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Heavy Eyes: 2004 Palm Springs Int'l Film Fest wrap-up, Part 2

For more info, visit
by Greg Muskewitz

Continued festival coverage of A Thousand Months, The Promised Life, Bon Voyage, This Very Moment, The Debutants, That Day, Dekada '70, Goodbye Dragon Inn, The Tulse Luper Suitcases Part 1: The Moab Story, Distant Lights, Forest, Free Radicals, and Captive.


A Thousand Months. Overlong by at least 20-minutes, mercifully it doesn’t last as long as the title suggests, nor does it cover that length of time. The title is taken from a prayer, and the Moroccan movie is set during Ramadan in 1981. It centers on a young boy who lives with his grandfather and mother (who is a servant to the town’s Kaid), while unbeknownst to him, his father is serving time in jail. As an observance of daily rituals (he holds the prestigious position of literally holding the teacher’s chair out of the classroom) and between a handful of local denizens (the Kaid’s rebellious daughter, a nearby looker who is pined after by the teacher and a cable engineer), it achieves an authentically static slice of life. (The engineer’s romantic gesture of cutting off the town’s transmission of a movie so that only his pursuant love interest knows the ending is sweet.) Where Faouzi Bensaïdi’s movie is visually blurred and fuzzy around the edges, his dramatic storytelling is blurred and fuzzy in the center; the act of observing builds in monotony as there is less and less to observe. The action is so limited and decidedly dispersed over a long period of time that it adds up to so little when all has been collected. Fouad Labied, as the little boy, attains a patience charm in the wide-eyed role. With Mohamed Majd and Nezha Rahile.

The Promised Life. Isabelle Huppert is a weathered hooker who must go on the lam with her illegitimate and unwanted teenage daughter, who in turn unintentionally killed her mother’s pimp. Without much of a plan, they escape Nice to the French countryside to seek out an old lover of Huppert’s, whom she had a younger son with. Their turbulent relationship is further strained when they are separated while thumbing for rides, and both wind up receiving help from a mystèriuex Pascal Greggory in separate instances. Of course, their split gives drive to the development of the characters, particularly Huppert’s prostitute, whose shady past includes why she abandoned her lover, her teen daughter, and time she spent in a psychiatric hospital. Eventually, as the fork in the road brings the two divergent paths back together, with the addition of Greggory sticking around, the emphasis on the daughter is prematurely phased out, but it still remains a compelling portrait of various strings and levels of destitution. As to make clear the distinction between street life in Nice, and the placid countryside, director Olivier Dahan (also one of the camera operators) calms down with the agitated cinematography early on to complement his characters. But throughout, it’s clear that this is less about aesthetics than it is behind the psychology of serial desertion. Not until the forsaker has become the forsaken will there be any forward movement or actions taken responsibility for. (The habit is similar to drug use, which is also something touched upon here, albeit superficially.) And it benefits as well from avoiding the attempt of a full explanation and disclosure that lead to those actions. Huppert remains, as always, a formidable presence who can aptly be human and fallible in an unlikable role. She is, when given the chance, matched in naturalness by Maud Forget, who foregoes the need to act up to Huppert’s stature.

Bon Voyage. France’s official submission for the 2003 Oscars, and the least worthy choice out of all the French films I saw from the festival. (It just so happened that I saw more from France than any other country; it’s no indication of nepotism among the countries.) Stripped of its many contexts, subplots and characters, Bon Voyage is a story of unrequited love between an adored movie star (Isabelle Adjani, at nearly 49, looking more and more like Cher) and a writer who is immured for the murder of one her lovers, an accident she is responsible for, but in which he voluntarily takes the fall. It’s 1940, and the Nazis have already stormed Paris, sending the politicians and aristocrats to Bordeaux, where the escaped writer and his friend hitch a ride from a scientist and his protégé, as they in turn are bringing a dangerous chemical to keep out of Germany’s hands. (And so it bulks up, etc.) The writer’s liaison with the movie star, who is concurrently the lover of a high-ranking politico, serves as an in for the scientist to get his “heavy water” out of the country, while the writer struggles to woo back his one-time inamorata. At all times and in every moment, Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s film is frenzied and bursting at the seams with action or developments, multiple times over, within a single scene. It attempts to whip up the exacerbated furibund of Costa-Govras’ Z to no avail; one’s senses are already on overload. The film’s busyness (and dizziness) tends to distract from the action as the convolutions of the plot stagnate from an advancing viewpoint. When the flailing plotlines and characters are not absorbing total attention, Bon Voyage is doubtlessly a classy production with solid photography by Thierry Arbogast and a very able cast, including Gérard Depardieu, Virginie Ledoyen, Yvan Attal, Grégori Derangère, Jean-Marc Stehlé, Aurore Clément, and in a polyglot role, Peter Coyote. But it’s too distracting, too busy, and too unfocussed to appreciate much beyond its glamorous exterior façade.

