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Today was
one of the best yet. I liked five of the six films I saw, several of which were
unexpected pleasures. I have to give a particular recommendation to Brothers of
the Head
, which was really fantastic. But time is short, so I’ll just get to the flicks.

Michael Haneke]

into a Michael Haneke film, you know the experience isn’t going to be easy.
He’s lightened a bit since filtering Last House on the Left
through art sensibilities to
create Funny Games
, but even The Piano Teacher was sexually harrowing. Despite
having a premise straight out of Lost Highway
, this latest film at first seems
like an easier ride. It’s not, because there’s a rotten heart inside Cache
, and exposing the truth is a very
ugly process.

and Anne Laurent, happy upper middle class parents, have been receiving
disturbing videotapes. The first records hours of observation of the outside of
their home. Soon, however, the tapes show other sights directly connected to
George’s past. He suspects a childhood friend of creating the tapes, and sets
out to address the situation.

the story progresses through long, often static shots, Cache
quickly builds an exciting air of
menace and tension. Because there is no tangible reason behind the menace aimed
at the Laurents, events are unpredictable and their outcome is all the more
jarring. As the Laurents, Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil deliver
impeccable performances, with Binoche creating a nuanced portrait of a wife
wounded by betrayal.

Like his
previous Le Temps du loup
, Haneke shot Cache on video, and the resulting
aesthetic adds a tangible sense of unease to the film. As the footage sent to
the Laurent family fills the screen, we’re unable to distinguish between what’s
meant to be seen by us, the audience, and what is intended to terrify the
family. When truly shocking events occur, they’re all the more effective due to
the immediacy of Haneke’s style.

jarring, though, is that Haneke refuses to dispel the air of mystery created
within the film. This is not a story of explanations, but of effect. No reason
for an action is as important as the result it has.

meanings are suggested by Haneke’s firmly controlled images, but the film is
chiefly concerned with showing how inhuman the average person can be, and how
quickly truthlessness can destroy the most stable unit.

Brothers of the HeadBrothers of the Head
Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe]

pleasures are the highlight of any festival, and this has been one of the best.
Brothers of the Head
is based on the book by Brian Aldiss; the story is of
conjoined twins who start a rock band under the machinations of a once-famous
producer. The book is a sort of rocker’s How To Get Ahead in Advertising
, with one twin growing a third
head from his back.

The film,
on the other hand, is far more grounded. It’s a wonderful faux documentary,
with credible performances and some unexpectedly great music. Never arch or
precious, it cuts right into the personalities of the two unstable musicians at
its center. The more fantastic elements of the novel (like that third head) are
handled in clever ways, as through intercut flashes of an uncompleted bio-pic
by Ken Russell.

As the
brothers Barry and Tom, actors Harry and Luke Treadway are phenomenal. They
have an enviable ease in front of the camera, where they display bouts of pure
intimacy, jealousy and anger.

some great music. Though the film is set in 1975, before punk took over London,
the tunes here have all the ferocity of The Stooges. Musically, it’s the rough
and heavy riffs of Fun House
, while the lyrics have the bite of Raw Power. As filmed by Fulton and Pepe,
the performances are electric, with visualizations that recall everything from
Pennebaker’s great Monterey Pop footage (and Ziggy Stardust
, of course) to Jem Cohen’s Fugazi
documentary, Instrument
. This is one to watch out for.

Korea; Lee Myung-se]

the sort of total insanity that came out of Hong Kong round about ’97? That’s
the same spirit that powers this new film from the director who brought us Nowhere
To Hide
. Here
he tackles a period detective story, with rapid cut swordfights and unlikely
romance performed by a cast of exaggerated characters.

opens in an
outdoor marketplace, where undercover cops Namsoon and Detective Ahn are
tracking down members of a counterfeiting ring. The pace is frenetic; rival
gangs ebb and flow through the streets, which pulse with contemporary music and
showoff vendors. An energized chase ensues, with acrobatics, outlandish framing
and camerawork, and more pulsing tunes.

But Duelist
also bogs
down in that same energy and editing. It seems to feel obligated to maintain a
pace and style that is untenable over a feature running time, and things begin
to get confusing and even boring.

I skipped
out on the second half of the film, in part because I didn’t feel like it was
going to go anywhere beyond the crazy opening scene. A few friends stayed, and
they confirmed my fears. But more than that, there was the fact that, after
twenty years, Nick Cave has written another movie, and it was starting in the
next theater.

PropositionThe Proposition
John Hillcoat]

From the
first scene of this outback Western, in which outlaws Charles and Mikey Burns
(Guy Pearce and Richard Wilson) are ambushed while hiding in a tin shack, you’d
think the screenwriter was the Nick Cave of The Birthday Party rather than the
mature, introspective singer of today. Bullets careen off the walls, creating
an insane, overwhelming racket that sounds like the mad rhythm section of Junkyard
. It’s loud, brash, and a hell of
an opening.

