Thursday, May 19, 2005


I missed it again! I discovered that there was an extra screening of this movie I missed twice today and when I got there the line was halfway down the hall. Most of the people didn't get in and by the time they said that it was full I had missed the other screening. I thought I was getting lucky as I managed three other films I'd missed.

That's life, I guess. After all this time I've finally got the blog thing to work perfectly. The outside temperature's back where it should be after going down into the low fifties. This is supposed to be the subtropics in MAY for crissake!

So here are two of the reviews I was going to put up in the morning:

Free Zone (Israel)

Written and Directed
by Amos Gitai

Just west of the border with Iraq is the area of Jordan known as the “Free Zone.” This piece of desert is sparcely inhabited and is tax free, hence the name. The special status is thus perfect to sell used cars for use all over the middle east.

Rebecca(Nathalie Portman) has just left her husband and grabs a taxi for the airport. She wants to leave Israel in order to forget the wreck of her marriage, but she gets into the wrong cab, for Hanna(Hanna Laslo), has a mission. To cross from Israel to the Free Zone and get thirty grand from “the American” who’s her husband’s business partner.

So Hanna offers to take Rebecca with her, why we don’t know. First there’s a slight amount of trouble at the Israeli/Jordanian border, then they get lost, but this is a good place for some interesting flashback action where we see the two protagonist’s back-stories. While the relationship between Rebecca and her husband(Markram Khoury) doesn’t ring exactly true, the one between Hanna and her husband Moshe(Uri Klauzner) most certainly does and is quite moving.

Finally getting to where they’re going, quite late, in fact, the pair meets up with
Leila(Hiam Abbass), who’s supposed to be the American’s assistant. She and Hanna argue about the money owed, and finally she agrees to take them to see the American.

What happens next is unexpected and actually quite interesting. This is not a geat film, but an extremely good one and the whole thing is quite moving in parts.

Why Portman is brilliant in everything she does except “Star Wars” isn’t exactly a mystery. I blame George Lucas. In the meantime, check this out if it ever gets to America.

Don't Come Knockin' (USA/Germany)

Directed by
Wim Wenders

Back in the ’60s, a young man named Sam Shepherd wanted to be a movie star, but no one would hire him as he wasn’t that good an actor. So he decided to start writing his own plays in order to give himself a showcase.

Well, he could indeed write. Very well, in fact. Stuff like “True West” are today considered classics. Then after getting confirmed as one of the best playwrights of his time, he got his big acting break in “The Right Stuff” back in 1983. Following that he made a few movie appearances, but his “Marlborough Man” persona wore out rather quickly and his career as a matinee idol quickly fizzled.

This was, in a perverse way, a really good thing, as it forced him back to his typewriter and go back to what he’s doing best, Writing.

So a few plays and years later, he and his friend, director Wim Wenders, got together and talked. Wenders’ last couple of films had been flops [his last one was really lousy], and he was in great need of a comeback before his reputation as a genius would begin to fade. A Shepherd-Wenders collaboration would be just the thing to get the two back on top.

The ploy seems to have worked.

In this thing Shepherd has cast himself as one Howard Spence, a Clint Eastwood-type, whose off-screen life has been one screw-up after another. Sex, drug busts, walking off the set, beating up fellow jet passengers. It’s surprising that he even gets work any more. But when we meet him, he has, and he’s just fled the on-location set on a horse into the great southwestern desert.

The Director(George Kennedy) is livid, as are the rest of the cast and crew, not to mention the insurance company, which has guaranteed the completion of the film for $35 million. With all that money on the line, it’s clear to see that they’re going to try to bring him back to work. This job goes to their number one tracker, The mysterious Mr. Sutter (Tim Roth).

But our hero doesn’t want to be found, and he makes his way to Salt Lake City, where he contacts Howard's Mother(Eva Marie Saint) in Nevada. Howard and Mom haven’t seen each other in thirty years, but she’s glad to see him anyway, despite the fact that he’s acting like an ass.

She asks him about his son in Butte, Montana and he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. He hadn’t a clue that he had impregnated anyone. But he thinks about it for a bit and remembers. Curious, he takes his late father’s very old ’57 Chevy and heads northeast to the Big Sky Country. Meanwhile…

Sky’s(Sarah Polley) mother has just died. She has apparently some connection with our hero, probably she’s the love child that Mom had been talking about. Maybe she’s another one. We don’t figure that out until near the end. So she heads over to Butte too, impelled by an unknown force.

In Butte, the chase, if that’s what it is, begins to change direction, so to speak, for our hero has found Doreen(Jessica Lange), the child’s mother, extremely quickly, and she points out the son he never knew. But Earl (Gabriel Mann) doesn’t want to hear about it and although his Amber (Fairuza Balk) thinks it’s a hoot.

Family relationships is a Shepherd specialty, and this shows his genius to it’s full extent. Gabriel Mann is a wonder. He comes out of nowhere and takes over the screen. The scenes between him and Shepard are full of the emotional electricity that made Shepard famous in the first place.

This is something to see. A perfect independent film to be sure.

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