J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, May 27, 2016

MLFF ’16: Helmut Berger, Actor

It is sort like Luchino Visconti’s version of Grey Gardens, especially because it stars his “muse,” Helmut Berger. Dear, oh dear, has the Oscar nominee for The Damned seen better days. You may think you have seen revealing documentaries, but you are still not prepared for the train wreck that is Andreas Horvath’s Helmut Berger, Actor (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Mammoth Lakes Film Festival.

At his prime, Berger was a ferocious “bad boy” of international art cinema, known for films like The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Ludwig, and The Romantic English Woman. By 2013, he was appearing on the German edition of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. He made a quick exit for health reasons, but it was still a good payday, according to Viola Techt, his long-suffering housemaid and general caretaker, who sadly passed away after Horvath’s chaotic filming sessions.

Frankly, Berger’s flat is even more of a disaster area than the Beales’ raccoon-infested mansion. The squalor would be disturbing enough, but Berger’s behavior takes it to a whole new level of voyeuristic wackness. Throughout the film, Horvath incorporates samples from the voluminous voice messages the actor left for him, which range from delusional and grandiose to downright hostile.

It is hard to understand why Berger let loose these verbal torrents or why Horvath include them, until they make an incredibly awkward trip to the actor’s old stomping ground, St. Tropez (just how that was paid for is never adequately explained). However, we hear Berger repeatedly proposition Horvath in no uncertain terms. Likewise, it is crystal clear how unwelcome Berger’ advances were. That leads to more tantrums from the actor, but Horvath got his revenge in the editing bay. If Berger can still get any work after HB, Actor, it will most likely be of a freak show variety.

Okay, normally the term “trigger warning” makes us cringe, but viewers should be forewarned, Horvath shows Berger self-satisfying himself, right down to the concluding secretions. It is disgusting and pathetic and disturbing. This is a film that somewhat took John Waters aback—but he could still roll with it.

Separate and apart from the doc’s already notorious sequences, HB, Actor is a bizarre, unsettling spectacle of a not so cold war fought between the subject and director. The most comparably fraught documentary would have to be Kung Fu Elliot (as it is now known), but the bargain basement action star is no match for Beger’s dissipation and self-absorbed bubble -perspective. Yet, like Weiner, it is perversely compelling to watch him keep digging at rock-bottom. Recommended for documentary patrons with a tabloid taste for the extreme, Helmut Berger, Actor will generate visceral responses when it screens this Sunday (5/29) as part of this year’s Mammoth Lakes Film Festival (along with the first-rate Last Summer, boasting a heart-breaking performance from the luminous Rinko Kikuchi).

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sanford ’16: They Will All Die in Space (short)

Working on a Generation Starship is nothing like being a Pullman Car porter. It is about as dead end as you can get. By its nature, it implies expendability. While the future of humanity slumbers in suspended animation, someone has to keep the maintenance up, but it probably won’t be mankind’s best and brightest. Facing a crisis, the Tantalus’s two-man skeleton crew choses to revive a technical specialist to manage the repairs. At least that’s their story, but it is not necessarily the truth, as Alex Talabot soon suspects in Javier Chillon’s Spanish-produced, English language short film They Will All Die in Space (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Sanford International Film Festival.

Apparently, the Tantalus has been damaged by a freak interstellar collision and is now drifting helplessly in space. Atenas and Eberhart wake Talabot, hoping he can repair the navigation and power systems. Such work would be even better suited to his wife’s skill set, but Talabot heeds their cautions against awakening her—and he will be glad he did.

As he proceeds to mend the damaged ship to the best of his abilities, Talabot discovers an alarming number of weirdly kit-bashed quick fixes to the system. They are not the sort of cheap patches he would expect in a ship meant to last for generations. He also grows increasingly alarmed by the suspicious behavior of Atenas and Eberhart.

TWADIS is very impressive on a technical level, combining production designer Idoia Esteban’s gritty, lived-in, Millennium Falcon-esque sets and trappings with Luis Fuentes’ super-stylish black-and-white cinematography. However, as a narrative, it feels more like a condensed episode of a greater narrative than a discrete and self-contained arc. Still, if it is a proof-of-concept short, it should be jolly darned persuasive.

Julio Perillán is also quite convincing as the angst-ridden Talabot. Francesc Garrido and Ben Temple look very much like dodgy astronaut thugs, as well. The suggested implications for human nature are rather pessimistic, but it is still cool to see such a well put-together independent genre short. Highly recommended for science fiction and thriller fans, They Will All Die in Space screens this Saturday (5/28) in Springvale, Maine, as part of this year’s Sanford International Film Festival.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

BHFFNYC ’16: Our Everyday Life

There are things you never get accustomed to. Sasha Susic is a Balkan War veteran still struggling with relatively mild PTSD. He has witnessed death, but he is still not prepared when potentially fatal illness strikes within his nuclear family. His father is even less so. However, everyone is used to carrying on in the face of whatever chance and circumstance throws their way in Ines Tanović’s Our Everyday Life (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival in New York.

Apparently, Susic got a close look at the dark side of humanity, but a marriage to a foreign journalist saved him and his mates from the worst of it. He now lives with his sixty-something parents in Sarajevo, mostly just brooding around the flat. His father Muhamed makes no secret of his contempt for Sasha’s lack of ambition or his frustration with the Bohemian lifestyle of his very pregnant sister, Senada, who is currently living abroad with her Slovenian lover. Their mother Marija tries to play peacemaker, but a not-so cold war still rages between father and son. Nevertheless, they will come together when they have to, because they are not tacky people.

You could think of OEL as something very much like a Bosnian Ozu film, which is very high praise indeed. Some might say very little happens in it, but frankly we see all the stuff of life therein. It is also rather fascinating to watch how Tanović’s screenplay addresses the Balkan War and its ramifications. At most, they are secondary issues, albeit important ones. Frankly, it is not so very different than the treatment you might find of 9/11 in major American films that cannot pretend it didn’t happen, but are circumspect in their references. The War is still a bit more prominent in Tanović’s mix, but it is put on equal footing with economic challenges and generational conflicts.

