whom he thought was dead. The brothers share a moment of undying love, before the fatal end of their relationship. I tricked myself into believing the ending would not turn out tragic, despite all of the clues.

"Tae Guk Gi," is sure to haunt audiences in the United States, as it has already done in Asia. It will probably even tempt you to call your brother and tell him how much you love him. Just be sure not to see this one on a full stomach

 


 

Ferenc Toth's
Unknown Soldier
Urban World Film Festival


Starring Carl Louis, Layla Edwards, Randy Clark, and Postell Pringle

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

Living in New York can be tough all around, especially so if you are young and don't have loving parents with a working checkbook. Everything can go wrong and frequently does. Family and friends can be the only thing that keeps a young (even college-educated) person off the street.

"Unknown Soldier," written and directed by Ferenc Toth, is a poignant slice-of-life film about a young black guy named Ellison or "L" (played by Carl Lewis), who loses his comfortable life when his father dies suddenly, leaving him with nothing. Evicted from his apartment, he is thrown on the mercies of financially strapped friends and ends up spending many a night on the rooftops and in the doorways of Harlem. And by losing his home, he also loses any hope of staying apace with his girl friend, Tandee (played by Layla Edwards), who is moving on with her life by going to college in the fall. Forced into a homeless shelter, "L" is quickly seduced by the darker side of life, and starts running errands and "driving" for a charismatic local hood named Zee (played by Postell Pringle).

"Unknown Soldier" had a very limited budget and with its many hand-held camera scenes, it sometimes seems more like a documentary than a "film." Some of the scenes are so poorly lit, you can barely see the actors. But Mr. Toth's story shines through the dark. Carl Lewis is a natural actor who possesses an innate sweetness that carries the film. No matter what adversity befell "L" I really liked him and knew that in the end, he would be okay.

I saw the film at the Urban World Film Festival. As I was walking into the auditorium, I was surrounded by a large group of Harlem street kids. So I said to myself, "They've come to watch the film….a little different group from your normal film festival crowd, but this is the Urban World Film Festival and someone must have done some targeted marketing." Then I saw the film and realized that those street kids were the film's actors and they were all great! It was a very cool moment, one you can only have in New York. Bravo!


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