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1996 Independent Movie Review

1996 Independent Movie Review

Articles - Directing

…Cineplex Film Properties…

Hitting American screens in mid-February is Yankee
Zulu
, starring comedian Leon Shuster, who finds humor in
the absurd side of the new South Africa. This romp incorporates
various ethnic switches and chase sequences, and promises the
irreverent mix of slapstick and visual gags which have made Shuster
a star from his previous five comedies. Heavy takes us
to an upstate New York tavern for a slice of life about a young
man (Pruitt Taylor Vince) and his obsession with a beautiful
woman (Liv Tyler) who passes through and disrupts the lives of
the man, his mother (Shelley Winters), the tavern’s waitress
(Deborah Harry) and Tyler’s boyfriend (Evan Dando). Writer/director
James Mangold brings all these talents together for a quiet,
romantic film scheduled for a June release.

…Cinevista…

Parallel Sons, John G. Young’s feature debut,
takes a look at a gay, interracial romance and has racked up a
variety of awards at film festivals around the country. The Suzanne
Bier-directed Like it Never was Before is based on a screenplay
by gay Swedish stand-up comic Jonas Gardell. The film tells the
story of a seaside romance between a young magician and a middle-aged,
middle-class family man. Both films are scheduled for theatrical
release in the spring. Cinevista releases to video Abuse,
Arthur J. Bressan Jr.’s film based on a true story about an abused
14-year-old who meets a filmmaker shooting a documentary about
child abuse. Bressan’s film Buddies, back in 1983, was one
of the first films to address the AIDS crisis.

…Dove International…

In February, writer/director Josh Evans debuts with Inside
the Goldmine
, the story of two privileged young friends in
Los Angeles whose friendship is tested when each become suspects
in a murder investigation. The 23-year-old Evans, son of producer
Robert Evans and actress Ali MacGraw, also stars in the picture
(he also appeared in Born on the 4th of July and The
Doors
) which pokes fun at the entertainment industry and
the disillusionment of today’s youth. The following month, Scott
Caan teams up with his dad, James, for his feature acting debut
in A Boy Called Hate, an action drama about a teen tough
who witnesses a rape, accidentally murders a rapist, and ends
up on the run with the woman. Mitch Marcus wrote and directed
this whirlwind romance about the meaning of trust. Coming to
video is Klash, an action thriller set in the steamy world
of dance hall reggae, starring Jasmine Guy, Bill Parker and Giancarlo
Esposito. En route to a massive battle of the bands in Jamaica,
a photographer stumbles onto an exotic woman from his past and
finds himself involved with the Jamaican underworld. The film
was directed by Parker, a veteran of music videos and concert
films for Stevie Wonder and Ziggy Marley. Also on video, Wavelength (formerly E=MC2)
starring Jeremy Piven as an American physicist in Oxford, England
who will do anything to complete one of Einstein’s final obsessions
and discovers some things about himself along the way.

…The Edge Cinema…

A new distributor based in Pasadena introduces Kirk
Harris’s film, Loser, to screens in April after traveling
the festival circuit. The film, which Harris wrote, directed and
starred in, tells the tale of an early twenties small town drug
dealer bent on self-destruction. The film opens with James Dean
Ray with a bullet hole in his chest, and uses flashbacks to delve
into the circumstances that brought him to this situation. Darkly
humorous, the film is billed as "a sensitive look at a young
man with nowhere to go and getting there as fast as he can." Also
of note is the cinematography by Kent Wakeford, the DP on Scorsese’s Mean
Streets
and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.

…Filmopolis Pictures…

Catherine Deneuve and Daniel Auteuil star in Ma
Saison Preferee
(My Favorite Season), the story of a brother
and sister who confront the emptiness of their lives when their
mother begins to lose her health and her powers of reason. Directed
by Andre Techine (Wild Reeds), the drama’s larger theme
of individual freedom and the coldness of the modern world is
reflected in the story of two distant siblings examining the
choices they’ve made in their lives. Ma Saison Preferee debuts
in America in March along with Target, a dramatic epic
set in India about "untouchable" peasant villagers
against the oppressive conditions forced on them by landowners.
The film claims to present a true-to-life account of the plight
of many of India’s villagers and stars Om Puri as the hunter
who takes up arms in a struggle against inhuman conditions.