Emir Hadzihafizbegovic and Uliks Fehmiu are terrific as the mildly semi-estranged father and son. Whether it is a scene of spiteful bickering or tender rapprochement, there is not a false moment shared between them. Vedrana Seksan is massively charismatic in her brief but pivotal scenes as Senada, while Jasna Ornela Beri is all very well and good as Marija, but her sainted mother material feels predictably familiar.

Frankly, it was not crazy strategy on the part of Bosnia and Herzegovina choosing OEL as the nation’s official foreign language Oscar submission. It is a very fine film that will impress viewers who take the time to engage with it. However, it is so understated it was unable to cut through the pomp and noise of awards season. It is nice to be able to catch up with it now. Highly recommended for those who appreciate smart, realistic drama, Our Everyday Life screens this Friday (5/27) at the SVA Theatre, as part of this year’s BHNYC.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

BHFFNYC ’16: One Day in Sarajevo

At least in one respect, life in Sarajevo has changed for the better since the 100th anniversary of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination in 2014. After three years in mothballs, the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina has re-opened, in part thanks to a donation from the U.S. Embassy. The Archduke came to Sarajevo to preside over an opening ceremony at the museum, but as you might have heard, he never made it. Jasmila Žbanić samples the wide spectrum of Bosnian opinion on Franz Ferdinand and the trigger-man Gavrilo Princip, while documenting the commemorative festivities through crowd-sourced footage in the docu-essay One Day in Sarajevo, which screens during the eagerly anticipated 2016 Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival in New York.

To some Sarajevans, Princip was a righteous anti-Imperialist resistance fighter, while others are understandably put off by his Greater Serbian ideology. The latter often recognize the Archduke’s sadly unrealized policies for decentralizing and liberalizing the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Frankly, it is hard to understand the affection for Princip, given how his attack directly led to WWI, which in turn sowed the seeds of WWII, which subsequently led into the Cold War, and eventually the Balkan War, but maybe you have to give him some credit for punching above his weight class.

Naturally, there are a number of festivities underway that Žbanić frames to maximize the irony. However, she also captures the “you can’t go home again” emotions of a Canadian émigré’s return visit with his preteen daughters. Perhaps the most poignant moments are the nearly empty museum, where unpaid staffers still show up for work daily to keep up basic maintenance and prevent theft. Although Žbanić’s cameras document it as its loneliest and shabbiest, the museum is still a lovely building with great potential (so it is nice to know it is now serving its proper function).

In between the crowd scenes, cab rides, and general life happening, Žbanić inter-splices scenes from various cinematic portrayals of Franz Ferdinand’s fateful motorcade. Spoiler alert: it always ends badly for the Archduke. Sometimes One Day in Sarajevo feels like Žbanić is just hitting the random button, but there are enough interesting moments to make it worthwhile, especially when seen with a knowing audience, like Bosnian-Herzegovinian Festival’s patrons. Recommended for those in the mood for some provocative sight-seeing, One Day in Sarajevo screens this Thursday (5/26) at the SVA Theatre, as part of this year’s BHNYC. (The brutally powerful No One’s Son is even more forcefully recommended when it also screens earlier in the evening.)

Labels: , , ,

Dusk: A Dark Night of the Soul Keeps Getting Darker

John Whitmore might just lose his wife and his sanity in the same terrible night. Anne Whitmore has been abducted by a kidnapper who somehow knows exactly how much cash is in their safe and always stays one step ahead. To further complicate matters, Whitmore starts experiencing sinister hallucinations and temporary blackouts. It is like Along Came a Spider occasionally punctuated by outbursts of Mulholland Drive, which is a highly uncomfortable place for Whitmore. The distraught husband will have a miserable night, but at least you could say he has a hard-stop at midnight in Michael Maney’s Dusk (trailer here), now available on DVD from Monarch Home Entertainment.

After a rather alarming nightmare, Whitmore wakes up to find Anne missing and a cassette tape telling him to bring the exact amount of cash in his safe to his cabin way-the-heck-and-gone in the woods by midnight precisely. At least the shadowy mastermind arranged a ride for him. David is gruff and erratic, but he knows nothing of the abduction. He is also inexplicably devoted to the kidnapper, so Whitmore is advised not to provoke him.

David is definitely what you might call terse, but he does not object when Whitmore calls on his best friend Sam Rigsby to watch his back. However, while riding in the back of David’s crummy old camper, Whitmore starts to suspect his pal might be in on it from the fragments of memory and macabre visions that keep up-ending his consciousness.

Dusk’s ultimate twist is not exactly unprecedented, but it is rather surprising to find it jumping out at us in such a darkly ominous film. Yet, Maney pulls it off, employing misdirection worthy of a master magician. It seems to hold together after the big shoe drops, tempting viewers to re-watch everything in light of the game-changing reveal (which they can easily do, now that the film is on DVD).

As Whitmore, John McGlothlin is convincingly desperate and clueless. If anything, he seems more in the dark than the audience when it comes to the murky business afoot, which is maybe slightly problematic. However, Ford D’Aprix slow burns with charismatic surliness. He is definitely the film’s wild card, in a good way. Todd Litzinger is also weirdly effective as good old Rigsby. In contrast, Juliana Harkavy does not have a lot of fun stuff to do as Anne Whitmore, but nobody ever said playing a kidnapping victim was a bed of roses.

For a horror film, the human element is unusually pronounced in Dusk. Frankly, genre labels are rather slippery when applied to Maney’s film, but it is certainly packaged like horror and often feels that way too. It is very dark, but it is not nihilistic—and that definitely sets it apart from the field. Recommended for horror/psycho-thriller/Lynchian mind-trip fans, Dusk releases today on DVD and iTunes.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Ones Below: David Morrissey Moves In

Don’t call it post-partum depression. Frankly, Kate Griezmann has always been moody and she long had her doubts regarding parenthood (as has her husband, Justin). Her motherly instincts might have developed late, but they kick in with full force when she suspects their rather odd neighbors represent danger for her newborn son in British theater director-screenwriter David Farr’s feature directorial debut, The Ones Below (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Griezmann is very pregnant during the first act, as is her new neighbor in the duplex flat below. The Nordic Theresa is over-joyed (and perhaps somewhat relieved) by her pregnancy, whereas Griezmann is still maybe convincing herself she is okay with it. The two women form a bond through their shared experiences, even though Theresa’s blunt-spoken husband Jon makes little secret of his contempt for her attitude. Evidently they have been trying for years, which makes it especially painful when a freak accident leads to Theresa’s miscarriage.

