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Twentynine Palms (2003)
nearly as bad as brown bunny
Two people wander through the desert supposedly searching for locations for a film. They drive through the mundane countryside, stopping to have loud sex in dingy hotel rooms. Their relationship is painful, they spend most of the time annoying each other (and the audience). When I saw this film, it was greeted with howls of laughter throughout (the sex scenes are ridiculous) and ended with a chorus of boos. The (sickeningly brutal and quite inexplicable) climax is a real shock and did wake me from the torpor that preceded it, but by then I was so bored and so fed up with the two lead characters, I really was beyond caring. This is a very long 119 minutes to sit through, although I did (barely) last the distance. It's the sort of cinema film festival programmers love because it is long & bland (read arty) for most of its length, yet so calculatingly and gratuitously brutal at the end, it will spur hours of discussion about the poor state of the world we live in.
Je suis un assassin (2004)
Strangers on a Train meets Harry He is Here to Help...
Ben meets former colleague Brice in a train station book-shop. Ben is a down-on-his-luck writer with a manuscript but no publisher, Brice is a rich & successful author, but has writer's block due to his current marital problems. Brice devises a plan that will benefit both of them - however, it will only work if his estranged wife is out of the picture. Ben initially rejects the idea, but after divulging the plan to his strangely intrigued wife, he is persuaded to commit the murder. So begins his descent into hell, with enough Hitchcockian references and moments of black humour to keep this jaded film-goer happy. Film does lose its way a bit in the last two reels, but basically held my interest for its 100 minutes.A delicious thriller.
Dear Frankie (2004)
emotionally manipulative, but I don't mind...
Lizzy, is a tough but fragile woman, desperate to protect her deaf son Frankie from the outside world. Constantly on the move to evade her violent ex-husband, she secretly writes letters to Frankie, pretending to be his father on a long stint as a merchant shipman. She does this partly to maintain a sense of hope in the boy, but also it is the only way she can "hear his voice". Complications arise when Frankie finds out that the ship his father is supposed to be on is docking nearby in a few weeks. With the help of an enigmatic "stranger", she attempts to connect the boy with his imaginary father, while staving off the demands of the real father who is dying of undisclosed causes... This could so easily have drowned under the weight of its sentimental script, but for the beautifully restrained performances from the leads. Emily Mortimer is sensational as the vulnerable Lizzie, tough-guy Gerard Butler is smooth as the honourable stranger & they are assisted well by a terrific supporting cast (especially young Jack Mchelhone). Shona Auerbach thankfully ignores the temptation of a conventional ending. Not a dry eye in the house.