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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Leftovers: May 2011

Leftover Theatrical Releases:
Hesher (Limited Release Date: (5-13-2011):
        For the first time since I started writing a Leftovers post for each month, there are theatrical releases that I didn't get to tell you about that are worthy of note. What's more, there are a slew of them. We begin with Hesher, an American indie from first-time feature Director Spencer Susser. It's the story of a family of Three; a stoic, constantly bullied young boy (Devin Brochu), his pill-popping, layabout father (Rainn Wilson), and a steadfast, angelic grandmother (Piper Laurie), who all have their lives turned upside down when Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) starts squatting at their house. Hesher is a long, greasy-haired, foul-mouthed metal kid who loves to tell vulgar jokes, blow things up, and occasionally offer a twisted parable or Two. The culture clash that occurs between Hesher and the family is both hilarious and intriguing, Susser using Gordon-Levitt as heaven's most wayward guardian angel. It's a movie that takes many risks, including some odd casting choices (Natalie Portman as an average-Jane grocery store clerk?), and some outright cruel treatment of its protagonists. But even if Susser and his crew don't roll Seven every time, there's a real sense of vitality to the movie, and it's anyone's guess where the thing will end up right up until the last moments. Hesher is a daring movie that once more confirms the greatness of Gordon-Levitt, and marks the brave Susser as one to watch.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Limited Release Date: 3-2-2011)
        To be honest with you, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a difficult movie to discuss, but I'll give it a shot. The winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, the Thai import is the story of a man struggling with cancer (Thanapat Saisaymar) slowly coming to terms with his mortality and demise with the help of various members of the spirit world. As seen through my American eyes, there's no getting around the fact that Uncle Boonmee is a strange sort of flick, filled with lengthy stretches passing without dialogue, humans morphing into monkey ghosts, and a catfish who wants nothing more than to make it with an older woman. But the final product is nothing short of hypnotizing, the minimal camera movement, seemingly all-natural lighting (or lack thereof), and the omni-present sounds of the surrounding forest gluing you to your seat. It's certainly not for those who like their movies wrapped in a pretty little bow, as I'm still not exactly sure what the movie was trying to say (there's no traditional narrative in the film to speak of), but the powerful grip that Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul has on his audience is undeniable. Like a film by David Lynch or Gasper Noé, this one is all about watching a brilliantly talented film-maker flex his craftsmanship muscles, and his profound, loony version of the after-life continues to haunt and intrigue me even though today.

Incendies (Limited Release Date: 4-22-2011)
        One of the Five nominees for Best Foreign Language Feature at February's Academy Awards, this Canadian import is not, I repeat, NOT for the faint of heart. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad's play Scorched, Incendies tells the story of a brother and sister in their mid-Thirties who, upon the passing of their mother, find out through her Will that they have a Father and a Brother that they knew nothing about. Leaving her disbelieving brother behind, Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) travels to the Middle East to follow her mother's trail in hopes of finding her lost family, and we view her story interspersed with the horrifying escapades that her mother (Lubna Azabal) faced while dwelling in the region. Director Denis Villeneuve is the real deal: Under his watch, every aspect of the film is fully realized, from Sound Design, to Cinematography, to Performances. More than a story of the hardships of the Middle East, Incendies serves as a vital reminder of how awful the world can get when rage and revenge become one's driving forces, a message made stinging and real by the focus on character development over some sort of big picture, removed perspective. It's got enough jaw-droppingly awful things in it to last you though the Winter, but Incendies is also a complete triumph of craftsmanship and story-telling, one containing a few scenes that will likely stick with me until the day I die. If you don't mind having your day ruined, you ought not miss it.

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