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Call Girl is based on the true story of a scandal in the late 1970s involving powerful government figures and a prostitution ring that nearly brought down the Swedish government. The narrative is from the point of view of two delinquent underage girls who are lured into the ring by a manipulative madam and her henchman.
The film’s ’70s period detail is absolutely flawless; Europeans seem to do a better job at authenticity and verisimilitude when recreating the recent past than Americans do. It often feels that art directors and dressers working on U.S. period productions are too young to have lived through the era they’re recreating, and base their work on the heightened and scrubbed look of professional still photography and Hollywood films of the decade in question.
Mads Mikkelson, who won the Best Actor Award for his performance at Cannes last May, plays a middle aged, divorced man living in a small community in Denmark where he works as a teaching assistant at the local kindergarten. His life is destroyed when a petulant child falsely accuses him of molestation, and the entire community turns against him.
The Hunt is less about child molestation than it is about the tragic swiftness in which a life can be ruined by a single dubious accusation, and people’s often reprehensible willingness to believe the worst of others. Mikkelson is outstanding as a man who is helpless to defend himself and heartbroken that his best friends save one won’t give him any benefit of the doubt.
Skilfully interweaving two stories about the ‘dangers’ of the internet, one involving identity theft and credit fraud, and the other involving teenage cyber-tormenting, Disconnect is such a specifically timely cautionary tale that it will likely become dated very quickly.
Featuring a strong cast including Jason Bateman, Andrea Riseborough, Hope Davis and Alexander Skarsgard, the film seems an odd, surprisingly tame choice for a first fiction film from the director of the edgy, Academy Award-winning documentary Murderball.
FIN (The End)
A suspenseful post-apocalyptic Spanish thriller, Fin is about a group of friends who gather at a remote cabin for a kind of Big Chill-ish reunion after many years apart. Dark secrets are revealed as the world comes to an end around them, and they begin vanishing into thin air one by one as they attempt to make their way to the nearest town. It’s effectively creepy and should find an audience with fans of Euro horror who like their thrills low key and gripping rather than gory and lurid.
John Dies at The End
John Dies at the End, from cult director Don Coscarelli (Bubba Ho Tep), was a substantial disappointment, as it just isn’t anywhere near as funny as it thinks it is, and at 99 minutes feels 20 minutes too long. The film is adapted from a cult novel by David Wong, and I can’t help but feel that the ‘everything AND the kitchen sink’ story, full of monsters, drug-induced time slippage and all sorts of multi-dimensional lunacy, probably works better as a picaresque novel.
I did enjoy the film’s FX, which are rooted in the model and stop motion aesthetics of great horror comedies of the ‘80s like Re-Animator and Coscarelli’s own Phantasm. C’mon Don, can we have that long gestating sequel to Bubba Ho Tep, please?
Sherpherd & dark
This documentary is a touching and funny look at the bond between Pulitzer-prize winning playwright and actor Sam Shepherd and his bohemian buddy Johnny Dark, a friendship that began when they met in the cultural hothouse of early 1960s Greenwich Village and has endured for the better part of 50 years.
In 2010, the friends were offered a deal to publish a book drawn from their voluminous lifelong correspondence. The film follows the friends sifting through their collective past over a period of about 18 months, a process which is both fascinating and painful for them and for viewers alike.
Everybody Has a Plan
Viggo Mortensen plays twin brothers in the Argentinian thriller Everybody Has a Plan (Mortenson is fluent in Spanish, having lived in Argentina as a child), which is gripping enough while unfolding thanks to strong performances but in the end is not particularly memorable.
Agustin is an affluent but disenchanted physician living in Buenos Aires whose life is turned inside out when his identical twin brother Pedro, a terminally ill petty criminal, turns up at his flat unexpectedly. This is exactly the sort of film that would be resigned to a place as satisfactory festival fodder, with little chance in the way of international release, were it not for the presence of Mortensen.
I had high hopes for Smashed, as it features two-time Emmy-winner Aaron Paul (Jesse in the amazing Breaking Bad) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) as a young couple bound together by their raging alcoholism, but the indie ‘du jour’ treatment, including a wistful folkie score, kept me at a distance that I couldn’t overcome.
Hollywood tends to unwaveringly portray drunks in one of two ways: as comic figures or tragic ones, with little in the way of grey area allowed. To Smashed’s credit, it allows the leads to be seen both enjoying and being mortified by their drunkenness, which is a lot closer to most people’s real life experiences with booze. Winstead’s endearing performance has a good chance of earning her an Oscar nomination.
7 Boxes is an exciting Paraguayan crime drama about a teenager working as a market porter who is given the task of looking after 7 boxes, containing he knows not what, by a shady butcher. Like many great low budget thrillers, a great script combined with memorable performances and tight editorial control work together to create a film that grips from beginning to end.
To say anymore would be to spoil things somewhat, but the film is a real genre gem and was one of the real discoveries for many at this year’s festival; it’s been picked up for the UK by Arrow and is a safe bet to be an glowingly reviewed arthouse hit.