As if matters were not awkward enough, Jon directly blames them for the accident. Frankly, there is more than enough blame to go around for Theresa’s tumble down the stairs, but that is not what the severe control freak wants to hear. Fortunately, their overwrought neighbors temporarily depart from London, allowing Kate and Justin space to adjust to parenthood and themselves time to grieve. Everything seems all better when they return. Jon is still Jon, but Theresa becomes a regular sitter Griezmann’s little gurgler. In fact, she might even have better rapport with the infant, whereas mothering just seems to take a lot out of Griezmann. Of course, there might be a nefarious reason for the physical exhaustion and mental haze enveloping her.

Ones Below is a slickly sinister film, but its biggest problem is the lack of narrative maneuvering room Farr leaves himself. As a result, we basically expect all the big twists after the first half hour. Still, there is something insidiously telling about the film’s social-generational conflicts, with early 30’s Griezmann’s ambivalent attitudes towards home and hearth contrasting with the yearning of the fifty-ish Jon.

As Jon, David Morrissey is one cool, menacing customer. However, Laura Birn (excellent in the Finnish Oscar submission Purge) is the film’s lynchpin and showstopper. As Theresa, she shows a multitude of dimensions, constantly keeping us off balance. Unfortunately, Clémence Poésy never adequately humanizes Griezmann before her wheels start coming off, while Stephen Moore Campbell is utterly inconsequential as her ineffectual hubby.

Although One Below is nowhere near as tricky as it thinks it is, the film will definitely inspire fresh waves of paranoia, especially among expectant urban parents. Basically, Farr will convince viewers they should worry about everything and everyone—and maybe that’s not so far wrong. Recommended on balance as an unsettling domestic thriller, The Ones Below opens this Friday (5/27) in New York, at the Landmark Sunshine.

Labels: , ,

SIFF ’16: The Wounded Angel

As part of an austerity measure, electricity is promptly cut at 9:00 each evening. No, its not California today. This was Kazakhstan in the early 1990s, but the political leadership is roughly comparable. Of course, as far as four teens growing up on the hardscrabble steppe are concerned, the Nazarbayev regime might as well be on Mars. Yet, the country’s stifling lack of economic development will inevitably contribute to their grief in Emir Baigazin’s The Wounded Angel (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival.

There is a sort of logical fatalism to Baigazin’s thematically related stories. That which the lads most value will be taken from them, whereas those that have nothing will lose their last shreds of humanity, all before graduating from high school. Zharas is shamed by his lay-about ex-convict father, but he will make his own poor decisions as the family’s only bread winner. Chick has an angelic voice that could carry him out of the provincial backwater, until an untimely cold (perhaps with an assist from puberty) brings him crashing down to earth. The shockingly young looking Toad is already borderline sociopathic, but an encounter with a trio of shunned glue-sniffers will push the scrap metal salvager beyond redemption.

Perhaps most tragically, Aslan could very well have earned admittance to a pre-med program. Unfortunately, when his girlfriend gets pregnant he figures he can fix the problem himself, with predictably disastrous results. Indeed, environment is truly destiny for Baigazin, who will not allow talent or virtue to rescue his ill-fated boys.

Baigazin has an eye for imagery, especially the otherworldly Mad Max-ish landscape Toad navigates in search of scrap, but he gives viewers precious little relief. Time and again, we watch youthful innocence get crushed by their bleak circumstances. It is a powerful indictment of a callous regime, but it is a grueling viewing experience that gets repetitive over time.

Still, there are a number of effective bits, such as the dramatic contrast between Chick’s ecstatic performances of “Ave Maria” and the near silence of the rest of the picture. The glue-sniffers’ inadvertent recreation of Hugo Simberg’s titular touchstone fresco is also rather eerie. Still, after a while, we just so get where Baigazin is going.

Without question, the strongest segment is Toad’s misadventure. Despite our previous conditioning, it still manages to shock. Regrettably, the other three story arcs feel more like punishment. Admirers of Baigazin’s Harmony Lessons may want to sign up for another ride, but most of the rest of festival circuit patrons will find it a rough go. We can appreciate its aesthetic purity, but it is hard to recommend The Wounded Angel when it screens this Wednesday (5/25), May 31st, and June 8th, during this year’s SIFF.

Labels: ,

Presenting Princess Shaw: from New Orleans to Israel, via the Internet

As one would expect from a Kibbutz resident, Ophir Kutiel (a.k.a. Kutiman) definitely considers music a collective endeavor. He is not such a believer in rights and clearances, but since he is sampling little-seen, self-posted youtube videos, most of the samplees are delighted to have the exposure and track-back links. Such was certainly the case for Samantha Montgomery (a.k.a. Princess Shaw) when Kutiman’s mashed together accompaniment for her a Capella song went viral. Former San Francisco Film Society Artist-in-Residence Ido Haar was there to document her sudden internet fame and her subsequent trip to Israel in Presenting Princess Shaw (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

It started as a project on nearly anonymous artists using youtube as a public workshop and confessional, but Princess Shaw (her preferred professional billing) quickly took over. She has an earthy voice, but her idiosyncratic style is hard to package in a neatly defined soul or R&B boxes. Evidently, NBC’s The Voice didn’t get it, because they gave her the unceremonious brush-off (quick, name a previous winner without checking google). Shaw was scuffling harder than the average jazz trombonist when Haar started documenting her life. She was not making ends meet as an elder care nurse, but she kept plugging away at open mic nights to empty rooms. Unbeknownst to her (but as Haar very well knew), Kutiman was crafting his newest assemblage featuring Shaw as his diva.

When Kutiman drops it online, Shaw becomes an internet sensation. Unlike his other mash-ups, such as the infectious “Mother of All Funk Chords,” Kutiman composed music to best showcase her emotional delivery and revealing lyrics. The tone is not so different from late Billie Holiday, yet we can still hear Kutiel’s Israeli and Mediterranean influences. Soon, Shaw is traveling to Israel to properly record with Kutiman and his ensemble, even though her car is still up on blocks, thanks to the punks who stole her tires.

