The splendid American Splendor TRUE LIFE STORIES

AMERICAN SPLENDOR (15) 101 min 00.00

If this film. about the life and art of Cleveland-based blue collar worker and comics writer Harvey Pekar. was merely a stylistic exercise -impressive as it is in that respect American Splendor wouldn't be one of the finest independent films to come out of America in years.

By detailing the lows and highs that form the life of this working class Joe in a series of insightful and conipassionate snapshots. cowriter-director Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's successfully place content over style. Split screen effects to mirror comic strip panels segue into animation, mixed with professional performances from the film's subjects (Pekar is played by both the superb indie actor Paul Giamatti and Harvey himself all very clever. clever post- modern playfulnessl. But it's Pekar's life his marriage to second wife Joyce. his work as a hospital office clerk. his friendship With self-confessed nerd Toby (Judah Friedlanderl. another with pal and commix creator legend Robert Crumb (James Urbaniakl and his battle \vith cancer and his obsession with collecting ‘sides' (old jazz records) that captures the imagination and gets you where it counts.

Life. as Pekar says. is pretty complex stuff. He revolutionised comics in the early 1970s when he started writing then unheard of atitobiographical stories (now. everyone's doing it). its wholly appropriate. then. that Berman and Pulcini's film should be so on the mark With the biographical stuff.

Funny. heart-felt. full of pathos and brilliantly original. American Splendor. like the comics from which it takes its name. is a work of genius. (Miles Fielder)

I Selected release from Fri 2 Jan.


(12) 75min 0....

Cult Canadian director Guy Maddin's slender budget for this screen adaptation of Bram Stoker's famOuS stery would hardly have stretched to the catering bill for Francis Ford Coppola's sumptuous 1992 Dracula. Yet his deliriously avant-garde take on the tale is no less stylish or imaginative. and is every bit as compelling and exotic as anything Hollywood can offer.

Maddin has taken choreographer Mark Godden's acclaimed staging of the story for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and filmed it as a black and white silent melodrama, complete With inter-titles instead of spoken dialogue. tinting in sepia. blue. orange and lavender. and. here and there. splashes of bolder colour. of which blood red naturally predominates.

Maddin's earlier films. Such as Archangel and Careful. revealed a love of pastiche and camp. and he gives free rein to those tastes here. borrowing from Murnau's Nosferatu and German expressionism. while haying fun with the theme of Victorian

Dance Prince Vlad dance

sexual hysteria and repression. Madden is surprisingly faithful to Stoker's narrative. which retains all its power to chill and shock. Indeed. accompanied by the swooning romanticism of Mahler's first and second symphonies. dance proves a remarkably effective medium for the tale. Exhilarating and eerie. seductive and strange. Maddin's take on the vampire myth makes for spellbinding cinema. (Jason BUS!)

I Selected release from Fri 72 Dec.


HORROR DEAD END (15) 85 min 000

Low-budget American horror doesn't come much more straightforward than this.

An average American family are driving along a deserted road on Christmas Eve. They bicker. they fight. they argue. they stop for a female hitchhiker. Then they start dying one by one.

The debut film from French writer- directors Jean-Baptise and Andrea Fabrice Canepa. Dead End has all the creaky atmOSpheric charm of an old episode of The Twilight Zone. with plenty of added gore effects to keep the Final Destination crowd happy. With just six characters and one location. it's an economical little shocker with a real taste for the perverse. And it plays to its strengths throughout its hour and 25 minutes.

To call it a great horror movie w0uld be disingenuous. but its crackling.

Low budget horror masterclass

bitchy script and outrageously violent set pieces inject the clammy set up with a welcome dollop of comedy from the laugh-till-you-barf school of horror humour. The disappointing finale sees it ride straight into a cul-de- sac that most audiences will have already guessed. but that's not enough to detract from the film's offbeat pleasures. (Jamie Russell)

I Selected release from Fri 72 Dec.


Bill Morrison's remarkable. moving. non-linear film gets a rare outing. Pieced together from decaying turn- of—the-century film footage. Decasia is a weird and disturbing trawl. The black and white images seem to be cannibalising themselves. this is both hallucinatory and hypnotic. a kind of indefinable masterwork. Scored impressively by Bang on a Can's Michael Gordon. this was originally made to be shown in front of a live audience with a proper orchestra. Sufi dancers and a whole array of performance an variety style antics. Alone. however. Decasia still stands up remarkably well. Strange beautiful. beautiful strange. (Paul Dale)

I Fl/lN/lOL/SO, Edinburgh from Fri 72 Dec.

0...? 3‘.

Strange beautiful


Anyone who's been forced to learn an instrument should relate to this coming-of- age move in which a pushy. but loving father from provincial China takes his violinist son to bustling Beijing to enter a music competition.

Soon after arrivmg in the big city. 13-year-old Xiaochun (Tan Yun‘) commences lessons With the recluswe Jiang (Wang Zhiwenl. However. when his father Liu Cheng (Liu Reign discovers that the b0y has been distracted by his friendship with attractive rieigthur Lili (Chen Hongi. and that his Visits to his professors dank. decrepit home have fOCLised more on nostalgia than notation. he arranges fer him to study with the stricter and more reputable Yu (Chen Kaigei instead. Xiaochun's disillusionment and fury at his father's interference act as a catalyst for the events that follow.

While delivering a universal message about the importance of togetherness in a competitive. often alienating. world. Farewell My Concubine director Kaige's multi- layered mowe also illustrates the growing consumerism in contemporary China. It's visually and musically rich. the acting c0uld be better, but it's quite magical and very movmg. Expect to shed a few tears. (Beth WilliamSl I Selected release from Fri 72 Dec.

Broken musical dreams in Beijing

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