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Knight at the Movies: Dirty Girl; Extremely Loud...; Pina; Coriolanus; film note
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times
2012-01-18

This article shared 4801 times since Wed Jan 18, 2012
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Juno Temple, a young British spitfire with an angelic face and sassy manner, certainly made her mark in queer cinema last year. The pint-sized actress was funny and audacious as a college temptress with a voracious sexual appetite in queer auteur Gregg Araki's black comedy-mystery, Kaboom. She followed that with a similar role in Dirty Girl, out writer-director Abe Sylvia's debut feature. The latter—a charming coming-of-age road comedy in which Temple plays the title role—skipped Chicago during its theatrical run and has just been released on DVD.

It's a lovely divertissement, albeit one with a familiar and sometimes thin trajectory: Two high school misfits in Oklahoma (Temple as Danielle and newcomer Jeremy Dozier as Clarke, the overweight, shy gay nerd) have their pop-culture dreams, and hit the road when their home lives become too much to bear. Danielle and Clarke leave behind her trampy mother (Milla Jovovich) and his homophobic parents (Dwight Yoakam and Mary Steenburgen), and bond as they head toward California and a hoped-for reunion with Danielle's long-lost father (Tim McGraw).

This being 1987, the soundtrack is filled to the brim with a raft of New Wave hits (thanks to a nice music budget, no doubt arranged by savvy queer producer Christine Vachon). Clarke also gets to fulfill his fantasy during a scene reminiscent of Thelma & Louise when the duo pick up a hot-as-a-pistol drifter (Nicholas D'Agosto) who turns out to be a sexy stripper. Another fantasy of Clarke's involves Melissa Manchester (who makes a cameo and penned a lovely new ballad, with lyrics by Steenburgen, for the movie) and an emotionally climactic performance of "Don't Cry Out Loud." Shot in hot candy colors, and filled with plenty of telling details and finely etched performances, Dirty Girl is a welcome addition to the queer-cinema genre. The DVD includes a lot of fun bonus material as well.

Depending on your ability to fall—and I mean hard—for films that emotionally pummel you until you cry "Uncle," out director Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is either the one movie you should see this weekend or the most jaw-dropping piece of manipulative gush you're likely to encounter. My reactions lie somewhere in the middle.

I loved the annoying 10-year-old kid (Thomas Horn) looking for clues all across New York City as to where the key will fit that was left behind by his father (Tom Hanks), killed in one of the towers during 9/11. I also liked the terse but indulgent mother (Sandra Bullock) who seems to let him have his way, as well as Max Von Sydow as the mute gentleman living with the grandmother (Zoe Caldwell) who accompanies him on his journey. I had less use for Viola Davis (again weeping buckets) as the first of many strangers he encounters along the way. Using 9/11 as the backdrop for a story, this emotionally manipulative film will understandably put off viewers (just as the climax of the Robert Pattinson romance drama Remember Me did) but at about the midway point, I threw up my hands and yelled, "Okay, ya got me" and, tossing my emotional caution to the wind, reached for my Kleenex box.

Not surprisingly, the material, based on a novel, has been expertly adapted for the screen by Forest Gump-Horse Whisperer-Benjamin Button scribe Eric Roth, whose facility with mounds of treacly words are beloved by millions. The haunting music is by Alexandre Desplat, and it gives the movie added heft that will certainly help pull you in—and might help you to keep you there.

Pina, a new film by German director Wim Wenders, is being billed as a documentary but it's actually a tribute—a memorial to the insanely creative choreographer Pina Baush, a paragon of the modern-dance movement who was based in Germany and who died suddenly of cancer just as the film was in the planning stages.

Bausch was a leading exponent of "Tanztheater" (dance theater)—a term that dates back to the '20s and the seeds of German expressionism. Combining modernist dance moves and dramatic scenarios, Bausch's company has wowed fans around the world for decades. Upon her death, Wenders wanted to abandon the film but, encouraged by her company, he came back aboard. The finished result is a breathtaking work of art in which four of Bausch's most famous dances are caught on camera in thrilling detail. Sensual, oddly compelling, filled with jerky movements and exaggerated repetition, and relying on simplistic spaces (a dirt floor, an empty room with chairs), Bausch's originality is exhilaratingly apparent.

Interspersed among these epic pieces are interviews with the dancers (whose thoughts are heard as they stare into the camera mournfully) and scant details of Baush's life. The film also features rousing sections featuring Bausch's dancers in solo fragments, captured in outdoor locations in and around Wuppetal, Germany. Pina was shot in 3-D but is just as sensational in the 2-D version—Bausch's genius (and Wenders ability to capture it) obviously not really needing any camera tricks to amplify it.

Ralph Fiennes stars and makes his directorial debut in a highly charged adaptation of Shakespeare's Coriolanus. Fiennes plays the title character, a banished hero of Rome, linking with his sworn enemy to take back the city that has disowned him. Reimagining the material in a modern-day, gritty setting with contemporary warfare accoutrements was a very canny choice by Fiennes and he helps audiences, resistant to the bard, find their way to this bloodthirsty material by casting Gerard Butler as the onetime nemesis and a host of brilliant supporting actors (Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain, Brian Cox, et al). Fiennes is brutal, coarse and, unlike other protean Shakespeare characters, not given much to reflection or melancholy—or much of anything other than seeking revenge and making war. That right there lets me out, but may just be the thing others need to give Willy the Shake a try.

Film note:

—The Chicago Area Women's History Council, Chicago Foundation for Women, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, ITVS, and WTTW Channel 11 are co-presenting Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock. The 60-minute documentary, from director Sharon La Cruise, is a portrait of a Black unsung hero of the civil-rights movement. The film—to be shown Saturday, Jan. 21, at 2 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center, 73 E. Washington St. in the Claudia Cassidy Theatre—will be followed by a panel discussion with women leaders of the Chicago civil-rights movement; those leaders include Lorne Cress Love (Students for Non-Violence Coordinating Committee), Sylvia Fischer (Chicago Area Friends of SNCC) and Fannie Rushing (Associate Professor, Dept. of History, Benedictine University). The event is free and open to the public.

Check out my archived reviews at www.windycitymediagroup.com or www.knightatthemovies.com . Readers can leave feedback at the latter website.


This article shared 4801 times since Wed Jan 18, 2012
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