Presenting is a film McLuhan scholars and Warhol devotees will have a field day with, but it will outlive such in-the-now analysis because of the resonance of Shaw’s life experiences. A survivor of abuse, the nature of which is clearly implied but never explicitly detailed, Shaw tenaciously, almost quixotically pursues her dreams, despite her desperate circumstances.

It is also aesthetically pleasing to see the ease with which the scruffy Israeli hipsters and the resilient New Orleanian mix. You have to smile when one of Kutiman’s sidemen ducks out for a beer run as soon as she arrives at their Tel Aviv studio. Yes, it is nice to know musicians are the same around the world. In fact, an unlikely but significant personal friendship and professional relationship blossoms between Shaw the diva and Kutiman the mad genius at the control board.


Of course, this story is still developing. Shaw has not “made it” yet, but since Kutiman is producing her debut album, possible questions of exploitation really do not apply here. Shaw’s appearances on behalf of the film should confirm as much and why wouldn’t she want Presenting high on the public radar? Haar displays great sensitivity, even when chronicling her lowest ebbs, emphasizing her generosity of spirit during the lows and the highs. Recommended for fans of soul and experimental electronica, Presenting Princess Shaw opens this Friday (5/27) in New York, at the IFC Center.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

China Institute Film Course: Foliage

They were like the Sharks and the Jets of the Cultural Revolution (but without song). Two competing PLA work teams have been sent down to the Yunnan countryside. They come from different backgrounds, but both are very interested in Ye Xing-yu. When she falls for the rebellious leader of the rival team, it inevitably leads to heartbreak in Lü Yue’s Foliage, which is the subject of this week’s Chinese Film Short Course lecture at the China Institute in New York.

Ye never felt like she belonged in the Yunnan camp—and who could blame her for that? However, it is not such a bad fit for her childhood pal and de facto boyfriend Yuan Ding-guo, who generally prefers to lower his head and plug away. Ye desperately hopes for a discharge to care for her widower father after his stroke, but her status as an “intellectual” will make that difficult. At least she will not be late returning from a visit home, thanks to the intercession of Liu Si-mong.

Naturally, Liu is quite taken with Ye. After years of Yuan’s quiet bashfulness, she is also rather impressed with his forthright interest. Unfortunately, a pickpocketing incident in Red Post Town (masterminded by Liu) will irreparably poison relations between the two work groups. Ye will try to act as a peacemaker, but her platoon will not have it. Instead, they intend to use her as bait for Yuan, whether she cooperates or not.

Foliage gives viewers a different perspective on the Cultural Revolution, but it is still not what you would describe as positive. Ye’s platoon are frequently derided as the “intellectuals” and “class enemies” due to their education and families’ professional backgrounds. In contrast, Liu’s platoon are more rustic types. They might very well have volunteered just to have a job, whereas Yuan’s colleagues frequently profess to believe in their mission (which seems to entail senselessly despoiling the land, from what we see). It is the same old class warfare, but turned inside-out, standing on its head. Frankly, it makes you wonder which team Bernie Sanders would throw his lot in with, if he were there (but he would surely expect to be part of the Gang of Four).

Still, the extent to which everyone loses their heads over Ye at a time so fraught with irrational ideological violence somewhat stretches credibility, even if she is played by Shu Qi, who it must be admitted, absolutely lights up the screen. She effectively develops some radically different screen chemistry with her two competing leading men. You can feel her comfort with Fan Bing’s Yuan, like an old shoe, and the passion that percolates with Liu Ye’s Liu Si-mong. However, Qi Huan steals scene after scene as Ye’s cute but sadly tragic best friend Wei Hung.

Fortunately, the platoon factions are not productive enough at raping the environment to deny Lü his lovely natural backdrops. Best known as a cinematography, he has shot several Zhang Yimou films, Joan Chen’s Cultural Revolution drama, Xiu Xiu: the Sent-Down Girl, and Feng Xiaogang’s explicitly jingoistic Assembly and Back to 1942, so he has range and flexibility. He helms the love triangle with great sensitivity, conveying all the angst and yearning, without descending into melodrama. As a result, Foliage is a wonderfully sad and sweeping story of love sabotaged by the macro forces of history, highly recommended, if you can find it. Indeed, there should be no shortage of historical and political context to explore when Foliage is the lecture topic this Wednesday (5/25) at the China Institute.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 21, 2016

SIFF ’16: Island Funeral

Muslims make up less than five percent of Thailand’s population, but an Islamist insurgency still decided it deserved to run the (nearly 95% Buddhist) country. Laila was raised in the Islamic faith, but as a hip, well-educated Bangkokian, she is psychologically and geographically removed from the southern insurgency. A road trip to Pattani potentially holds cultural and political revelations for her, as well as the hint of supernatural mysteries afoot in Pimpaka Towira’s Island Funeral (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival.

Laila seems to be the only member of her family that remembers her Aunt Zainub and even that is a distant memory. Nevertheless, for some reason the young woman had an urge to reconnect with her distant kin, who seemed to be expecting her call. Although she is a modern independent woman, Laila’s father insists she travel with her brother Zugood (whose college buddy Toy tags along for reasons that soon escape him).

Frankly, the old man had reasonable cause for concern, given the rising insurgency activity and the national government’s corresponding military deployments. However, none of those big picture conflicts penetrate past Laila’s windshield. They have more pressing concerns. The trio is as lost in Thailand as Xu Zheng and Wang Baoqiang, but the atmosphere is definitely eerier, especially when Laila insists she saw a naked woman in chains run across the highway. Zugood and Toy try to convince her it was nothing, but everything means something in a film like this.

There are times in the first two acts we are keenly aware we are watching Laila drive around in circles. Yet, the third act is something radically different, marked by a strange vibe that suggests some sort of paranormal business is happening just outside our field of vision. Zainub’s ancestral home and island village are also quite a distinctive setting, like a tropical Shangri-La inhabited by elder Muslim women.