This Very Moment. Running with a variation on Hansel and Gretel, German director Christophe Hochhäusler tells the story of a flustered step-mother who dumps her husband’s children on the side of the road during a shopping trip to Poland; when she returns a few minutes and a cigarette later, they’re gone. The replacement wife/mother is unable to tell her distressed husband the truth, meanwhile as the young girl and boy fend through the forest and receive limited help from a Polish factotum whose interest in helping them increases with the possibility of a reward. On one hand, Hochhäusler aims for a serious-minded extension of the Grimm brothers’ tale, employing a steady, almost unbudging camera that alternates between cuts of close-ups and long shots. His mise-en-scène is almost to be as stock-still as the illustrated images on page, however without their color — though the overly portentous heavy score is a detraction. (Much of This Very Moment is drably coarse, which seems fitting after all, to the application of this tale.) Many of the elements added herein pump a new life into the story, but never does it fully re-imagine the fairytale as François Ozon did in Criminal Lovers. Transferring to the other hand, Hochhäusler elliptically motions to move in other directions beyond the simple alteration on Hansel and Gretel, partially which makes this stand on its own. The conflicted wife (played with classic Huppertian iciness by Judith Engel) clearly adds another dimension, whilst the children’s own misadventures have little to moralize in fable form, instead pleading cause-and-effect. (By the end, the only redeemable characters caught in the flurry of deception and selfishness are the father and the boy, Constantin.) As the peregrination falls heavily on the shoulders of the children, Sophie Conrad (visually, a mix of Björk and Amélie) and Leo Bruckmann cease to impress in their stoic portrayals, and Conrad’s increasing embodiment of a bitch is starkly frightening. With Horst-Günter Marx und Miroslaw Baka.

The Debutants. Temerarious Chilean drama from the Tarantino school of filmmaking, about two small town boys relocated to the big city who both fall in love with a porno theater ticket girl who moonlights as a stripper, and is also the “personal property” of the thug that runs the joint. The outset has the brief celebration of the younger brother’s seventeenth birthday (by some quick lips-to-limp-penis action) and the older brother getting hired at that very club, though he misses the performance of the foam-covered object of sexuality both of them are lickerous over. The progression of the story continues tendentiously from the younger brother’s trials to court the stripper (they go out for ice cream: how cute!) until finally nailing her behind the projected image of porn and then getting pummeled in the black of the men’s restroom. The perspective then switches to the older brother’s, covering in short detail what we already know, and filling in the gaps with his story, before breaking off again to see all through the eyes of the stripper. Debutant filmmaker Andrés Waissbluth alternatively clutters his movie with incensed sexuality, brutal violence, and dully predictable plotting in a desperate attempt to capitalize on the style and narrative tricks made so popular by Tarantino. Not all of it is awash — the fresh-faced Antonella Ríos makes a splash (though she looks best when without her public dressing), and the introductory plot strand does the best to get the ball rolling and launch what information we are seen fit to comprehend through the younger hermano’s eyes. But with each subsequent re-hash and re-visitation of the same course of events, even if they expand slightly beyond one character’s sight, the previously traversed terrain is more rushed, less detailed, and less compelling than upon first glance. Waissbluth lacks to skills as a storyteller and as a filmmaker to make the borrowed gimmicks appear as anything more than a subaltern and vitiated copy. With Néstor Cantillana, Juan Pablo Miranda, and Alejandro Trejo.

