FADED REFLECTIONS AND CONTEMPORARY PROJECTIONS: THE 57TH ANNUAL EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

“THE RAGE IN PLACID LAKE” ^ AUSTRALIA, 2003 – 90 MINUTES – UN-RATED – 3 STARS
This is yet another on the ‘School Bullying Messes You Up’ front. It concerns a guy called Placid Lake (played by some guy called Ben Lee who is apparently a singer-songwriter), who gets constantly kicked in at school. On the last day of term, he comes out with one of the most brilliant acts of revenge you’ve ever seen, making a video film about the hateful natures of the teachers (seen complaining about how they can’t get pupils to have sex with them) and pupils (bitching and backbiting for al they are worth) and then showing it to his schoolmates.
Oddly enough, the school doesn’t take this well, and Placid (so named by his hippy-dippy PC parents who pay more attention to their New Age neuroses than they do to their beleaguered son) ends up in traction for quite a few months when the school jocks get a hold of him and he pulls a bizarre stunt to escape them. When he recovers, he vows to be a normal person like any other, ridding himself of all the idiosyncrasies and quirks and foibles that make him an individual, wanting to be just like anybody else. But the love of his life, his lifelong friend Gemma (Rose Byrne, who looks cute as hell in her spectacles – lasses with glasses are the sexual upper classes) doesn’t like the new ‘normal’ Placid and wants him to simply be him.
Apart from this, I really don’t know what else to tell you about this film. It’s not bad, not good, it just…is. Most of the humor is fairly harmless, although real barbs do appear every now and then (Placid’s dad on finding out his wife has performed cunnilingus on another woman – “You’re a fuckin’ lezzo!”…hahaha…’lezzo’…that’s just such a quality word) just to spice things up. It’s hardly worth going out of your way to catch, but I’ve seen a lot worse and…ah…that’s it, really. Damned by faint half-praise. Back to the drawing board for all concerned, cos you know that I am always right in my objective in-depth well-written revues…
“SPARE PARTS” ^ SLOVENIA, 2002 – UN-RATED – 4 STARS
Now this is a timely – and thought-provoking and depressing – film. At a time when the British and European media is full of seemingly interminable scare stories about dodgy asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, “Spare Parts” explores human trade and trafficking from the point of view of two men smuggling desperate people across the border from Slovenia to Italy and hopes of a better life.
The film sketches portraits of grizzled smuggling veteran Ludvik, a retired Slovenian motorbike racer who recruits young Rudi into his shady underworld of money and late-night smuggling runs, where impoverished people from Albania and Macedonia and the like pay to be herded like cattle into the back of a truck and taken to a destination that may not even be the one they have paid for; Rudi dumps a load of people nowhere near the border when he gets spooked and thinks the police are going to catch him. But if the wannabe-escapees don’t make it the first time there’s a good chance they’ll be back to try again.
Young Rudi is shocked by the exploitative behavior of some of Ludvik’s smuggling associates, who sexually exploit young women they are trafficking in exchange for money and food. The lowest of the low, these worthless scum drive one young woman to suicide after she has sex with several of them in exchange for food and antibiotics for her feverish boyfriend.
I remember sitting thinking that she was a woman who you could love and trust to the ends of the earth, being incredible in her sacrifice for her boyfriend, and how her grubby fat parasitic abusers would be better off dead. But this sequence, alongside others like one where a black family suffocate to death in the boot of a car, bears the unpleasant ring of truth. When people are vulnerable there is always somebody who is going to take advantage of them. The human animal could make you weep sometimes.
“Spare Parts” humanizes the people on both sides of the illegal immigrant argument, and is an extremely good film. Watching it you realize how lucky we are to come from a place where we aren’t forced into desperate dead-end gambles on freedom and a escape from oppression, gambles that could lead us into the spider’s web of amoral money-worshipping rapists before we even get a look at the border that could bring us new life, new hope…and hopefully a final forgetting of the things we had to do to get away from our old life in the first place.
Count your blessings. They are many and varied and priceless, no matter how cynical we can sometimes be. And you and I know it.