It is hard to formulate a clinical reaction to Funeral, because it is an immersive kind of film that insists viewers acclimate to its rhythms. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to just surrender and go with it, thanks to Heen Sasithorn charismatic performance as Laila. Without question, she is far brighter and much more proactive than her brother and his ambiguous roommate. In contrast to Aukrit Pornsumpunsuk and Yossawat’s almost intentionally meek performances as Zugood and Toy, Pattanapong Sriboonrueang is silently fierce and steely as Surin, the mysterious loner who guides Laila to her aunt. Kiatsuda Piromya also has a grand presence befitting Zainub. She makes quite an entrance, amply paying off all Towira’s build-up.

Funeral is a meditative film that doggedly maintains its ambiguities, yet we also get a sense of Towira playfully riffing on gender stereotypes of both East and West. The bits involving Laila constantly getting lost and Zugood compulsively asking for directions at rest stops could have almost been lifted from a Honeymooners episode, but the scenery sure is different. You can just feel the tropical humidity throughout the film. Again, Funeral is a tricky beast to render critical judgment on, because it will feel highly accessible and motivated to those who see a fair amount of slow cinema at festivals, but it will still frustrate viewers who don’t know “Joe” Weerasethakul from Joe Sarno. Recommended for admirers of the former, Island Funeral screens tomorrow (5/22) and Friday (5/27) as part of this year’s SIFF.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 20, 2016

Phantom Detective: Korean Noir Cults and Vengeance-Seeking Gumshoes

You do not simply leave a cult like the GU Group, even if you are the modern day reboot of the Joseon Korea’s celebrated literary Robin Hood character. However, Hong Gil-dong’s mother sacrificed her life so that her young son could escape to freedom. Instead of wealth redistribution, the adult Hong is more concerned with stone cold revenge in screenwriter-director Jo Sung-hee’s Phantom Detective (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

Ever since the night Hong fled the cult village his capacity to feel fear and empathy were short-circuited. Of course that is not such a bad thing for a sworn vengeance seeker. His steeliness also serves him well in his chosen profession. Technically, the glamorous President Hwang’s father chose him to work for the powerful family’s detective agency, but Hong immediately took to the work. Most cases he can close in an eerily short span of time. The only exception is his own. Finally, Hong beats a lead out of some unsavory elements as to the whereabouts of Kim Byung-duk, the man who killed his mother, but following it up will take him down quite a rabbit hole.

Oddly enough, Hong discovers GU Squirrel Busters have already abducted the apostate Kim before his arrival. Not to be denied his vengeance, Hong enlists young Dong-yi and Mal-soon under false pretenses to help find their guardian grandpa. His initial intentions are questionable, but he reluctantly broadens his focus after uncovering evidence the GU Group is planning mass murder.

Viewers should be duly warned: Dong-yi and Mal-soon will have to be aggressively cute to melt Hong’s frozen heart. They will definitely give the heartstrings a workout. As a short term consequence, Hong comes across as a thoroughly despicable jerkweed. At least they are surrounded by engaging and endearing villagers, like the former mob muscle turned likable lug innkeeper (not overplayed by the surprisingly effective Jung Sung-hwa).

Jo maintains the weird tone throughout the film, cranking up the paranoia while depicting Hong as almost supernaturally hardboiled. Frankly, the tone is not so very different from the 20th Century Boys franchise, which is a good thing. To that end, Byun Bong-sun’s film noir cinematography is just stylized enough to be unsettling but not enough to distract from the action at hand.

In his first film since completing his mandatory military service, Lee Je-hoon fully commits to Hong’s iceman persona, while Roh Jung-Eui and Kim Ha-na are duly heart-rending as Kim’s granddaughters. For extra, added fun, Go Ara entertainingly vamps it up in her too brief scenes as President Hwang. Yet, it is Kim Sung-kyun who really delivers the genre goods as Kang Sung-il, the ruthless son of the GU Group’s corrupt guru. He has played heavies before, but he takes it to the next level up in Phantom.

Even if you are expecting Jo’s big twist, you will be impressed by how far he is willing to take it. He is not playing any games in the third act, that’s for sure. There is also a good balance between payoff and tragedy that should satisfy both Korean and American audiences. Recommended for fans of dark, visually distinctive cultist thrillers, Phantom Detective opens today (5/20) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 19, 2016

UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema ’16: Avalanche

Even though it is in the Middle East, Iran gets much colder than oblivious infidels realize. However, the cliché about traffic in Tehran is for real. Constant snow and bumper-to-bumper congestion will further exhaust a senior nurse working ten back-to-back night shifts in Morteza Farshbaf’s Avalanche (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema.

Homa is ever so fortunate the chief surgeon Dr. Shams trusts her to care for his dying mother in his absence. That means she gets to work ten consecutive graveyard shifts. (Frankly, the shrewish terror cannot die soon enough, as far as the hospital staff is concerned.) Homa will earn good credit with her influential supervisor, but it will wear her out. Unfortunately, it comes at a personally inopportune time for the dutiful RN.

Ostensibly, things appear to be on an upswing. Her husband Ahmad is downright chipper, having started writing again after a decades-long hiatus. They also were able to sell the large quantity of olive oil they bought as a form of small stakes commodity speculation. However, she is worried about their expat son, particularly that he might be gay, which would mean he might never return home from Europe, at least until there’s some serious regime change.

Homa would be an Iranian woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, if her life were not so serious. Over time, Fatemah Motamed-Aria drops hints regarding just what exactly is eating Homa, all of which are completely believable. It is a big, multilayered role for Motamed-Aria, one of Iran’s most prominent screen thesps (she is so respected, she can be seen as an audience member in Kiarostami’s Shirin).

Homa’s wayward son, wayward boss, and an insufficiently wayward husband are issues all viewers can relate to, but the Tehran setting gives it an extra kick (although not to the extent seen in Risk of Acid Rain). Viewers familiar with Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain will understand taking in their son’s often barking dog carries its own risks, beyond the issue of the prodigal’s sexuality. In fact, the unceasing blizzard takes on almost Biblical dimensions, as if it were sent as a form of national punishment, like the Genesis flood.

Regardless, it is a meaty drama and a prime showcase for Motamed-Aria that Farshbaf instills with a lean, evocatively austere vibe. Recommended for those who will appreciate fine work from a mature cast, Avalanche screens this Sunday (5/22) at the Billy Wilder Theater, as part of UCLA’s annual Iranian film showcase.

