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5 items from 2006


Bug

20 May 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

CANNES -- William Friedkin cranks up the aesthetic meds in Bug, a garden-variety variant of the psycho-solider genre which should snare first-weekend horror fans as surely as a No-Pest strip. Lionsgate, with another one-word title, will be challenged to lure mainstream viewers with a title mug like Bug.

A genre film torched with psychological accelerants, "Bug" is narratively compacted into a single motel room, a cinematic space akin to the cramp of a Santa Monica Boulevard no-Equity theater. As such, there are no chases through Brooklyn under the train or spinning heads, but Friedkin swirls the formulaic story to its most intense inner dimension. With his vigorous camera compositions and a talented cast, he manages to straddle a wickedly fine line between taught portrayal of paranoia and parody of paranoia.

The slug on "Bug": Mysterious Western stranger saddles up with vulnerable pretty lady in out-of-way motel, and together they must fend off the black hats. In this cracked case, Agnes (Ashley Judd) cocktails at a shitkickers' bar, pines away in a seedy motel room and gets crank phone calls, she thinks, from her wacko ex-boyfriend (Harry Connick Jr.) , who has been just sprung from the pen.

In steps the Mysterious Stranger, a stray named Peter (Michael Shannon) picked up by Agnes' co-worker roustabout (Lynn Collins). Peter Is a bit stiff with the womenfolk, but in a physical manner that sexually repressed Agnes readily appreciates. After one night of less-than-tender bliss, Agnes wants him to stay. A protective male, Peter spots a tiny bug in her bed and immediately goes into full-stage bug alert. He convinces her that they have a "bug problem," one far beyond the common insect nuisance. These bugs are part of a diabolical Army experiment gone awry, he tells her: His blood has been infected with larvae in a V.A. hospital run by Nazi imports. Soon, Peter has the place encrusted in tin foil. Weirder, he begins to mutilate himself, trying to purge his poisons. After that, "Bug" gets grosser and grosser.

Admittedly, when synopsized, "Bug" sounds like high camp, but it is smartly and convincingly fleshed out, at least enough to fit inside and burst the seams of generic dimension. Screenwriter Tracy Letts has spun a psychologically taut thriller based around the co-dependent needs and neuroses/psychoses of the lead characters.

With her low self-esteem and loneliness, Agnes is rife for a savior, and Peter's messianic mania injects her with a huge boost of self worth. Judd's ripe performance, coming out of her cocoon into a blaze of rhapsodic psychosis, is this entertainment's most stirring element. As Agnes, she quite convincingly descends into megalomaniac delusion, swelling into, err, an Agnes of Bug state of disgrace.

In his role as the wounded vet, Shannon recalls a young Tim Robbins in his wacko roles, as he whirls and catapults into a deadly state of delirium. As the lout ex-boyfriend, Connick is an apt pretty-boy knucklehead, while Collins brings out the intelligence of her honky-tonk lesbian character.

Under Friedkin's savvy directorial hand, technical contributions are well-realized, though the opening-scene bursts of helicopter blades too sharply clue us to the disabled-vet scenario to follow. Throughout, "Bug" is braced by cinematographer Michael Grady's charged camera movements and visceral compositions. It's also smartly buzzed by the music: Composer Brian Tyler's appropriately weird score and musical supervisor Jay Faires' smartly odd selections help orchestrate our emotions.

BUG

Lionsgate

Credits: Director: William Friedkin; Screenwriter: Tracy Letts; Based on the play by: Tracy Letts; Producers: Holly Wiersma, Kimberly C. Anderson, Malcolm Petal, Gary Huckabay, Michale Burns, Andreas Schardt; Executive producers: Malcolm Petal, Kimberly C. Anderson, Michael Ohoven, Jim Seibel; Co-producer: Bonnie Timmerman; Director of photographer: Michael Grady; Production designer: Franco Carbone; Editor: Darrin Navarro; Music: Brian Tyler; Musical supervisor: Jay Faires; Costume designer: Peggy Shnitzer.

Cast: Agnes: Ashley Judd; Peter: Michael Shannon; Jerry: Harry Connick Jr.; R.C.: Lynn Collins.

No MPAA rating R, running time 101 minutes.

»

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France, U.S. illuminate Directors' Fortnight fare

4 May 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARIS -- The Festival de Cannes sidebar Directors' Fortnight will be a largely Franco-American affair, with half the films in the 22-strong lineup to be unveiled here Tuesday either Gallic or U.S. made. "It was a good year in terms of new discoveries and first films from the U.S. and Europe, and it's a very hybrid selection with films that offer new, even revolutionary experiences for the audience," artistic director Olivier Pere said in an interview. "The selection reveals a real modernity in today's cinema, in its most radical, surprising or risky aspects, with many films from young directors who have a relaxed relationship with cinema and a more global artistic culture linked to painting or music or theater." U.S. fare for the sidebar includes Bug, a psychological thriller from director William Friedkin, starring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon in a story about a mentally disturbed war veteran who holes up with a lonely woman in a motel room. »

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France, U.S. illuminate Directors' Fortnight fare