That Day. Aside from it being Elsa Zylberstein’s “best/most important day of her life,” it also happens to be my birthday. And what it proves to be for her is God’s will to survive till the next day. (It only happens to be God’s will for me to survive until the next movie.) She’s a bit crazed, though so are her family members in other oddly assorted ways, and a mass murderer is released with the instructions (under the false pretense that he is receiving them from God) to murder her, and anyone who gets in his way. The journey of the day, naturally filled with deaths of various methods, is a typical exercise from director Raoul Ruiz in lush ambiguities. His cinematic language tends to be of the obscurely humorous, but frustratingly incomplete, wading around the inscrutabilities of the mind like David Cronenberg. Of the handful of films I have seen by Ruiz, this is one of his more accessible, if perhaps only because there is some eventual clarity on the convoluted and soggy plot — which, by way of contrast, is modestly funny once it all adds up. For all of the shrouded talk of Salsox, lunches in the way of investigations, God’s will to survive, angels and devils, the method behind the madness is a huge inheritance that stands to be received by the crazed young woman, while her father is deeply in debt, with not a single loophole for him to receive the loot, and with the request to have her institutionalized already shot down. It’s all very minor, such a laboring exercise for so few laughs, and the psychiatric restraints place equally as shackling theatrical cuffs around it. Jean-François Balmer and Rufus fare well, while Michel Piccoli (with a thick layer of black eyeliner), Bernard Giraudeau, and Zylberstein all look a little exhausted and demented; one, likely the cause, from the other. With Jean-Luc Bideau.

Dekada ‘70. More like a TV mini-series (and we already have one by the same name as the English translation, “The Seventies”), we get a welcoming from the Philippines’ version of the Bradys, the “Bartolome Bunch.” As expected, the beginning has a brief prologue with the country’s political climate before jetting off to deal with the Seventies in a year-by-year basis, mostly revolving around a rotation of drama between a married couple’s five growing boys, and their growing involvement in the country’s politics. (Down with imperialism, down with feudalism, up with communism, etc.) The momentum moves along smoothly from 1970 ‘til 1975, with the title-marked year at each transition helping to feel a sense of accomplishment in Cliffs Notes-ian breakdown. But, as much of the familial drama heats up (this son joins a militant group, that son writes communist propaganda, another son gets a girl pregnant, et al), circa ‘76-‘79, the pacing is botched and things are slowed down a great deal without a separation of time. During that period, though not to much surprise, the perspective is tendentious to the repressed mother, whom all of her children find to be the voice of reason and understanding, as much as their father tries to play it cool. It remains soap-operatic without any stretch of the imagination (well into the epilogue in 1983), though despite many of its faults, there is a certain educational value consistent throughout and applied systematically via the various functions each of the children entail. Lualhati Bautista adapts her own best-selling novel, and feminist agenda aside, the story and the movie would crack without the mother character, and the solidifying presence of Vilma Santos, whose only unfortunate requirement is to give voice to all of the repressed Filipinas at once. Directed by Chito S. Roño; with Christopher De Leon, Piolo Pascual, Marvin Agustin, Carlos Agassi, Danilo Barrios, and John Wayne Sace.

Goodbye Dragon Inn. Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang follows up his homage to French New Wave cinema in What Time Is it There?, with an even more personal and poetic tribute to movie-going and a sweet parable about loneliness and the invasion of personal space. Enter the Fu Hu Grand Theater on a very rainy night, showing the 1966 martial arts film Dragon Inn to next to no one. Ming-liang’s extreme minimalism in style stretches to the storytelling as well; there is no story being told as there are glimpses of life caught between blinks. Shot by Liao Ben-bong, Ming-liang uses the framing device of setting up a composition and letting the action (so to call it) come and go within it. The film is slower and less eventful than What Time … ?, but the camera movements are actually more liberal. In observance are the ticket-taker girl who walks with a gimp, a chain-smoking projectionist, a very small handful of audience members — most using the theater as a sex agora — and a couple of “spirits” from Dragon Inn longing for the old days. Ming-liang has created a metaphor for the movie-going experience, and seemingly a partial criticism especially of American audiences. He pokes fun at the nuisance of careless and rude viewers — in a huge auditorium, the serious movie-watcher attracts a woman who must put her feet on the seat next to his head, a couple who cannot eat their snacks any louder, a serial seat-changer, likely looking to pick the guy up. He shows the cinema as a place to come for sex, exhibited by the inference of sex in film (though not in the film they’re watching), as well as the long, cold concrete hallways where guys brush up against each other for reasons not so unknown. Apart from the subtitled dialogue of the film that’s being watched, Ming-liang’s first dialogue doesn’t come until after the 30-minute mark, where under half-a-dozen monosyllabic lines are shared, and then not again until shortly before the film’s close. But what’s going on in Goodbye Dragon Inn doesn’t need or have words to communicate what the experience is about, or to pierce the quiet loneliness that the people who come there to watch, live in. Each of the characters are there for a reason, whether it be work, film-viewing, sex, etc., and each one of them has an idea of what they want out of that experience, which may not be the same thing as the next person. Everyone has his or her small amount of personal space invaded, from viewing space to working space, to peeing space. And there’s plenty of time in the short-and-sweet 82-minutes to examine the space of the aging and soon-to-be-closed theaterhouse, to disconnectedly follow the ticket-taker who clicks and clomps up and down endless stairwells, to sit in the projectionist’s booth with her and watch a cigarette burn, to hover in the men’s urinal as the timid sex addicts stand there waiting to make their move, etc. It’s determinedly challenging, not for a typical multiplex audience (who, though they found the annoyances of loud-eating and foot-putting funny, had no qualms about being disruptive and invading my personal space by complaining throughout the film), but there is a strong commiseration, I think, among lovers of film that is not to be missed here. Ming-liang writes an eloquent billet-doux that has the heart-felt sensibilities and emotions of what loving and living with film are about. Don’t mistake it for tedium, it’s pure appreciation. With Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Shiang-chyi, Mitamura Kiyonobu, Miao Tien, and Shi Jun.

