DRAMA, COMEDY CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ (ENDLESS) (15) 154min 0000
Tragically Cristian Nemescu, the 27 year-old writer-director of California Dreamin’ died in a car crash whilst working on the post-production of this richly ambitious film (together with his sound designer Andrei Toncu), hence the bracketed addition to the title. Who knows what alterations Nemescu might have made? In any case the version being released is terrific in its own right - darkly ironic, consistently amusing and ultimately tragic.
Beginning with a black-and-white Allied bombing raid on a Romanian apartment block towards the end of World War Two, the bulk of California Dreamin’ unwinds in the summer of 1999, whilst fighting is underway in Kosovo. A NATO train, guarded by US Marines under the command of Captain Jones (Armand Assante), is transporting radar communication across Romania to the Serbian border. At the village of Capalnita, the corrupt stationmaster Doiaru (Razvan Vasilescu), who has been nursing a grudge against the Americans for decades, simply refuses to let the transport pass without the correct customs papers. And the mayor (Ion Sapdaru) insists that whilst the soldiers wait for the impasse to be resolved, they must partake of the hospitality at the local festivities, which includes an Elvis impersonator.
What elevates this above being simply a Balkan farce, complete with cultural misunderstandings, is Nemescu’s ability to move between multiple storylines, his interest in a whole range of characters and the quality of the performances. The young women of the community, including rebellious teenager Monica (Maria Dinulescu), flock to meet the newcomers, hoping to escape their dead-end existence in Capalnita. Such is Monica’s erotic charge that a bout of frantic lovemaking at a party with Jones’s Sergeant (Jamie Elman) triggers a widespread power blackout.
The dynamically shot California Dreamin’ is in part a satire on the corruption and bureaucratic paralysis of post-Ceausescu Romania, yet it’s equally biting in its allegorical treatment of American foreign policy. For having encouraged conflict, these forces of intervention simply move on to their next destination, unaware of the bloodshed they leave in their wake. (Tom Dawson)
I Fi/mhouse, Edinburgh and selected cinemas from Fri 30 May
DOCUMENTARY TERROR’S ADVOCATE (12A) 137min 0000
Filmmaker Barbet Schroeder starts his engrossing dOCUinentary with a written statement claiming that this is his view of Jacques Verges and that the opinion of those interviewed may be different. He then proceeds to show an incredible fascination — bordering on love — for the lawyer who went to the Sorbonne with Pol Pot and defended demonised international figures such Klaus Barbie and Magdalena Kopp of the Baader- Meinhoff gang. Taking a chronological approach. we are first introduced to Verges as a brazen 30-year—old lawyer determined to make his name by defending Algerians charged with committing terrorist acts against the French. Archive footage is mixed with footage of Verges sitting talking about his exploits. and from the get-go he comes across as arrogant and full of himself. a feeling that grows as the lawyer talks about defending Palestinians and his hatred for colonialists. In the 1970's Verges simply disappeared and Schroeder fails to get a full account or prove conclusively where the lawyer went. or why. The film gets more iii-depth when exploring Verges' relationships with Kopp and Djamila Bouhired. the Algerian Nationalist involved in the Milk Bar bombing. Terrors Advocate is a history lesson in modern insurgency and terrorism paranOia without ever being lecturing at any point. The conceited Verges is always entertaining and clearly loves his own notoriety in this engrossing film which is all too clearly not the last that will be made about this fascinating individual. (Kaleem Aftabl
I GET, Glasgow from Mon 2—Wed 4 Jun. See interview.
REVENGE TRAGEDY SHOTGUN STORIES (12A) 90min 0...
EPIC DRAMA HISTORY MONGOL (15) 125min 000
Life's hard when you're a Mongol. For Genghis Khan. starting life in 1 192 as nine-year-old Temudjin (Odnyam OdSLiren). the problems start when his selection of a bride is interrupted by the assassination of his father by the ignoble method of poison. A lesser man might break under such circumstances. but Temudjin's philosophy only toughens his soul: ‘Beware a quiet child: he may be the son of a tiger' runs the aphorism. By
1 186. the wrath of Khan is felt on a seismic scale as a Substantially beefed up Temudjin (Tadanobu Asano) escapes from imprisonment to reclaim his bride Bone (Khulan Chuluun) and pitch a battle against traitorous one- time ally Jamukha (Honglei Sun).
As the first of a planned trilogy on the Mongol leader's life. Sergei Bodrov's follow—up to the similarly epic Nomad sounds somewhat dry on paper. but this is less the Genghis Khan of the histOry books than a carefully humanist leader. motivated by his desire for jUSllCC rather than carnage. and funher softened by a surprisingly romantic sub-plot.
Kazakhstan's entry for the 2008 Oscars. Mongols interpretation of the Khan story bears all the hallmarks of being carefully adapted to make it accessible to Western audiences. particularly in terms of the 300ster epic battle scenes. As well as setting up parts two and three of the trilogy. the detailed sweep of Mongol also sets the director up nicely as the Mikhail Bay of Eastern-European action cinema. (Eddie Harrison)
I GET. Glasgow and selected release from Fri 6 Jun.
Poverty and hope are the Currencies traded in the southeastern part of Arkansas that is the stage for Jeff Nichol's feature debut. This is a land of downriver people whose luckless lives are tied to the Mississippi-enriched alluvial soils. dusty old frame houses and station wagons. Three brothers are stumbling their way through this life. There's Son (Michael Shannon). the mysterious, iconic hard working older brother. unerrii.)loyed basketball coach Boy (Douglas Ligon) and the y0ung and in love Kid (Barlow Jacobs). When news reaches them that their father has died. they deCide to go to the funeral. Here they come face to face with their half brothers and a feud erupts — from which no good can come. Nichol's slow burn modern western plays like a sour. white trash retelling of Henry Hathaway's 1965 film The Sons of Katie Elder, where all mothers are hateful and revenge is always a regrettable offshoot of envy. Shotgun Stories is essentially a parable about grief and the futility of hostility. but. as produced by the singularly talented filmmaker David Gordon Green (George Washington. All The Real Girls. Undertowl it becomes something more tantalisnig and opaque that hints at but never fully embraces the Setithern Gothic traditions of Carson McCuIlers. Flannery O'Connor and Harry Crews. With its impressive low-key performances. sparse mumbled dialogue. brief Vignettes and nee-realist feel. Shotgun Stories is imbued with the significant aesthetics of the great Mississippi raised filmmaker Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep. To Sleep With Anger). (Paul Dalel I Cameo, Edinburgh and selected cinemas from Fri 23 May.
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