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1 item from 1998

Film review: 'Somewhere in the City'

23 September 1998 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Opening with a spooky shot traveling up the stairs of a run-of-the-mill New York tenement, with the sounds of a woman seemingly in mortal peril on the soundtrack, "Somewhere in the City" gets off to a ribald start as the screamer is revealed to be Sandra Bernhard's manic character in bed with a lover.

Inspired by Maxim Gorky's "The Lower Depths" and deftly directed by Iranian-born Ramin Niami, the low-budget ensemble comedy debuted at the 1997 Seattle Film Festival and has unspooled at numerous international fests. Probably destined to get lost in the indie shuffle as a limited theatrical release, the Artistic License film opened Friday in New York and bows Oct. 2 in Los Angeles.

In his feature debut as director, Niami (producer of "Manhattan by Numbers"), who co-wrote the script with Patrick Dillon, amusingly probes a multicultural milieu that reflects the diversity of the city and era, and he doesn't take himself too seriously when the film addresses important issues.

Concentrating on six neighbors all living desperate lives, with lots of overlapping, "Somewhere" is a Bohemian rhapsody that's exactly the sum of its parts -- uneven but entertaining with often sprightly dialogue and predictable conflicts and character development.

Bernhard is a therapist who's unlucky in love and desperate to find a man with whom to have children. Chinese star Bai Ling is a recent arrival in America, under pressure to marry one of her countrymen but developing a taste for skimpy outfits and a punkish attitude. Peter Stormare ("Fargo") is a serious gay actor who pins his hopes on appearing in a movie remake of "I Dream of Jeannie".

The inspired casting continues with Italian star Ornella Muti as the unhappy wife of the building's superintendent. She has a fling with an inept thief played by Robert John Burke. In the least interesting subplot, an amateur revolutionary Paul Anthony Stewart) with a cell phone and a nagging mother develops a crush on Ling's character.

One of the funniest bits has former New York mayor Ed Koch kidnapped and mildly abused by Stewart's clueless would-be terrorist. But the most satisfying material involves the friendship of Bernard's neurotic busybody and Ling's sassy rebel. Veteran French actress Bulle Ogier, Linda Dano and Bill Sage appear in small roles, while Bernard sings "Until The Real Thing Comes Along" on the terrific soundtrack that includes original music by Velvet Underground founder John Cale.


Artistic License

A Sideshow production

Director: Ramin Niami

Producers: Ramin Niami, Karen Robson

Screenwriters: Ramin Niami, Patrick Dillon

Executive producers: Paula Brancato, Das Werk

Director of photography: Igor Sunara

Production designer: Lisa Albin

Editors: Ramin Niami, Elizabeth Gazzara

Costume designer: S. Batim Balaman

Music: John Cale

Casting: Caroline Sinclair



Betty: Sandra Bernhard

Lu Lu: Bai Ling

Graham: Peter Stormare

Marta: Ornella Muti

Frankie: Robert John Burke

Che: Paul Anthony Stewart

Running time -- 93 minutes

No MPAA rating


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