Labels: ,

UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema ’16: Risk of Acid Rain

It is hard for a retiree like Mr. Manouchehr to connect with other people. In his case, it is largely due to his introverted personality, but the policies of his government will not help foster the cautious camaraderie he finds in a divey Tehran hotel. He came to looking for a long lost childhood friend, but experiences cross-generational companionship with two “disaffected youths” in Behtash Sanaeeha’s exquisitely humanistic chamber drama Risk of Acid Rain (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema.

The title comes from a fleeting and somewhat misleading reference—so potential viewers should completely disregard it. Happily, this is not an eco-treatise, it is a story about friendship and loneliness. Mr. Manouchehr has been retired from a tobacco company for years, but he keeps coming to work anyway out of boredom. Since he has nothing tying him down, Manouchehr takes an overnight trip to Tehran hoping to track down Khosro. Apparently, they were inseparable as boys, but a rift cleaved them apart in early adulthood. Unfortunately, the address he sleuthed out turns out to be several years out of date.

While doggedly tracking Khosro, Manouchehr stays at a one-star hotel, where the slacker-stoner Kaveh works as the desk clerk. Kaveh’s platonic classmate Masha is also fixture in the hotel lobby, because she has no place else to go. Rather inconveniently, she has a headscarf violation hanging over her head after checking herself out of a sanitarium against her grandmother’s wishes. This would be the perfect spot for her to lay low, were it not for the nightly visit from the morals police. Frankly, she needs an “uncle” like Manouchehr and he needs to be needed, whether he realizes it or not.

Rain might sound like a constant parade of quirky schmaltz, but it really represents the road not taken by films like Marigold Hotel and Quartet. It is a rigidly reserved, scrupulously dignified, and acutely sensitive film. There is not a lot of flash and dazzle, but the film still pays off enormously thanks to the realistically hesitant chemistry shared by the trio.

Persian poet Shams Langroodi is quietly terrific as the world weary, guilt-racked Manouchehr. Every line on face is like a verse of poetry. His co-screenwriter Maryam Moghaddam is also quite poignant as the more outgoing Masha. However, Pooriya Rahimi Sam steals scene after scene as the snarky-on-the-outside but not-so-secretly-insecure Kaveh.

Risk of Acid Rain is a great film, saddled with a terrible title. Of course, that is far better than the inverse. Its drama of friendship and aging is universally accessible, yet there are complications specific to Iran that will make viewers shake their heads in frustration with the Islamist system. Ultimately, it is a distinctively sad and forgiving film. Very highly recommended, Risk of Acid Rain screens this Saturday (5/21) at the Billy Wilder Theater, as part of UCLA’s annual Iranian film showcase.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hard Sell: The Beautiful and the Nebbish on Long Island

Most average folk would qualify as poor relations in this tony corner of Long Island, but Hardy Buchanan would probably live on the wrong side of the tracks in any town. Life is hard when you have a mentally ill mother, a terminally ill dog, and an aggressively unattractive personality. However, when the Hardy boy meets an older bombshell in trouble, he leverages her beauty for quick cash in a PG sort of way, until life really gets complicated in Sean Nalaboff’s Hard Sell (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

It is really Buchanan who takes care of his mother Lorna rather than vice versa, yet Ms. Buchanan often seems to have more affection for their shaggy dog Walter. Unfortunately, Walter hasn’t simply lost a step to old age. He needs surgery quickly, but Buchanan cannot afford it. Frankly, it is unclear how the Buchanans keep food on the table, given her flakiness. Presumably, he is a scholarship student at the elitist prep school he attends, which would partially explain his social pariah status.

Providentially, Buchanan meets Bo while volunteering at a local homeless shelter for the sake of his college application resume. She is way, way out of his league, but she isn’t just a fellow volunteer, she is also a short term resident. She claims to be a stripper, as any twentysomething beauty would, so Buchanan starts charging his well-heeled classmates for brief look-sees. Soon, he even starts brokering chaste escort gigs. Of course, none of this is sustainable, especially as both Lorna and Walter Buchanan’s conditions worsen. There is also a concerned uncle out there looking for a young woman who matches Bo’s description.

As far as we know, Bo was not sexually abused by her father or uncle, which earns Hard Sell points for originality. That third act revelation is getting awfully tired, especially since it is largely an act of projection on Hollywood’s part, if you believe Corey Feldman. On the other hand, Hard Sell will seem ridiculously tame for anyone raised on Risky Business and National Lampoon movies. Seriously, don’t these rich Hamptons kids have the internet?

Perhaps more problematically, Hard Sell pretends to treat mental health issues with all due gravity, unless you happen to be really hot like Bo, in which case its fine to be a little cuckoo. As a result, the film often feels like a disingenuous after school special.

As Lorna Buchanan, Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth unleashes her inner trailer trash Bette Davis, which is certainly an impressive spectacle. Katrina Bowden is obviously comfortable playing the cool attractive chick (and there are probably worse roles to be type-cast in). Old Walter probably deserves consideration for those year-end animal performer awards, gimmicky as they may be. That leaves consideration of Skyler Gisondo’s shticky, whiny performance as Hardy Buchanan, which we would indeed like to leave by the side of the road.

Despite his status as a put-upon doormat, the extent to which Nalaboff leaves issues in Hardy Buchanan’s miserable life unresolved will annoy most viewers. Still, even with its faults, Hard Sell is vastly superior to the cloying Waiting for Forever, which is a weirdly fitting comparison film. Not recommended, Hard Sell opens this Friday (5/20) in Los Angeles, at the Arena Cinema.

Labels:

ma ma: Penelope Cruz Wants You to Cry

Magda and Arturo have the opposite of a meet-cute. She is in the hospital for breast cancer treatment, while he has come to say goodbye to his soon to be late wife (having already lost their daughter). Those are some intense experiences to bond over, so you can’t really blame them for marrying so quickly. Unfortunately, they will experience some rotten déjà vu halfway through Julio Medem’s ma ma (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

If you feel a lump during the given self-examination of your gender, do not put off having it examined like Magda does. By the time Julián, her handsome gynecologist with a seductive singing voice biopsies it, the cancer has advanced to a stage requiring a mastectomy. Obviously, Magda is concerned, but she ratchets up her resolve, arranging family to care for her oblivious son Dani and somewhat passive aggressively banishing her ex-husband Raúl from her life. In a case of better late than never, he deeply regrets not being there for her. When he sets about to make amends, it might just be the first miracle attributable to Saint Magda.

