April 2330, 1998
cover story|philadelphia festival of world cinema
Must-sees for the first weekend of PFWC.
Maybe not last year's Best Foreign Filmtry La Promessebut it doesn't hurt to see a movie this good take home the statue. Somewhere between Miller's Crossing and Charles Dickens, Dutchman Mike van Diem's debut is a glossy morality play about a young man's efforts to outmatch his estranged father, a merciless civil servant (Jan Decleir) whose main business is evicting the down-at-heel from their dwellings in the middle of the night. As the son (Fedja van Huet) fights to transcend his lower-class upbringing and bastardy, he finds his steps dogged at every turn by his fatherwho, it turns out, has his own demons to confront. Reminiscent of the Coen brothers at their most subdued, the film's shadow-heavy lighting and moral grandiosity give it the feeling of a gothic noir.
Sun., May 3, 7:30 p.m., UA SamEric
DYNAMIC DUO: illtown's
Since Laws of Gravity, Nick Gomez has been known as Mr. Shakycam, but illtown's style is less visceral, more reflective. Cinematographer Jim Denault casts a poisonous eye on the petty criminals of South Florida, where swaths of burned-out color burst through darkness like flares in a drugged-out fever dream. Michael Rapaportwhose uncharacteristically deep-reaching performance can be attributed to some on-set acting advice from Lili Tayloris Damien, a longtime drug dealer who is looking to settle down and raise a baby with his girlfriend Micky (Taylor). Trouble is, Damien's former partner Gabriel (Adam Trese) doesn't want to let him escape. Once the pieces of Gomez's fragmented narrative fall into place, the story's outlines turn out to be somewhat disappointingly broad, but illtown's seductive, hallucinatory style compensates for the lack of thematic sophistication.
Sun., May 3, 7 p.m.; Sat., May 9, 9:30 p.m., AMC Olde City
The Pigeon Egg Strategy
We all know how hip it is for characters in gangster movies to have lengthy conversations about nothing at all, but what if instead, two hit men started talking about the nature of language, or whether the spelling of a word can affect how we see the world? Made in Hong Kong with American actors by a transplanted Brazilian, Max Makowski's playful, literate romp is a cross between Slacker, Reservoir Dogs and My Dinner with André, a spiral maze of half-connected fragments that coalesce (I think) into one bizarre but coherent story about a group of hired assassins known only as "the men in the bowler hats." Pigeon Egg outstays its welcome slightly; a little more focus on character and a little less verbal sparring might have made the movie seem less, well, eggheaded.
Sun., May 3, 9:15 p.m., I-House; Sat., May 9, 7 p.m., Ritz at the Bourse
Only 26 when he wrote and directed Pusher, Nicholas Winding Refn knows a lot about wild kids who take the hard road. Expelled from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and skipping the opportunity to go to Denmark's National Film School, Refn chose instead to write and direct his first feature film. Pusher, about a week in the life of a Copenhagen drug dealer who mistakenly thinks he's in control of his gangster "friends," became a big box office hit in Refn's native Denmark. Refn achieves a documentary realism by using real criminals as actors; gritty views of Copenhagen that bear little or no resemblance to tourists' postcards of the city; and a Scorsese-like protagonist who thinks he can outwit the vengeful Yugoslavian druglord to whom he is deeply indebted. A taut screenplay and a modern anti-hero (Kim Bodnia makes an excellent debut as the "pusher" who is a pushover) make for an engrossing film experience.
-Ruth & Archie Perlmutter
Fri., May 1, 10 p.m., AMC Olde City; Sat., May 2, 8 p.m., Ritz at the Bourse
A cross between Rocky and the working-class classic Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, Shane Meadows' debut proffers hope in the midst of a threadbare existence. Raffish Bob Hoskins is Darcy, who uses his Cockney charm to prod a depressed Midlands community into helping a group of kids deteriorating before their eyes. He enacts change by coaxing the kidsa group of Meadows' friends just barely actingto join a boxing club he's starting from the dirt floor up. Darcy and TwentyFourSeven rail against Thatcherism, overcrowded housing, poverty and the danger of "living the same day all your life" without getting preachy. No one is immune to Darcy's wily ways, except perhaps for Darcy himself. Hoskins portrays kindness without ever letting on to the strange sad ending of the film, when he will be driven mad and driven out. That TwentyFourSeven manages to be subtle while maintaining its severity is the film's sweetly jarring trump card.
Wed., April 29, 8 p.m., Annenberg Center (opening night film)
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