…Fine Line…

From writer/director Bryan Gordon, winner of an Academy
Award for his short, Ray’s Male Heterosexual Dance Hall,
comes Pie in the Sky, starring Josh Charles (Threesome, Dead
Poets Society
) in a whimsical saga about a young man in pursuit
of the girl next store played by Anne Heche (The Juror,
Emmy Award Winner for "Another World"). Featured in supporting
roles are Christine Lahti and John Goodman.

…Gramercy…

Early in ’96, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon team
up again for Dead Man Walking. Robbins is behind the camera
this time for his second directorial effort. The film is based
on a true story about a repentant killer (Sean Penn) who suffers
during his long countdown to execution and finds himself with a
nun (Sarandon) as his pen pal. Given the cumulative talents of
this trio and the advance buzz, Dead Man Walking has a lot
of potential. In Jack and Sarah, due for release in February,
Richard Grant, Ian McKellen and Samantha Mathis head a cast in
a story about a British man in search of the perfect nanny for
his infant daughter. Since the conflict here is apparently that
the nanny ends up being American, I’m hoping this one’s a comedy.
Gramercy also brings us the latest Coen Brothers picture, Fargo,
which stars Steve Buscemi, Frances McDormand and Harve Pressnell,
scheduled for release in late February.

…Live Entertainment…

Germany’s biggest domestic hit last year, Maybe…Maybe
Not
is a comedy of errors about Axel, a heterosexual man
who’s thrown out of his house by his girlfriend and ends up on
the doorstep of a gay friend, Norbert. Fending off advances from
Norbert and his friends, Axel finds himself growing closer to
them (hence the title) just as his girlfriend discovers she’s
pregnant. Scheduled for an April release, Maybe…Maybe Not was
directed by Sonke Wortmann and is based on a series of German
comic books by artist Ralf Konig.

…New Yorker…

Opening in February,Crows tells the story
of a lonely, neglected child who kidnaps a younger girl in her
desperate desire for love. Written and directed by Dorota Kezierawska,
the film stars Karolina Ostrozny, Kasia Szczepanic and Anna Prucnal
and will be distributed in its native Polish with English subtitles.
Directed by Gianni Amelio (Stolen Children, Open Doors), L’America stars
Enrico Lo Verso as a brash young Italian who heads to Albania to
create a dummy corporation and reap riches from the country’s battered
economy after the fall of communism Since no foreigner can head
a company, Lo Verso finds a 70-year-old political prisoner who
has served 50 years of hard labor. Just confused and passive enough
to be their figurehead, he is put "in charge," only the
man has plans of his own and Lo Verso goes in pursuit, only to
have the chic trappings of his life stripped away by the Albanian
refugees trying to escape to a better life in Italy. The film has
won a number of festival awards in Europe and gets its national
release early in the year.

…Kit Parker Films…

Living the American Dream
in Nueba Yol.

Writer/Producer/Director Angel Muñiz delivers Nueba
Yol
, a film about Balbuena, a hapless immigrant played by
Luisito Martí, who takes a friend’s advice to mortgage
his home to make his greatest dream — to go to New York — ("where
the dollars are flying in the streets and people don’t even notice
them.") come true. It takes Balbuena a bit of time to reconcile
his fantasy with the reality of this strange country, devoid
of all the comforts of his native customs, language and culture.
The ultimate catch comes when he falls in love with Nancy Martínez
(Caridad Ravelo) who’s had enough of the harsh realities
of America and is heading back to her native Dominican Republic.
From Tunisia comes Le Magique, an autobiographical film
by Azdine Melliti about his experience when he was left behind
in a poor Tunisian village and his parents emigrated to France.
Wandering into Tunis, the boy is hypnotized by the spectacle
of movies and attempts to make his own film version of Spartacus.
The film will be released in the spring.