Unfortunately, Arturo’s wife and daughter are still dead (from a car crash he was not a party to), but Magda appears to make a complete recovery. Arturo the professional football scout also gets on smashingly with Dani, the talented junior player. However, Magda somehow manages to delay her follow-up exams to the point beyond all reasonable hope. Yet, despite her dreary diagnosis, Magda will keep her recent pregnancy. Their daughter will be her legacy. Besides, as their close family friend, Julián the singing gynecologist will help Arturo and Dani raise her.

Right, so basically ma ma is the most depressing reboot of Three Men and a Baby ever (even the reformed Raúl promises to chip in, making it a veritable barbershop quartet). Yet, for all its naked manipulations, it is impossible to dismiss the film, because it represents such a distinctive vision. It is sort of like a Paolo Sorrentino film on Benzedrine and chorizo. To describe it as an operatic ode to motherhood would be an understatement. It is secular hagiography at its boldest. Plus, there is bizarre symbolism of the Siberian waif (who Julián supposedly was unable to adopt) strolling through the film like a silent Greek chorus.

So, no, subtly is not Medem’s thing. To give her credit, Penelope Cruz antes up at every call. She plays Magda with such ferocious dignity it downright hurts to watch. Basically, the usually forceful Luis Tosar is emasculated by her shadow. This is obviously Medem’s Madonna story, so Arturo, the poor man’s Joseph is just an afterthought.

Realism is probably not much of a priority either. Nobody is claiming to be a doctor here, but we imagine most women with stage three cancer who are also eight months pregnant would not be so keen to frolic on the beach—but hey, more power to Magda. Medem will absolutely beat us over the head with her courage and determination, but at least he does it with style, so it is hard to resent him for it. This is not just a drippy tearjerker, but rather an auteurist re-invention of melodrama. Recommended for those who find Pedro Almodovar too upbeat and Terrence Malick too understated, ma ma opens this Friday (5/20) in New York, at the Landmark Sunshine.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Panorama Europe ’16: The Cleaner

It is a dirty job, but some underpaid ex-con has to do it. Tomáš would be that lucky prole. He cleans up after crime scenes, suicides, natural deaths, and the occasional deceased pet. That was how he first came to the apartment of the shopgirl he pined for, but obsession kept him coming back—secretly. Despite the obvious voyeurism, viewers should refrain from making the usual assumptions during Peter Bebjak’s The Cleaner (trailer here), which screens as part of Panorama Europe 2016.

It is solitary work, frequently requiring a face mask, but it suits Tomáš as well as it would suit anyone. He does not have much human contact, aside from his awkward sessions with a state-mandated head-shrinker. However, we quickly deduce he is the product of an unnurturing environment. In fact, his mother is currently serving a prison sentence for a crime in the Burning Bed tradition. He is just not equipped to put the moves on Kristína, no matter how many candles he buys from her store. However, he can stare at her for hours from her closet.

Frankly, Kristína’s exploitative deadbeat brother is more trouble for her than her peeping stalker, especially when he pimps her out to abusive perverts to cover his gambling debts. It is more than Tomáš expected to see. In fact, things get so desperate, he will be forced to intervene.

Cleaner is an unsettling film in many ways, but it is much more complicated than an invasion-of-privacy thriller, like Sleep Tight or Ratter. Bebjak and co-screenwriter Peter Gasparik develop real relationships, albeit significantly unhealthy ones. Ultimately, its chills are of an existential rather than horrific nature.

As Tomáš, Noël Czuczor is such a cold fish it is hard to fully take stock of his work, but that is a rather appropriate within the film’s dramatic context. Rebeka Poláková’s Kristína is also somewhat “difficult,” but it is also quite harrowing to watch what she endures. Still, she is not a stereotypically passive victim. When they finally share proper scenes together, the chemistry is believably weird.

Cleaner is sinister enough for genre fans to appreciate Bebjak’s command of mood and atmosphere, but straight enough for respectable patrons to attend is screenings without apologies. It is different, in mostly a creepy good way. Recommended for adventurous cineastes and cult film connoisseurs, The Cleaner screens this Friday (5/20) at MoMI, as part of this year’s Panorama Europe.

Labels: ,

Asian Connection: Steven Seagal as a Bad Bad Guy

Evidently, the FDIC insurance in Cambodia is rather lacking. Otherwise, drug lord Gan Sirankiri should not be so upset when a couple of expat ne’er-do-wells keep robbing the banks that hold his deposits. Frankly, it looks like the same bank getting held up over and over again, but whatever. Of course, it is no accident they know where his dollars are stashed. They have an inside source, albeit a rather manipulative one in Daniel Zirilli’s bargain basement Asian Connection (trailer here), which is now playing in New York.

Jack Elwell is determined to build a better life for his Thai girlfriend Avalon, so he and his stoner buddy Sam cruise over the border to pull a bank job. Much to their surprise, they hit the jackpot, snagging about two hundred grand from the vault (frankly, it looks more like a supply closet, but whatever). That was Sirankiri’s money and he wants it back. In a case of good news/bad news, Sirankiri’s not-so trusted lieutenant Niran tracks Elwell down and offers him a deal he can’t refuse. From now on, he will instruct Elwell and his partner where and when to hit the banks stuffed with Sirankiri’s money. They keep fifty percent of the take and get to keep living. Obviously, it is not a sustainable existence, but they do not have much choice in the short term.

In some ways, Connection represents fitting karma for Steven Seagal’s disgusting puckering up to Putin in Russian propaganda. However, it is still sad to see Casey Ryback reduced to this. Granted, you do not need a perfect body type to be a martial arts star, as Sammo Hung proves every day. However, Master Sammo has more screen presence than Seagal ever did and he has a huge reservoir of accrued good will (whereas Seagal has pretty much frittered away whatever he had). Regardless, it looks like the mumbling Seagal needs an intervention for an addiction to Nyquil.