The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1: The Moab Story. Peter Greenaway calls off his self-imposed retirement to flesh out the encyclopedic alterna-verse he has created for his alter-ego, Tulse Luper. The Moab Story is part one and two combined, which is only part of a series (of 16?), encompassing film, television, DVDs, CD-ROMs, and internet sites, each apparently offering more space for depth than the last. The film itself is a mixed bag of media, quilted together in a redefining grasp of narrative filmmaking, beginning with Luper’s childhood in south Wales, reaching to his misadventures with the discovery of uranium in Moab, Utah, and later, being sat upon in an Antwerp station. (The project plans to span from the 1920s, to Luper’s “last known sighting” in 1989.) The array of visual gimmickry begins immediately as the childhood past is given definition from various auditions, cut-and-pasted, super-imposed, in boxes, double, triple, even quadruple times over. Greenaway presents the history as though it were real history, including talking-head historians (Connie van Doeter, Constantin da Rima, etc.), examining the contents of the alleged 92 suitcases he left around the world (various contents including coal, photographs, perfume, bills, pornography, bloodied wallpaper — all things to represent a stage of his experiences), examining the 92 objects to represent the world (objects he studied, like tubs, teeth, clocks, vases). (Reference is made, through other films by Greenaway, to Luper, including the discovery of the last known suitcase during the filming of The Belly of an Architect, and attributing him his own short films — Vertical Features Remake, Water Wrackets, etc.) It sounds messy and disconcerting, and in presentation, it’s no different. Yet the gonzo adventure is still rather engrossing. Greenaway toys around with experiments that he’s already shown proclivity towards, such a split-screens, multiple frames, various pop-up information pieces, super-imposed text and script over images. As with the auditions that open the film, an actor who plays a particular character may not always be the same actor; or even though one scene may be going on, an overlaid image travels around the frame with different footage and different performers. Much of the reoccurring motifs found herein is Luper’s tendency to be imprisoned (“Luper’s home and shell were his suitcases”), and not always in the sense that he is behind bars, though that happens often as well — locked up by his father in the coal room; tied up (with his prick smeared with jam) in the deserts of Moab; confined in a Moab jail; impounded in Antwerp; and so forth. And being a Greenaway film, there is no shortage of nudity, especially frontal nudity, regardless of sex or size, though in most cases the visage of penises (honey-dipped, or not) is JJ Feild’s, and the appearance pudenda hails from Caroline Dhavernas (though in honesty, she has more to show off than just that). There is a clear overload of the senses, and Greenaway’s obsessive style of filmmaking is going to do nothing to reconcile his admirers and detractors, but there is something temporarily fulfilling within the blend and presentation of information and how it is smattered across the screen. (The key, if you can call it that without it unlocking all of the mysteries, is not the act of storytelling, but the way we visually learn the information, along with typical Greenaway idiosyncrasies thrown in.) He may not be onto a new format in visual storytelling, not anything lasting, but the beginnings of his massive experiment, while never more than a re-thinking of form using inertia to propel the story instead of impetus, have a fleeting interest to continue a little farther yet into the saga. With Drew Mulligan, Jordi Mollà, Scot Williams, Jack Wouterse, Deborah Harry, Valentina Cervi, and Yorick van Wageningen.

