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Review: Mouth to Mouth

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For some reason, youth culture and social allegory seem to have a thing for one another. Perhaps it’s the perceived impressionability of the young, or organized society’s tendency to reduce its subjects to children, but whenever one sees a book or a film about a group of kids — The Beach, If . . ., Lord of the Flies, etc. — often some grand statement about the human community isn’t far behind. This gets a genuinely new stylistic twist in Alison Murray’s Mouth to Mouth. Not enough of one, perhaps, but a fascinating one nonetheless.
    To her credit, Murray’s film isn’t so much about kids as it is about the trappings of youth society in general. On the run through Europe, tough but sensitive street teen Sherry (Ellen Page) hooks up with a ragged street collective called SPARK (Street People Armed With Radical Knowledge). This group of former down-and-outers likes to hang out at raves and other centers of alterna-youth culture, recruiting addicts and other dead-enders to join them and kick their habits. The idea is novel: A bunch of crazy partiers go out to crazy parties and convince other crazy partiers to clean up their lives. Of course, this weird techno-fueled idyll doesn’t exactly last. As Sherry begins to feel constrained by the society around her, SPARK becomes a lot more insular and self-protective. Soon enough, our little do-gooder street collective has begun to look more like something Pol Pot might have thought up on an Ecstasy bender: A touchy-feely cult of good intentions gone mad with its own need for self-preservation.
    Despite the initial originality of its subject matter, Mouth to Mouth‘s plotline begins to feel more and more rote as this nefarious side of SPARK emerges. Luckily, Murray brings a very rare energy to her work: As a former student of dance, she structures the film around choreographed scenes where the characters seem to dance out their emotions — all this without quite breaking the story’s integrity. In other words, this isn’t a movie that stops to dance, but rather eases into bizarre, hypnotic reveries of movement. This beautiful stylistic gambit works so well that the rest of the film suffers seriously by comparison. Next to Murray’s danced interludes, a ho-hum plot begins to feel even more drab. — Bilge Ebiri

Review: Is It Really So Strange?
Is It Really So StrangeThe phrase “young Latino Morrissey fans” is red meat in a tank of journalists and documentarians. When the ex-Smiths frontman moved to Southern California some years back, these rabid fans marched out of their gloomy bedrooms and straight onto the pages of every hip broadsheet in the country. It’s unclear who first noted the Hispanic panic on the streets of East L.A., but Chuck Klosterman seems to have brought particular attention with a 2003 story in Spin. As for film, a short feature called Viva Morrissey played at this year’s SXSW. Photographer and sometime filmmaker William Jones’ Is It Really So Strange? has the benefit of eighty minutes to stretch out in, and for that, it delivers more than its apparent culture-clash premise. The teenagers and twenty-somethings Jones interviews are tired of cursory media attention — several having already been interviewed on the subject — but he seems to have opened them up with his sincerity. Interestingly, Jones avoids playing any music until the end credits, letting his subjects’ zeal speak for itself. His restraint suggests he has more interest in the people he’s profiling than in a slice-of-wacky-pop-culture montage, and makes Is It Really So Strange? more sensitive than most New Latino-Morrissey-Fans-Related Journalism. — Peter Smith
Date DVD: Something New
Something NewBecause we will very soon be viewing Snakes on a Plane, there is no reason to check out the “extended, unrated edition” of its noble predecessor, Con Air (e.g. Crazies on a Plane). So why not play it safe with the romance Something New? The voluptuous Sanaa Lathan stars in something much better, thankfully, than her last film, Alien vs. Predator. Lathan’s been charming and sexy in the buppie romances Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar, and The Wood, but you rarely get the sense that she gets the showcase she deserves. Something New, directed by debut filmmaker Sanaa Hamrit gives her that, if only that — but that’s enough. She and Simon Baker (a white-guy romantic lead miles more likeable than the dreaded 3Ms: McConaughey, Mulroney, and McDermot) generate some frisky heat, as she plays a well-dressed exec and Baker sweats and heaves in her backyard as the landscaper who sheds his shirt to remove a stump from her yard. It’s ridiculous, but fun like a juicy romance ought to be. Decent interracial romances are almost impossible to come by, and romantic comedies that work from start to finish with a few original jokes (including one great riff on hair extensions) are even rarer. For anyone sick of white dudes leching after Halle Berry, Hamri flips the script. — Logan Hill

   

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