4 May 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARIS -- The Festival de Cannes sidebar Directors' Fortnight will be a largely Franco-American affair, with half the films in the 22-strong lineup to be unveiled here Tuesday either Gallic or U.S. made. "It was a good year in terms of new discoveries and first films from the U.S. and Europe, and it's a very hybrid selection with films that offer new, even revolutionary experiences for the audience," artistic director Olivier Pere said in an interview. "The selection reveals a real modernity in today's cinema, in its most radical, surprising or risky aspects, with many films from young directors who have a relaxed relationship with cinema and a more global artistic culture linked to painting or music or theater." U.S. fare for the sidebar includes Bug, a psychological thriller from director William Friedkin, starring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon in a story about a mentally disturbed war veteran who holes up with a lonely woman in a motel room. »

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Requiem

17 February 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

BERLIN -- The death of a Catholic woman in West Germany while undergoing the Catholic rite of exorcism in 1976 has inspired a second film within the past few months. Following the American "Exorcism of Emily Rose" in September comes "Requiem", a German film by Hans-Christian Schmid, whose estimable "Distant Light" lit up the Berlinale three years ago. While "Exorcism" focused on a murder-trial battle between the priest and a prosecutor, Schmid's film beautifully details the behavior, events and socio-religious pressures that lead to the decision to perform such an extreme ritual.

So there are no spinning heads or pea soup, still so vividly recalled from William Friedkin's horror classic "The Exorcist". Rather Schmid and writer Bernd Lange pay close attention to all things that help answer the most obvious question: Why would anyone submit to an exorcism?

After debuting in Berlin, "Requiem" could prove a sellable item for Bavaria International. A North American sale might be iffy, but the film should generate plenty of theatrical and later television and video interest in Europe.

Michaela (Sandra Huller in a marvelous feature debut) grows up in a small southern German town in the 1970s. Hers is a deeply religious family with a warm father (Burghart Klaussner) and a cold, disapproving mother (Imogen Kogge). She has long suffered seizures diagnosed as epilepsy without the doctors ever being entirely certain. Nevertheless, she is given a regimen of pills to swallow daily and then more pills to offset side effects of the earlier ones.

Michaela, 21, is desperate to go to the university to obtain a teaching degree. Her father supports her but her mother is terrified something might happen because of her condition. Michaela prevails but university life brings stress. She loves the freedom, but the pressure of studying, new friendships and a first love with Stefan (Nicholas Reinke), all away from the protective shell of her parents' home, takes a toll.

During her first year, she suffers a mental breakdown. But her upbringing and a self-assured local priest (Jens Harzer) force her to see the condition in religious terms. During seizures she believes she sees faces and hears voices. Indeed so great is her fear of the psychiatric, she actually takes refuge in the notion she must be possessed.

The film observes the descent into madness and the differing interpretations of this condition by her family, priest, boyfriend and best mate (Anna Blomeier) without judgment or condemnation. Schmid and Lange clearly care deeply for this heroine in such physical and mental anguish. In a sense, Michaela plays into the hands of the priest and mother, who believe this is the work of the devil. She is determined to fit that mold rather than the one requiring confinement in a "loony bin." The father and village priest (Walter Schmidinger), who more clearly understand what ails the young woman, cannot stand up to the united front of true believers.

Designer Christian M. Goldbeck fuzzies period details so the era is not important. Schmid allows no music other than source music so that nothing can pander to emotionalism. Bogumil Godfrejow's cinematography is straightforward, keeping the focus on the unfolding tragedy.

"Requiem" shuns finger-pointing and easy jabs at religion. Its heroine crumbles under the onslaught of sexual awakening, feelings of guilt, religious confusion and mental instability. Religion supplies a false answer, but it's an open question whether psychiatry would have helped her either. n

REQUIEM

Bavaria Film International presents a 23/5 Filmproduktion with SWR, ARTE, WDR and BR

Credits:

Director-producer: Hans-Christian Schmid

Screenwriter: Bernd Lange

Director of photography: Bogumil Godfrejow

Production designer: Christian M. Goldbeck

Costume designer: Bettina Marx

Editors: Hansjorg Weissbrich, Bernd Schlegel

Cast:

Michaela Klingler: Sandra Huller

Karl: Burghart Klaussner

Marianne: Imogen Kogge

Hanna: Anna Blomeier

Stefan: Nicholas Reinke

Gerhard Landauer: Walter Schmidinger

Martin Borchert: Jens Harzer

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 93 minutes »

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Grosso, AMC make connection

10 January 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Former New York police detective-turned-producer Sonny Grosso has inked a development deal with AMC to develop a limited series based on his experiences with his late partner Eddie Egan on the famous French Connection case. Grosso and his producing partner Larry Jacobson will executive produce the project through their Grosso Jacobson Communications Corp. Talks with potential writers are under way. The events that led to the now-famous 1961 drug bust were chronicled in William Friedkin's Oscar-winning 1971 feature The French Connection, which was among the 25 films that the Library of Congress just named to the National Film Registry. »

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5 items from 2006


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