Distant Lights. Like the light at the end of the tunnel, the various assembled plotlines of characters are all in search of that distant glint in hopes of survival. Hans-Christian Schmid’s film is filled to the brim with loosely disassociated disparate types (not an uncommon trend at this festival) that see an eventual tightening to the overlap of storylines. A group of Ukrainian émigrés headed for Berlin are duped and dumped in Poland, leaving the possibility of a dash over the border scant; a group of orphaned teens work by smuggling cigarettes for a man who provides them with shelter and food; an unemployed woman is hired by a struggling mattress salesman; his previous employee, and her taxi-driving husband, race against the clock and poverty to purchase a first communion dress for their daughter. From the outset, Schmid goes to great lengths for a stab at realism (not without the use of drained and vérité-style DV), gradually bringing you down to the ranks of his characters. It is, of course, broken up into a revolving set of storylines, first introducing you to their plights, then returning to repeat the process of getting to know them — palatable or not — and maybe gaining clearer insights into their own motivations. Beyond the theme of survival, they all share a common bond of living in slight, which none of them feel particularly warranted. Schmid remains unbiased towards his characters even after various actions easily alienate their earlier image, but mostly because their acts are done out of desperation, resourceful or not. Most of the characters are non-Germans, all having inevitably immigrated at some point, and there is a strong recollection of Dirty Pretty Things in the dealing of their straits, in that mode of fortitude, with the strongest separation between the two being that the characters in Distant Lights resort to taking advantage of their situations for the betterment of themselves. In each link, there are people who want to help them, people who offer some form of assistance, only for the inch of space they give to be taken for a mile. And whether the initial actions are altruistic or not, there are delineations of how far they will go, yet the robbery of their aid is almost forgivable inasmuch as their rationale to subsist outlasts their despairing manipulation. (Certain revenges included.) At no time is there anything else on display other than the gritty presentation of being human, in all of its darkness, its bleakness, its discontent, its disappointment, and the eventual resentment of their current place, long ago forgetting what it took to get where they are. With Ivan Shvedoff, Sergei Frolov, Anna Yanovskaya, Alice Dwyer, Martin Kiefer, Tom Jahn, Devid Striesow, Claudia Geisler, Julia Krynke, Herbert Knaup, Sebastian Urzendowsky, and Janek Rieke.

Forest. Experimental Hungarian film from Benedek Fliegauf that begins with an assortment of people crossing paths in a mall, and then proceeds with a dislocated short story from each. Really a cavalcade of short films, each one lasts around 10-minutes, concerning a multitude of conversations and arguments that seek to give definition (and usually a revelation at the end) to the otherwise stripped nutritional value. There are seven in total, with various ranges of characterizations and topics — a man trying to give away his dog to a lesbian couple, two guys talking about a purchase we cannot see (at first it seems like it could be a car, but it turns out to be some sort of human Furby), a father lamenting to his wife over his 10-year-old daughter’s distance and development (“Her nipples are swelling”), a duo of raconteurs sharing a story about a catfish, a couple’s argument over the boyfriend’s porn (“Wherever I look I see your sexual frustration”) and his friend’s recent suicide, a couple discussing a nightmare that woke the girlfriend, and two friends lost while trying to find a former colleague who went mad. The skill of the assembly, something shared by all, is that each piece generally starts and ends in a middle, with the initial ambiguous talk giving form and shape in terms of speech only, as it continues on. In following their arbitrary destinations, there is a clear sense of development no matter how short or limited the construction is. Naturally, some pieces hold more weight than others, and only a very few bore in their chatty explorations. Ostensibly, the key in learning anything is what they reveal in speech, minimally intriguing as a psychological experiment. The execution of such is even less formal than all of the talk, another shared point being the jacitatation of the camerawork, zigzagging back-and-forth to the faces of the participants with the occasional pixelation of the blown-up digital video in its monochromatic etiolated color. Distracting as it may be, the petty annoyance remains under control when the storytelling is at its most compelling, bothersome only when boredom sets in, but it all seems rather appropriate for the style Fliegauf is aiming after. Still, it probably would have worked better as a real short film. With Rita Braun, Barbara Csonka, Edit Lipcsei, Félix Péter Mátyássi, Péter Pfenig, Dr. Dusán Vitanovics, and Katalin Vörös.

