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  • Issue of
  • Mar 7-13, 2007
  • Vol. 27, No. 21

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Scene
  • The Bridge

    If ever a film tested the ethics of documentary filmmaking, The Bridge comes dangerously close to crossing the line of decency. Which isn’t to say Eric Steele’s chronicle of Golden Gate Bridge suicides (“the most popular place to commit suicide”) doesn’t strive for taste and somber contemplation. There’s plenty of poetic footage of the bridge and an appropriately solemn soundtrack, but the overall effect of the film is akin to paging through a coffee table book of suicides rather than a true investigation. Steele set up a series of cameras around the famous bridge and spent 2004 capturing thousands of hours of footage … along with its 24 suicides (and several dozen attempts). The filmmaker then sought out the friends and family of several victims, in an attempt to better understand what drove them to end their lives in such a spectacular fashion. Unfortunately, the film’s psychological examination of what drove these poor souls to choose the San Francisco Bay as their final resting place is woefully inadequate. And all the mournful music in the world can’t disguise the fact Steele’s using their demise to string us from one interview to the next. And so it has to be asked, is this a meaningful treatise on suicide or a well-composed snuff film?
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  • The Scene
  • The Italian

    Director Andrei Kravchuk and writer Andrei Romanov present an orphan's tale that reminds us that even when pessimism prevails, there’s room for good. When an Italian couple scopes out a prospective adoptee in a ramshackle orphanage in Russia at first, the adoption seems like it’d be a salvation for 6-year-old Vanya (Kolya Spiridonov). If he stays, he’ll become like the older orphans, undereducated, pimping, prostituting and stealing to survive. If he goes with the adoptive parents, he’ll be cared for and loved. But there’s a twist: Vanya realizes that moving to Italy means giving up bigger hopes that one day his mom or dad will find him.
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  • The Scene
  • Full of It

    Unless you’re the kind of person who lives for Canadian after-school specials or watches Teen Wolf on an infinite loop, there isn’t a whole lot to recommend in Full of It, a mildly creative but ultimately listless post-pubescent fantasy that’s being unceremoniously dumped into theaters this week. When Pinkston’s 98-pound weakling Sam starts to see all of his wildest lies come miraculously to life — courtesy of, uh, a broken mirror — we’re subjected to the usual stock teen fantasies: a red Porsche, Herculean athletic abilities, a kiss from Carmen Electra and a super-sized schlong to go with it. The film is filled with well-trained TV performers that seem stiff and uncomfortable in their high-school setting. In fact, some of the best moments in Full of It are provided by inanimate objects: Kathleen Clime’s clever production design loads up the screen with tons of hand-painted signage, cool T-shirts and ridiculous references to Sam’s school mascot, a bug-eyed possum. If given the chance, she probably could’ve done a better job writing and directing the film too.
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  • The Scene
  • Wild Hogs

    It’s all well and good for Tim Allen to continue describing lazy circles around the rim of Hollywood’s toilet bowl, flushing one bad “family” comedy after another down the shitter, just as long as he doesn’t drag other, better actors down with him. Especially William H. Macy, a warmly respected actor who, aside from a few errant cartoon voiceovers, has largely avoided such witless multiplex-pandering crap as this. He should know better. The same can’t be said for John Travolta, whose decade-long post-Pulp Fiction get-out-of-jail-free card has expired. And, for Martin Lawrence, this film’s a mere pit stop between a string of horrid cross-dressing, fat-suit stink bombs. Suffice it to say Wild Hogs involves a group of aging suburban Cincinnati buddies taking a male-bonding road trip west, where hilarity, high jinks and life lessons ensue. It essentially amounts to a flavorless reworking of City Slickers. Two other slumming award-winners offer brief glimmers of hope: Ray Liotta as the malevolent leader of a real biker gang and Marisa Tomei as an arty café owner who inexplicably falls for Macy’s hapless computer nerd. Even they can’t breathe life into a D.O.A. script, directed by Walt Becker with the grim efficiency of a night manager stocking shelves at Costco.
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  • The Scene
  • The Lives of Others

    Set during these final years of communist East Germany, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s impressive feature-length debut, "The Lives of Others," takes place. Constructed as a thriller, this political drama follows Agent Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe), a Stasi agent whose humanity has been hollowed out by his work. Assigned to bug the apartment of celebrated and politically loyal playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his beautiful actress girlfriend, Christa (Martina Gedeck), Wiesler scrupulously sets about monitoring Georg’s every conversation, meeting and activity. Over time, however, the Stasi agent finds himself struggling to maintain his distance. When he learns that the operation is at the behest of a party official who lusts after Christa, Wiesler is disturbed by the abuse of power and is driven to act.
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  • The Scene
  • Black Snake Moan

    Director Craig Brewer’s new film is a torrid Southern gothic so overheated it threatens to melt the screen. Turns out the girl is Rae (Christina Ricci), the local trollop, and after an especially nasty night on the town she’s been chained up by a depressed former bluesman named Lazarus (Samuel .L Jackson), who views her not as kinky plaything but a ticket to personal salvation. He makes it his mission to “cleanse” her of her wanton ways, and, though Laz doesn’t “get medieval on her ass,” he does serve up heaping helpings of that old-time religion, and a side order of homespun wisdom. Rae has been whoring all around their rural Tennessee community, and her troubled but pure-hearted one true love Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) is on his way back from bombing out of the army, and he’s not likely to appreciate the social science experiment being inflicted on his honey. The cast is tremendous, but, ultimately, the film leads to a discomfiting and lingering sense of being intentionally provoked.
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  • The Scene
  • A killer's constellation

    Spanning more than two decades (1968-1991), the film traces the infamous Zodiac Killer murders and the exhausting investigation that followed. Working from James Vanderbilt’s adaptation of the book by San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), Fincher presents a sprawling, breathlessly meticulous saga of obsession and paranoia. Robert Downey Jr. is Paul Avery, a cocky reporter who catches the eye of the elusive killer and, at first, enjoys the celebrity it brings. Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Will Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) are San Francisco detectives assigned to solve the high-profile murders. But the movie’s linchpin becomes the unassuming and comically wholesome Graysmith. A cartoonist with a penchant for puzzles, his fascination with the case becomes an all-consuming quest to learn the truth.
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