As the
film winds into an elusive tale of revenge and retribution, The
into a violent, fully gothic tale. The Burns boys, led by their older brother
Arthur (Danny Huston) had evidently been responsible for a family’s rape and
massacre. Following the shootout, George and Mikey are captured by the vengeful
Captain Stanley (a friggin’ brilliant Ray Winstone) who offers George a deal:
younger brother Mikey won’t hang if Charles will kill his older brother Arthur.

accepts the deal but his motives are far from clear. Meanwhile, Captain Stanley is
under pressure to punish Mikey while he’s held in jail. But there’s a strange
aura that connects the Burns family, and Stanley knows that any action taken
against their younger brother will have disastrous consequences.

images are gorgeous, though he’s certainly assisted by the pure landscape in
which the film takes place. Beyond the sunset beauty of the outback, however, there
are wonderful visions. While the townspeople watch Mikey being flogged, legions
of flies set upon their backs, as if the onlookers were already dead.

a slow burn, like the anti-westerns of the mid ’70s, with Pearce and Winstone
bringing a powerful yet weary world view to the screen. As the poetically
violent Arthur, Danny Huston makes a memorable

the great music that has permeated films in the festival, the score here is
contributed by Cave and bandmate Warren Ellis. One track in particular sounded
like a dead ringer for a song on the upcoming Dirty Three record, Cinders
, which was fantastic.

Takeshi Kitano]

Wow. I
don’t know if I’ve ever seen a filmmaker take jabs at his detractors and have
so much pure, simple fun at the same time. ‘Beat’ Takeshi’s latest film is a
dream and a fantasy, of being famous, of being anonymous, and of pure

On the
last day of a feature shoot, the ‘real’ Takeshi meets an aspiring actor named
Kitano. The two are identical, and soon Takeshi finds himself wondering what it
might be like to live as this unknown aspiring actor.

The film
winds into itself, with endlessly repeated motifs and dialogue. A fan who
always politely thanks the actor for his work appears over and over again. So
too do a pair of large comedians, a caterpillar, a bouquet of flowers and many
other images and events. Where the Japanese soup nazi came from I don’t really
know, but he’s great.

And of
course, the idea of gun violence is omnipresent, as is the way it’s portrayed
in Beat Takeshi’s films. He seems to be simultaneously poking fun at those who
complain that his films are too violent and those who bemoan the more
introspective turn his movies have taken. The director makes jokes about himself
and his films, recreating shots and scenes to great comedic effect.

He riffs
extensively on Zatoichi
(dance company The Stripes plays a prominent role) and
films like Sonatine
, Violent Cop and, in fact, most of his back catalogue, from
television comedy to feature films. Familiarity with Takeshi’s films will
definitely make this one a more rewarding experience, and those who can
recognize a legion of Japanese character actors will be even better off.

I enjoyed
the movie tremendously, though a musical segment which forms a large portion of
the middle third went on a bit too long. Otherwise, Takeshis’
is a smart and funny film, and one
that begs to be seen more than once.

Billy O’Brien]

A couple
weeks back I had the displeasure of seeing a mad cow zombie flick; if only I
could replace that experience with this one. Isolation is the debut feature
from director Billy O’Brien, and it’s a solidly crafted, expertly photographed
exercise in horror along the lines of Carpenter’s The Thing

experiments are being performed on cows that inhabit a remote farm. The
caretaker, Dan Reilly (John Lynch) is largely ignorant of the work being done
around him. So when a calf’s birthing session goes slightly awry, he doesn’t
know how worried he should be. Throw in a concerned vet, an amoral scientist
and one pair of unsuspecting vagabonds, and Isolation
‘s limited cast is set.

I was
unfamiliar with almost every member of the cast, and walked away quite
impressed with every performance. Actors claim to enjoy doing films like this,
but so often we end up saddled with principles who throw the wrong kind of
humor or irony into the mix. That’s not at all the case here, where there’s a
sense of deadly seriousness.

Some of
the situations almost verge on black comedy, but with such straight-faced work
from the entire cast, this movie avoids the current ironic horror trend and
provides some genuine tension.

solid acting aside, Isolation
succeeds on two fronts. For one, it has a fantastic location.
The farm is old and filled with dark corners and aged machinery. More
important, however, is an understanding of how best to shoot effects with
little budget.

of relying on cheap animatronics and puppetry, a great deal of the creatures and
violence are shot in extreme close-up. There’s already a sense of uncomfortable
scientific exploration permeating the film, and the tight photography only
emphasizes it. The effects almost look like something put together by the
Brothers Quay. The weird little creatures are often beautiful to look at, which
isn’t at all what you expect out of a film like Isolation

Get byond
the photography, and there’s not much new happening in the film. But O’Brien
has put together his debut with great attention to craft and detail. So when
things look a bit like Alien or The Thing, it’s not such a big deal, because it

another kind of light day, because there’s just not much on the schedule I feel
compelled to see. But hopefully I can use the extra time to catch up, and maybe
watch an extra film or two in the media library. It is the day for Sympathy
For Lady Vengeance
, though. You know I’ll be there.

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