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REVIEW: Bad Education


So, I’m
relatively straight. At least I thought so before I saw Gael Garcia
Bernal riding a naked, unconscious boy in a rundown hotel room.
Pedro Almodovar’s latest film calls into question rigid sexual
Yet the former shock valuist continues to tone down his approach,
as shocking scenarios are played with supreme understatement. Even
the child-molesting priest is treated with understanding,
as is his victim, Ignacio Rodriguez (played as an adult by Bernal),
a heroin addict and transvestite with repulsive fake breasts. Told
as a Hitchcockian noir with plenty of murder and deception, Bad
is both fun and tragic. Though less profound than Almodovar’s
previous effort, Talk to Her, the film still leaves you
with plenty to think — and fantasize — about. Just
forget what you thought you knew about your tendencies. — Nic

REVIEW: A Very Long Engagement

Jeunet’s latest is a three-legged mutt of a film — one part
the plastic whimsy of his beloved Amélie, one part
sepia-toned treatise on the horrors of war, one part twist-a-plot
mystery, all of it pleading for an audience’s (and the Academy’s)
love. A Very Long Engagement has
all the usual tics of the director’s maniacally mannerist work,
but this time they’re awkwardly applied to a rotting-trenches love
story. Amélie‘s raven-haired moppet stars again,
although this time saddled with a gimpy gait to remind audiences
of the storyline’s gravitas. Audrey Tautou puts on her best moue-face
to play Mathilde, the childhood sweetheart of a World War I soldier
sent into no-man’s-land for intentionally maiming himself. Along
with the four others thrown over with him, he is presumed dead;
Mathilde’s intuition, however, tells her he is still alive, and
so she goes on a quixotic search to find him. Jeunet paints Mathilde’s
countryside home in a bathetic glow, and the rat-filled, flooded
trenches in bleached-out colors. We get it already: the girl at
home, the boy struggling to return, the battle of faith and love
against the inhumanity and absurdity of war. But for such a film
to pack the requisite punch, the characters, their love, needs
to have some substance. Jeunet, sadly, is more enamored with his
filmic artifice than with actual emotion, and he just lazily draws
from a character grab-bag of quirks: What on earth does a penchant
for tuba playing tell us about these people’s inner lives? Engagement has
some strikingly lovely moments — a tender striptease by matchlight,
Jodie Foster in a steely, intelligent cameo. As for the rest? "That
was very long," said my viewing companion as we left the theater. "But
not so engaging." — Noy Thrupkaew

Date DVD #9: The Radley Metzger Collection, Vol. 1

most of this week’s DVD’s are instant date killers. The Golden
Girls: Season One
? Menopause. Home Improvement: Season
? Suburban marriage. Harry Potter and the Prisoner
of Azkaban
Great for a date, so long as you’re fourteen. Luis Buñuel’s L’Age
? Big risk. Seinfeld? What, you don’t have cable?
And then there’s Gozu. Whatever you do, steer clear of
Takashi Miike’s gross gangster horror film. I usually love his
nasty, overblown theatrics (Dead or Alive, say), but there’s
a horrific scene in this film — in which a man literally
emerges from a woman’s vagina as if it’s a bloody trapdoor — that
turned me off from physical contact for a week. Remember: stay
away from Gozu.

    And go rent The Radley Metzger Collection, Vol. 1 instead.
1965’s The Alley Cats (filmed in something called Ultrascope), 1967’s Therese
and Isabelle
(also Ultrascope), and 1969’s Camille 2000 (presented
in PanaVision) were all date movies from the very beginning — the literate
smut of their time. Metzger tarted up Eurotrash material in the trappings of
art cinema by stringing French lingerie on busty models, wiggling the camera
and blowing out the set design. These utterly shameless films are all best approached
with some ironic distance and a sincere appreciation of big boobs, big hairdos,
and bold fabric prints. Each takes place in decadent high-society enclaves where
people have, well, a lot more fun than they did in Eyes Wide Shut. There’s
a little something for everyone, no matter what your sexual preference or home-decorating
taste — stylized S&M, mirrored-ceilings, lesbian schoolgirls, metallic
dresses, tuxedos, blondes, brunettes, redheads, hairy chests, monochrome bedroom
suits — all filmed in a softly psychedelic circus of arty camera angles.
Best served with a shakerful of cocktails and some ugly martini glasses. — Logan

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