From Iceland — The Grapevine Goes to the Movies

The Grapevine Goes to the Movies

The Grapevine Goes to the Movies

Published September 8, 2006

Getting Drunk On Movies
It used to be the alcohol: gallons of it on weekends, yet whosoever drank a single beer on a Monday was labelled a drunk, but while our drinking habits are slowly approaching the ways of the civilised world the ways of our movie theatres have devolved back to the dark ages. After a summer almost completely devoid of films worth seeing, Reykjavík gets both its big film festivals with only a one-week hiatus in between. Festivals are great for overindulgence, to be sure, but like food, movies were meant to be digested.
So I’ll give you the rundown of this reviewer’s semi- digested weekend-long film binge and what better place to begin than Paris Je’taime – 18 short films in one? The concept is simple: 18 directors tackle 18 of Paris’s 20 arrondissements, and it works like a charm. Of course, the title is a cliché but most of the directors work with it well. The Coen brothers’ spin on guidebook culture will justifiably be most people’s favourite, but other highlights include segments by Alfonso Cuarón, Sylvain Chomet, Alexander Payne and Wes Craven. Yet my personal favourite was Oliver Schmitz’s beautiful vignette on the relationship between a dying stab-wound victim and the paramedic who treats him.
Staying with the French theme, we encounter Andre and Angela in Luc Besson’s Angel-A. As the title suggests this film is about a man and his angel. It could hardly be called subtle, yet the warmth in certain scenes and the coolness of the cinematography give it a fleeting sense of soul. The obvious nods towards Der Himmel Über Berlin and It’s a Wonderful Life are misguided, if only because comparison to those masterpieces does this likeable but limited film few favours.
The supernatural is given an original spin in Pedro Almodóvar’s latest work, Volver. This story, which follows several generations of women, hardly makes a nod towards its male characters. The line between the living and the dead in Volver may appear muddled for most of the movie, a genre known in Spanish-language literature as magical realism. The film’s main strength is its ability to capture the most mundane of a housewife’s chores and make them magically (no pun intended) exciting. The startling performance, not to mention appearance, of Penélope Cruz hints that dumping Tom Cruise may be an increasingly wise career move for Hollywood actresses.
Moving from female bonding to bonding of the male variety, we arrive at my favourite, Tommy Lee Jones’s directorial creation The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. The film moves from a crummy U.S. border town into the heartland of Mexico and on the way it explores the dysfunctional relationship between the two giants. It is first and foremost, however, a stunningly beautiful, albeit grim, tale of friendship. About halfway through, it appears that the movie is turning into yet another revenge thriller, but we should have learnt by now that Tommy Lee is much too gentle a soul to settle for classic vigilante justification. An eye for an eye is not really his thing. Instead he espouses a much wiser and merciful maxim: You can’t know a person unless you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. Jones’s killer inevitably also fills the role of gravedigger. Intriguingly enough, I got the feeling that for Jones the film wasn’t so much a chance to direct as it was an opportunity to act. Tommy Lee Jones proves, beyond all doubt, here that he is a fine and sensitive actor who has been victimised by typecasting. Most directors seem to think they’re not really getting Tommy Lee Jones unless he shouts enough. Call it the Pacino syndrome.
All this and I’ve yet to mention Albert Brooks’s terribly underrated Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, which even won a non-hip-hop fan like me over, and the over-hyped but decent Factotum. Yet, to conclude, I must mention the excellent Tsotsi – a film that could also have been called One Hoodlum and a Baby. While it may just be a bad joke, the film gives viewers insight into the contrast between the issues of dealing with an unexpected baby in the first world we live in, and the same situation occurring in the townships of Johannesburg, where Tsotsi lives.
Further, it may simply be an illustration of the difference between just going to the movies and getting suitably drunk on them. ÁHI
Jack Stevenson 3: The Naked and the Wicked, A Century of American Sex Cinema
One of a series of three documentary films by the director of the same name, The Naked and the Wicked takes its title from one of the clips that makes up this cinematic montage. Jack Stevenson is an American-born film writer currently living and teaching in Denmark. Intending to see Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, but ending up at Regnboginn instead of Háskólabíó, I chose Stevenson’s documentary blindly from the list of films showing at 20:00.
The documentary covers what it claims to, giving audiences a glimpse of naked Americans from the inception of motion picture film up through the 1970s. This one’s got it all: from three men wrestling in thongs, women in (and out of) vintage swimwear, and advertisements for long lost dirty books, to public urination and downright hardcore porn. Speaking from experience, and omitting names to protect the innocent (that being the individual that led me to the wrong theatre), The Naked and the Wicked may be informative, humorous, or just downright retro-dirty (if that’s what you’re into), but it is certainly not the best choice for a date. VZ
An Inconvenient Horror
Al Gore may have re-invented the whole horror-flick genre with his recent documentary on global warming. Who needs ghosts and space monsters when reality is much more frightening? Directed by Davis Guggenheim, the movie is essentially a footage from Gore’s lectures on the subject, where he presents scientific data on CO2 levels and explains their meaning with the aid of dramatic footage of shrinking glaciers and dried lakes, a fancy slide show if I ever saw one. During one of the movies more dramatic scenes, Gore asks if it is possible that we could prepare for other dangers besides terrorism, I was left wondering why the terrorists should even bother, we’ll self-destruct soon enough.
The film is srikingly effective in its simplicity and although those who have studied the subject before may not find any new information, they are likely to be affected by the urgency of Gore’s delivery. The film suffers slightly from the biographical insights from Gore’s political career and upbringing that have been intertwined between his lecture highlights. SBB
More information on Iceland International Film Festival can be found at:

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