Although his name is prominent in the credits, if you blink you might miss Michael Jai White (and he probably hopes you will). Pim Bubear is pleasant enough on-screen, but the film bizarrely makes no use of her martial arts skills. Without question Sahajak Boonthanakit (who was also pretty good in No Escape) best acquits himself as Niran. On the other hand, John Edward Lee is just a creepy excuse for a leading man.

Connection aspires to be pedestrian, but it falls embarrassingly short. The film just looks and sounds cheap. There are a few passable fight sequences, but you will find better in any film chosen at random from Well Go USA’s back catalog. It is also highly problematic to watch our supposed good guys gunning down Cambodian cops, who are legitimately trying to enforce the law. Not recommended, Asian Connection is now playing in New York at the Cinema Village, but probably not for long.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 16, 2016

Almost Holy: Pastor Crocodile Gennadiy Looks After his Flock

Pastor Gennadiy Mokhnenko’s name is surely on the list of Ukrainian leaders to be rounded-up for a Moscow show trial if the city of Mariupol ever decisively falls (which it very nearly did). This man of the cloth is also on the enemies list of a drug dealer known on the streets as Abrahina. In both cases, Pastor Mokhnenko has called out those who threaten his flock and his country. That country is Ukraine. Nobody is more aware of the nation’s systemic social pathologies or more determined to fix them than the good cleric profiled in Steve Hoover’s documentary, Almost Holy (a.k.a. Crocodile Gennadiy, trailer here), co-executive produced by Terrence Malick, which opens this Friday in New York.

Pastor Mokhnenko is a lot like Father Flanagan, but with more swagger (his nickname “Crocodile Gennadiy” comes from a beloved Russian cartoon about a do-gooding croc). His version of Boys’ Town is Pilgrim Republic, a rehab center and homeless shelter for Mariupol’s shockingly young street junkies. Pastor Mokhnenko will give them a hot meal, a warm bed, and possibly even hope, whether they want them or not. In point of fact, Pastor Mokhnenko remains somewhat controversial for “whisking” young addicts off the streets, even if they do not want saving.

As you might expect, Pastor Mokhnenko does not have much time for critics who think a pre-teen runaway is better off living rough and doing who knows what for an opiate fix. Yes, he is pretty certain of the righteousness of Pilgrim Republic’s cause. It comes from all the drug-ravaged kids he has buried. Yet, even with all the suffering he has witnessed, Crocodile Gennadiy remains a Ukrainian patriot.

The city of Mariupol should ring with significance for viewers because it was the scene of a pitched battle between Ukrainian defense forces and Russian-backed separatists. Although Hoover does not try to compete with docs like Winter on Fire and Generation Maidan, he does not ignore the extreme geopolitical developments in the third act. As a result, the film ends with more uncertainty than closure.

Likewise, Hoover tries to keep an open mind regarding Pastor Mokhnenko’s hard charging methods and his lack of bashfulness with the local media, avoiding hagiographic puffery. Still, it is hard not to admire the Pastor’s guts. Altogether, it is a scrupulously balanced portrait of a highly influential activist and vivid snapshot of Ukraine’s marginalized and exploited youth. Recommended for everyone concerned about street-level realities in the Putin-besieged free and independent nation, Almost Holy opens this Friday (5/20) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

Labels: , ,

Project Itoh Anime Project: Harmony

In the uncomfortably not too distant future, the nanny state has become Big Brother. The World Health Organization (WHO) serves as its Stormtroopers. It is not exactly the UN agency we know today, but probably not so different from how the global bureaucrats would prefer to operate. Almost nobody questions the ideology of “Lifeism” that has sacrificed free will for the sake of health and safety, except one of the elite Helix Inspector charged with maintaining the rigid social order. Tuan Kirie will indeed find herself conflicted when she links a mysterious outbreak of suicides to a childhood friend long presumed dead in Michael Arias & Takashi Nakamura’s adaptation of Japanese science fiction novelist Project Itoh’s Harmony (trailer here), which screens nationwide for two days only this Tuesday and Wednesday.

Thanks to the nanotech implants that activate in adulthood, citizens under WHO’s jurisdiction, most definitely including Japan, closely regulate what they eat and scrupulously avoid danger. Miach Mihie was not having any of it. The charismatic goth girl resolved to kill herself, as did fellow classmates Kirie and Cian Reikado. However, only Mihie successfully carried out the plan—although it was not for a lack of trying on Kirie’s part. Ostensibly, Kirie and Reikado recovered, becoming duly healthy and contributing members of society. Kirie even joined the ranks of the Helix Inspectors but she had ulterior motives. Only while serving in war zones on behalf of WHO’s health and safety imperialism can Kirie smoke, drink, and generally enjoy an unhealthy lifestyle.

Kirie is obviously not her commander’s favorite, but she has her talents. Those skills will be needed when thousands of people simultaneously commit suicide, presumably under the influence of some sort of mind control technique. Kirie has plenty of personal motivation, having watched Reikado’s suicide first-hand. She is also alarmed by rhetorical similarities of the terrorists claiming responsibilities and her long lost friend Mihie.

Kirie’s investigation will take her to some fascinating near-future locales, including a Baghdad reborn as an unregulated pharmaceutical research Mecca and a Chechnya that is still brutally repressed by Russia. Evidently, some things do not change in the future, particularly the pernicious desire to sacrifice freedom for safety. Sadly, there is nothing outlandish about Itoh’s social speculation. Does anyone doubt whether the architects of Obama Care would install the nano-medical-minders on the general populace if they had half a chance?

Harmony is sure to discomfit critics because it is actually based on very real and discernable current trends rather than paranoid fantasies in the Handmaid’s Tale tradition. Under WHO, all of Japan is a safe space and it is no fun whatsoever for a free-thinker like Kirie. Yet, ominously, it is still not safe enough for some social engineers.

Kirie is a strong, rebellious character, whose considerable emotional baggage manifests itself in credible ways. Just as importantly, the film’s increasingly sinister internal logic is consistently observed. There are also some striking visuals, including some rather stunning future metropolis backdrops.

If you want to see smart dystopian science fiction on the big screen, skip the sketchy and didactic High-Rise and opt for the whip-smart Harmony instead. It is refreshingly ambitious anime in all respects. Recommended for fans of animation and social science fiction, Harmony screens tomorrow (5/17) and Wednesday (5/18) in New York, at the Village East.

Labels: , , , , ,