…Samuel Goldwyn Company…

Opening in late January, Angels & Insects is
director Philip Haas’s (The Music of Chance) drama from
an adaptation of the novella, "Morpho Eugenia" by A.
S. Byatt. Set in the 19th Century, the film stars Kristin Scott
Thomas, Patsy Kensit and Mark Rylance in a drama of love, passion
and social behavior. Making his directorial debut, Anthony Hopkins’s August features
several love triangles in a country house in North Wales in the
1890’s. Starring along with Hopkins is Kate Burton, who plays the
object of his desire in this film based on Chekhov’s "Uncle
Vanya." August premieres in March along with Hard Eight,
a film about professional gamblers, the casino world of Reno, murder
and revenge. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Hard
Eight stars Philip Baker Hall as the professional gambler, John
C. Reilly as his pupil along with Gwyneth Paltrow and Sam Jackson
in supporting roles. I Shot Andy Warhol stars Lili Taylor
(The Addiction, Household Saints) as Valerie Solanis,
the woman who gunned down Warhol and almost killed him. Presenting
the world surrounding Warhol in the late ’60s in a riveting story
of a radical feminist, the film also features Jared Harris (Smoke, Blue
in the Face
), Martha Plimpton (Parenthood, Running
on Empty
) and Stephen Dorff (Backbeat). John Cale, formerly
of the Velvet Underground, composed the music for this late March
release.

…Savoy…

Based on the best-selling children’s book series, The
Stupids
brings Tom Arnold and Jessica Lundy together for
a whimsical spoof of their unusual lives, blundering their way
into life or death situations without a scratch. The Dumb
and Dumber
craze continues.

…Seventh Art…

Due to hit theaters in January is Give A Damn
Again
, a documentary by Adam Isadore, the son of Tony Isadore,
an advertising executive who developed a series of commercials
for the 1968 "Give a Damn" public service campaign.
The spots, originally commissioned by former New York Mayor John
Lindsey and the Urban Coalition, asked a group of seven-year-olds
in Harlem, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Twenty-seven
years later, the younger Isadore (who was about the age of the
kids in the spots when they aired) tracks down the children in
the commercials to see how their answers differed from what they
are doing today. Detailing their successes and failures, Isadore
shows a powerful portrait of America in 1968 versus 1995. Fans
of Michael Apted’s 7-28 Up series and Hoop Dreams won’t
want to miss this documentary. Man of the Year, part documentary
and part re-enactment, was written, directed and stars Dick Shafer
about his experiences as Playgirl Magazine’s "Man of the
Year." As part of the package, the thoroughly gay Shafer
acted as the magazine’s heterosexual spokesperson for "what
women want in a man." Shafer, who did the talk show circuit
and had a female friend act as his girlfriend, kept his real-life
lover out of the picture as a militant gay group attempted to "out" Shafer
on national television. Shafer gets the last laugh by telling
the story his way. Man of the Year is scheduled for release in
late February ’96.

…Sony Pictures…

The Last Supper stars Cameron Diaz, Annabeth
Gish, Ron Eldard, Jonathan Penner and Courtney Vance as ultra-PC
graduate students who get into a heated political discussion and
launch a devilish plan to combat conservatism in the 90’s. Although
a comedy, the young idealists apparently discover that being politically
correct can be murder. The film, directed by Stacey Title, who
received an Academy Award nomination for Down on the Waterfront in
1993, will be in theaters in early March. I’m guessing The Last
Supper was a very strong script to attract these stars as well
as cameos by Bill Paxton, Jason Alexander, Mark Harmon, Ron Perlman,
Nora Dunn and Charles Durning. The documentary Anne Frank Remembered will
premiere in late February, combining personal testimony, photos,
family letters and rare archive footage to recall the spirited
Jewish girl whose diary of her two years in hiding has sold over
25 million copies in 54 languages since it was first published
in 1947.

…Strand Releasing…

Filming The Hemp Revolution in
Nepal.