“SPUN” ^ USA, 2002 – 100 MINUTES – 3.5 STARS
Well well well. What we have here is a drug-fueled trip-tale by Jonas Akerlund, the director of the Prodigy’s ‘controversial’ “Smack My Bitch Up” video, so right off you know what you’re gonna be getting: a bombastic frenetic inyerface amped-up triumph of style over substance(s snorted and smoked and spiked).
About several dazed days in the life of a buncha speedfreaks, jawgrinder fools ‘spun’ on crank, this is a watchable enough effort…but not hugely interesting, ultimately. None of the characters are particularly likeable, as befits insensible morons running around spewing silly streams of semi-sentient speed-smashed sentences, but (very) high points include: Debbie Harry as a misanthropic dyke (is there any other kind?) who listens to her neighbors fucking and runs a phone sex service, a gorgeous young blonde woman with a Brazilian landing strip tied to a bed for several daze naked while two seconds of a song on a skipping CD runs on auto-repeat, Mickey Rourke in a wild career-resurrecting (well, ya know, stranger things have happened) performance as methamphetamine-manufacturing redneck cowboy The Cook (muscular druggie bro to “Barfly”’s Henry Chinaski), some trippy Ralph Bakshi-style erotic and insane amphetamine psychosis animation, a metalhead getting shot in the balls, an undercover cop who looks disturbingly like a cross between Freddie Mercury (before he died, obviously) and the leather-clad Village People guy with the porno Savini moustache, drug dealer Spider (John Leguizamo) getting arrested by the Feds wearing only a sock over his cock, and last and least, a speedfreaked Mena Suvari with green teeth taking a dump. And you know you wanna see that, so stop lying to yourself and book yourself a ticket now. See ya in the (snorted) line…
TRACES OF A DRAGON: JACKIE CHAN AND HIS LOST FAMILY ^ HONG KONG 2003 – UN-RATED – 91 MINUTES – 5 STARS
Now this was a turn-up for the books. I didn’t even know this one existed – my finger is pretty far from the pulse these daze. A revelatory documentary about the amazing indestructible chopsocky maestro and his shady familial past? Sounded interesting.
And it was.
Jackie Chan grew up thinking he was an only child, unaware of the fact that he had two brothers and two sisters on two continents. One day his father took his superstar son aside and decided to tell him the truth: that his surname was actually Fang, not Chan, and by the way son, here’s a few things you might care to know about my past life and your mother’s…
This documentary truly is incredible. It transpires that Jackie’s father was a Chinese Secret Service agent who had to flee China in fear of his life from the advancing Communists, and he met Jackie’s mother, a heavy gambler and opium smuggler nicknamed ‘Third Sister’, when he was acting as a drug inspector in Shanghai, but he let her off because he felt sorry for her. Then he married her. That’s civic forgiveness for ya.
Revelation follows revelation during the running time. Who woulda ever believed that an action film superstar has a brother (who can’t read) who is a postman or another who runs a pigsty? This news is as much of a surprise to Fang (doesn’t have quite the same ring – Jackie Fang sounds like a goth vampire-lover volupto-bitch) as it does to us, and the camera follows Jackie’s father back to China where he is reunited with his long-lost sons. Jackie still hasn’t met his brothers, and unsurprisingly says he finds Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao to be more like siblings to him than his blood relations.
There isn’t too much footage of Jackie’s amazing stunts from his films in here, though what there is immediately makes you want to see loads of his films again. What we ultimately get is a sweeping, at-times disturbing (witness the real-life footage of Chinese soldiers being executed) history of the last century of Hong Kong’s history. There is a cool wee bit in here though. We see Jackie’s irrepressible occasional-transvestite-for-laughs dad doing martial arts, and we get a wee shiver down the spine and think aha! that’s where he gets it from, as his dad explains studying martial arts under a super-strict hard-as-nails female. Just see this documentary. You won’t believe the scale and revelatory nature of the thing. Definitely one to get yer Fangs into…
More festival stories in part eight of FADED REFLECTIONS AND CONTEMPORARY PROJECTIONS: THE 57TH ANNUAL EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL>>>

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Posted on August 29, 2003 in Festivals by
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