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Review: Be Here to Love Me

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By all accounts, the late folk-country singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt was a real fuck-up: alcoholic, depressive, probably bipolar — the works. So why then does he seem so serene? If there’s a real mystery at the heart of Margaret Brown’s bewitching documentary, it’s this: Every time we see Van Zandt (and we see him often, thanks to copious amounts of archival footage), he appears calm and easygoing. Even when talking about things like sniffing airplane glue, getting drunk on bali hai wine, or that incident back in military school when he threw himself off a building just to see what it felt like, Van Zandt hardly breaks a sweat, hardly ever flinches. There’s very little hinting at the darkness within. So what was it that made this otherwise pleasant guy such a basket case? Who knows? One interviewee suggests it was an unfortunate case of electroshock when he was young, but that’s about as far as this film gets to any kind of diagnosis.
    Brown prefers instead to give us impressionistic, fleeting glimpses into Van Zandt’s life, and that will go down okay with most viewers: There’s something singularly haunting in the singer’s gorgeous, downbeat melodies and lyrics that resists any kind of deep analysis. Similarly, Brown also eschews the hard-edged video look of today’s documentaries and offers us lovely, ethereal film footage to accompany the songs: empty roads, deserted houses, old bars, sad sack drifters. Sure, Brown goes to this well a bit too often — you can show only so many empty highways before we begin to think we’re seeing the same road over and over again. But her desire to keep her subject elusive, though it may seem counterintuitive, turns out to be a wise and brave choice. Let the mystery be. — Bilge Ebiri

Review: I Love Your Work
This dour, irritating indie’s basic premise is clever enough: a paranoid celebrity turns the tables and stalks a hapless fan. Bleary-eyed Giovanni Ribisi goes crazy (how you can tell: he fantasizes about Christina Ricci and accuses his wife of having an affair with Elvis Costello) and (eventually, after a Jean-Luc-Godard’s-entire-career-worth of jump-cuts) turns kidnapper.
    Ribisi is a fine actor. Franka Potente (playing the unlucky wife) will always have a Run Lola Run-sized place in my heart. So I place the blame squarely on director Adam Goldberg for turning out this orgy of self-indulgence. In pursuit of adjectives like “fresh,” “edgy,” and “disturbing,” he’s created an aggressively charmless movie — a trendy commentary on trendiness. — Peter Smith
Also This Week
If you’re in the mood for . . .

. . . a combination of Logan’s Run and La Femme Nikita: Aeon Flux. Four hundred years in the future, Charlize Theron wearing a skin-tight catsuit is still PG-13.

. . . a tear-jerking documentary: Boys of Baraka follows a group of boys from a Baltimore ghetto on a trip to Africa, where they learn many life lessons, like that hedgehogs are way better than dogs.

. . . a movie like Best of Show, but about horrible people intstead of dogs: All That I Need. Learn everything you never wanted to know about pyramid schemes.

Date DVD: Mr. and Mrs. Smith
This week, don’t fall for the bullshit child-exploitation of Lila Says, the bankrupt French adaptation of a fraudulent bestseller about young sex in the Parisian ghettos that tarts itself up as art but barely rates as cheap erotica. Go the opposite direction, away from the arthouse and into the open arms and bosoms of Hollywood, where Angelina and Brad are waiting.
    Mr. and Mrs. Smith picks up the gimmick of Prizzi’s Honor — hot assassins hired to kill each other — but instead of trying to ground it, they blow it out as a spectacle of ludicrous Hollywood overkill. Negative reviews said this film was ridiculous or preposterous, but that’s like saying Austin Powers is an unrealistic detective. This is a cartoon as curvy as Little Fannie Annie, and a showcase for little but Brad and Angelina, in increasingly hot outfits. Some scenes unspool like Victoria’s Secret ads, but with guns (which is to say, better — come to think of it, why don’t they have weapons in those ads? Why all the restraint?). It’s no secret that Pitt and Jolie have chemistry, but it’s more important that they have star power. This would be an excruciating two hours if the leads were played by, say, Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Aniston (see: Derailed, which is equally absurd and barely ameliorated by Clive Owen). Mr. and Mrs. Smith is well worth its incomprehensible ride, because whatever false prophets or false hotties Hollywood may inflict upon us, dreamland has at least created Brad and Angelina, who are so unreal that they are the real, hot deal. — Logan Hill

   

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