German producer Gunter Rohrbach first had success
on American shores with Das Boot back in 1981. Nominated for
six Academy Award nominations and one of the most successful German
films ever made, Rohrbach is back with Stalingrad. Directed
by Joseph Vilemaier, this $20 million production will be released
early in the year in Europe and America to commemorate the 50th anniversary
of the German surrender in Stalingrad. Scheduled for February, Frisk is
based on Dennis Cooper’s novel about an obsessive serial killer being
tracked down by two brothers. The film features Michael Gunther,
Parker Posey, Alex Arquette and Craig Chester. Also in February comes The
Neon Bible
, Terence Davies’s latest film set in a 1940s Bible
Belt town about a young boy, his unemployed father (Denis Leary),
excessively sensitive mother (Diana Scarwid) and flamboyant aunt
(Gena Rowlands) whose risqué nightclub singing act has a lasting
impression on the boy’s life. In March, Strand releases Under
the Domin Tree
, a coming of age story set in 1950 Israel about
a group of teen-age orphans housed in a youth village who survived
Nazi concentration camps. The film was directed by Eli Cohen, director
of The Quarrel. Stonewall is a semi-fictional account
of a pivotal moment in the history of the Gay Rights movement following
the drag queen-led riots outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village
in 1969. Directed by Nigel Finch, Stonewall follows the lives of
a half-dozen gay New Yorkers in the weeks leading up to the riot.
The film was produced by Christine Vachon, producer for most of Todd
Haynes’s films as well as Go Fish and Kids. It’s scheduled
for a June release date. A month later, Strand sends Hustler White to
theaters, a romantic comedy about hustlers on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Directed and starring Bruce LaBruce, the film follows a street-wise
hustler (Tony Ward) as he’s pursued by a grumpy, foreign visitor
(LaBruce) who’s come to Los Angeles to write his memoirs.

…Tara Releasing…

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Tara releases A
Modern Affair
starring Lisa Eichhorn (King of the Hill, The
Europeans
, Cutter’s Way) as a Manhattan businesswoman
who wants to have a child but doesn’t have a man in her life.
Urged by a friend, Eichhorn heads to a sperm bank and gets pregnant,
only knowing about the father through a description he wrote
about himself. That not being enough for her, she searches out
the specimen donor (played by Stanley Tucci of Kiss of Death and Murder
One
) and the film heads into more familiar love story territory
with a few twists and turns about the ethics of the situation.
There are some strong performances here and hopefully it will
lead to more frequent projects for Eichhorn. Tango Feroz is
an Argentine film just being brought to the States about an outspoken,
idealistic rock and roll singer who does battle with government
authorities through his songs and followers. After a trumped-up
jail term, Tango (played by Fernan Miras) gets out to find his
lyrics altered and his fight against authority escalates. The
film will hit theaters in early March and was directed by Marcelo
Pineyro, the producer of The Official Story.

Mirjana Jokovic flees a
raging Bosnian fire in Vukovar, a film by Boro Draskovic
being distributed by Tara.

Vukovar, which will premiere in January
in the U.S. and open across the country in February and March, is
a powerful film about a Croat and Serb couple in Bosnia. The crisis
there is personalized through the retelling of a true story about
a husband and wife torn apart by the war and separated by their heritages.
The film has won critics and festival awards around the world and
features an incredible performance by Mirjana Jokovic. Tara Releasing
also enters the videotape business with two releases, Black Is…Black
Ain’t
(the late Marlon Riggs feature about the various definitions
of "blackness" that African Americans impose on themselves)
and The Hemp Revolution, a fascinating documentary about all
the other products derived from that plant. Anthony Clarke handled
just about every position on the film crew, but he delivers a clear
and concise message about the plant, using interviews, historical
facts and footage from around the world to make his case.

…Troma…

Critics (though no one is specifically named) have
called Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. the "Citizen Kane of
Troma Movies." The mythical tale turns Bronx Cop Harry Griswold
into a raw fish-eating superhero who has the powers of the traditional
art of Kabuki, such as heat-seeking chopsticks and computerized
16-byte sushi. Starring Rick Gianasi and directed by The Toxic
Avenger
‘s father, Lloyd Kaufman, Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. will
open at the Film Forum in New York in late May.

…Vidmark Entertainment…

On the video release front, Vidmark brings us The
Break
, the tale of a burned-out tennis pro who’s forced to
coach an awkward 17-year-old rookie to the big time. What Martin
Sheen and Rae Dawn Chong are doing in this movie is anybody’s
guess. Love it or hate it, Kids is also coming to video
in late January. Now you can find out what all the fuss was about. MM

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