Free Radicals. Continuing the trend of loosely associated characters — perhaps for a greater purpose — is Austrian writer/director Barbara Albert, who examines the effects of the chaos theory. Through a truckload of characters, as one of them points out, “Even in chaos are structure and pattern”; a young woman miraculously survives a plane crash (a truly gripping scene) only to die in a head-on car collision six years later. (The teenage driver of the car, who barely sustains any injury, is the younger son in a family whose first son was abducted at a young age.) And thus the cycle has begun, an offset registers a linking of chain reactions to the woman’s family members and extensions of people in their lives. The socially maladroit brother is attracted to a young black woman, survivor of the plane crash as well, whose (adoptive?) mother sings in a choir and secretly crushes after a deputy who moonlights with them; there’s the deranged sister (she cleanses herself after sex with milk) who’s sleeping with an amputee (one of two such characters in the film), while his misfit granddaughter goes to school with the kids involved in the head-on collision; the woman’s husband, who has an on-again/off-again affair with her best friend, and his daughter, who is inexplicably always being tested in the hospital. Albert is generous and patient with her characters, maybe too much so, but credit is given to her persistence in sticking with it to avoid merely illustrating the superficial reactions. She distinguishes the chaotic nature without being overly busy, though there is at all times something going on with someone that in some way affects another. Albert is curious for her heavy use of music and its influences (from “House of the Rising Sun” and other Sixties classics, to techno music), but that, too, is a cycle of connection for the film’s inhabitants. Free Radicals is still a flawed film, which has particular threads not as thoroughly connected or interesting as the next, and an anticlimactic close that, while it perpetuates the endless, infinity of chaos, there’s a certain incompleteness to it, a meaningfulness lacking. The cast is a solid ensemble, and Albert’s command of the image (well-shot by Martin Gschlacht) is always thoughtful, but the whole thing can be seen as seemingly tedious without an intrinsic interest in the trail of chaos. For my own intrinsic interests, it stays absorbing until the very end, flaws and all, but that’s just me. With Kathrin Resetarits, Ursula Strauss, Rupert Lehofer, Belinda Akwa-Asare, Georg Friedrich, Marion Mitterhammer, Desirée Durada, Deborah Ten Brink, Dominik Harter, and Martin Brambach.

Captive. Argentina, 1994: Cristina (Bárbara Lombardo) celebrates her quincañera with her affluent family, only weeks later to be called out of her Catholic classroom and be clandestinely taken to a federal courthouse to learn that her real parents were disappeared in 1978, and a recent blood test has proven her lineage, prompting the real family to fight for custody. (The suspense in those sequences of events keep building, as any hint of what’s about to be revealed is evasively stonewalled and deferred to an answer of “later.”) Denial is her first reaction, having never heard word of adoption mentioned to her before, and her past is dashed and doubted as she is forced to wrestle with the facts presented to her. (Little details, like trying to decide whether to be called Cristina, or her birthname, Sofia, resonate with authenticity.) The law says she must be turned over to her rightful family, and in transferring schools she comes across one of her erstwhile classmates (Mercedes Funes) who was removed for her fervent political opposition, and whose own parents were disappeared — her mother eventually returned — offering help to Cristina for her own closure. Gaston Biraben’s first feature is a film with small sights but broad results, told in a passionate sincerity that is in other films often replaced with simple exploitation. Although a fictionalized story from doubtless realities, Biraben is sensitive to the subject matter and the actual subject whose story is being told. With all of that in mind, I can only go partway with the film. The highly introspective piece steadily becomes too heady (not exhilarating, internal) leaving a lot of the weight on Lombardo to act without words. As possibly disastrous as that is, Lombardo and her intense co-star, Funes, are something of a revelation, especially in the case of Lombardo, a major find who is more than capable in the role, and amazing for her naturalness in front of the camera. (The film contains an unnecessary nude shot of the two actresses, but for the ease in which it can be excised, the moment has a startling effect, something to do with the nakedness and seeing without covers.) For the feeling that the film runs overtime in length, Captive’s ending comes a little prematurely, neglecting to neatly wrap up the introduction of theories in Cristina’s/Sofia’s origin, the part that “Glow Worm” played, etc., and throughout, Biraben can never make up his mind whether or not to treat this as a mystery. He shows that he can manipulate tension, at times even putting you on the edge of your seat, but flip-flops in the consistency of tone. In the end, even though he wrote the story, Biraben chooses — unlike his protagonist, who has no choice — not to know full disclosure. With Susana Campos, Sylvia Baylé, Hugo Arana, and Lidia Leonor Catalano.

Up first in the final part of this series, The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Episode 3: Antwerp.

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originally posted: 01/29/04 19:40:11
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