THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE
EL ESPINAZO DEL IABLO)
(15) 107 mins .0...
Fans of the expertly-crafted ghost tale are in for a chilling treat with The Devil’s Backbone. Admirers of just plain great cinema are likewise blessed as Mexican writer-director Guillermo del Toro develops the remarkable feel for mood, sure touch of visual storytelling and sheer invention evident in his debut, the vampire film Cronos, to produce another outstanding gothic tale. Working with screenwriting partners Antonio Trashorras and David Munoz, del Toro has relocated the Latin American setting of their original script to Spain’s Civil War years (Trashorras and Munoz are Spanish, ironically enough). There young Carlos (Fernando Tielve) is brought to a remote orphanage for children of soldiers lost in battle. The many orphans are presided over by the odd but kind elderly couple Professor Casares (Federico Luppi, del Toro’s Cronos star) and Carmen (Pedro Almodovar regular Marisa Paredes) as well as the abusive young man Jacinth (Eduardo de Noriega), once a child orphan himself. And, of course, the
ANIMATION l. IVl: ACTION LITTLE OTIK (15) 131 mins 00.
Czech surrealist Jan Syankmajer isn't a directOr to watch on a full stomach. Or an empty one. Or on anything that is likely to result in you chucking up your insides. In Little Ot/k. there is so much precise detail on food. its rabid consumption and cannibalism. plus trees with nappies and charred corpses aplenty. that you may find your empty popcorn box doubling up nicely as a sickbag. You also may find images of babies being virapped in newspaper to be sold to infertile parents or an old duffer's paedophiliac
tendencies churning your tummy too.
Utilising an old C/ech folk tale. Svankmajer focuses on a '>arren couple who go to extreme lengths to become
remote ancient building is also haunted, by the ghost of another orphan.
The continental shift from the New World to the Old provides the film with a powerful political backdrop, which is seamlessly interwoven with a strong religious subtext. There are also numerous cultural references including the surreal imagery of Salvador Dali, the Victorian gothic writings of MB. James, the comical horror of Italian filmmaker Mario Bava and comic books (of which del Toro is a big fan - his next two films are the comic adaptations Blade II and Hellboy).
Gloriously photographed by Almodovar’s cinematographer
Outstanding allegorical ghost story
Guillermo Navarro, The Devil’s Backbone opens with a bomb’s eye view of an explosive dropping out of a plane. lt lands in the courtyard of the orphanage, but fails to explode. It’s fantastically striking image, straight out of the pages of a comic. The enormous unexploded bomb, half-buried and fully erect, monumental, oppressive, sexual, is also the most striking of the film’s many symbols. Del Toro uses these to perfectly encapsulate the social, political and personal concerns of his allegorical storytelling. Films with this much baggage, and none of it excessive, are rare delights indeed. (Miles Fielder)
I Selected release from Fri 30 Nov.
(18) 86 mins .00.
parents. \r'K/hen their ‘child' gets out of cOntrol. snacking on anything which stumbles into its path. hard decisions need to be made. Coming on like a cross between Erase/head and The Beast /n The Cel/ar. Svankmajer's eye for a beautifully framed image is flawless for the first twenty minutes. but wears thin as soon as the overlong, repetitwe story takes hold. As an animated short. it wetild have made a wonderful addition to his repertorre. (Brian Donaldson)
I Belmont. Aberdeen from Fri 7 Dec; Film/rouse. Edinburgh from Tue I 1 Dec. See prevrew. page 26.
For Svankmajer animation is a magical, subversive tool
30 THE LIST Nu. i)-’:'; 789‘
Jet-black comedy chronicling the American nightmare
Happiness writer-director Todd Solond/ returns with another let-black comedy chronicling the American nightmare. and hitting back at the critics who've accused him of empty shock-tactics and cheap condescension towards his characters. Split into two unequal parts. ‘Fiction' and ‘Non-Fiction'. Storytelling begins on a mid-808 university campus. at a Creative writing class attended by the disabled Marcus (Leo Fitzpatrick) and his girlfriend Vi (Selma Blair). After a one-night stand with her black tutor Mr Scott (Robert Wisdom). who makes her repeat the phrase 'nigger. fuck me hard' during anal sex. Vi composes a fictional accOunt of her experiences.
The second segment concerns hapless thirtysomething documentary-maker Toby (Paul Giamatti), who's decided to make a sociological study in the aftermath of Columbine'. His main character is suburban teenager Scooby (Mark Webberi. a slacker yearning to become a TV celebrity. but the boy's bullying Jewish father (John Goodman) is concerned about how their whole family will be portrayed .
Solondx's comic targets are Wide-ranging: the Holocaust. l'righ-school massacres. racial stereotyping. academic labelling and the film American Beauty. But despite its playfulness. Storytelling deals with some important issues: the burden of artistic responsibility. creative exploitation (whether deliberate or unintentional). the subjective nature of 'tz'uth'. the allure of revenge. It's an uneven. yet always intriguing work. (Tom Dawson)
I GET. Glasgow; Fi/rnhouse. Edinburgh from Fri 30 Nov. See feature. pages 24—25.
THE NINE LIVES OF TOMAS KATZ (15) 88 mins 0..
If you are in the mood for a touch of post- ironic expressionist absurdism then this Odd comedy maybe right up your Nostradamas. A pale stranger picks up a black cab on London's M25. marking the beginning of the end as he leapfrogs his way thrOugh various human forms in order to bring about the Apocalypse.
Ben Hopkins' very strange avant garde comedy has taken a long time to get a decent release in Scotland: in the meantime it has taken Germany by storm. Heaven knows why. but it may have something to do with the director's love of Caligaristyle set pieces and the ludicrous comic invention of Monty Python via Chris Morris.
Beautifully shot in black and white with a great use of locations. it is difficult not to enjoy the mayhem. Though never quite as clever as it thinks. this chaotic. silly film is really a love letter to London. to Stanley Kubrick's Dr Strange/eve. to German auteur Robert Wiene and to the 803 alternative comedians of The Comic Strip. The most idiosyncratic movie this year.
(Paul Dale) I Cameo, Edinburgh from Fri 30 Nov
Avant garde comedy