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Any Way The Wind Blows * Tom Barman * 2003

I probably heard about this second film of the singer of the Belgian popband dEUS, but for some reason I hadn’t seen it. Shame on me! This film is really wonderfull! There is no story, no plot or anything, just scenes of people who on first sight have nothing incommon, but who all end up at the same party after which everyone goes their own way. “A friday in june” is all you get. Everything happens on one day with no background information, flashbacks and you also don’t know what happens after this day, even though one element could have become a plot or storyline. You only get to see the lifes of individuals living in Antwerpen. Youngsters paste posters of music-events throughout town and get caught by the police, a teacher French has problems with his wife, a girl’s father just died and she seeks comfort with her brother, etc. There is one ‘unreal’ element in the film, which is the “windman”, but I will leave it to you to find out how he got this name. The film has a nice speed, contains all kinds of music and shows the (drug-influenced) life of youngsters in the city of Antwerpen. If you know the city and its inhabitents, the film somehow gives a familiar view of Antwerpen and its atmosphere. A very pleasent watch!

Anna and the King * Andy Tennant * 1999

I remember that when this film played in the cinemas, I was in doubt whether or not to see it. Jody Foster usually is alright, but she didn’t make me watch “Panic Room”. I like historical films, but the critics probably kept me out of the cinema-rooms. Now it was on TV, so…

Not a very original story! An Eastern king wants his son to get a Western education, so Foster leaves her Brittish colony in India with her son for Bangkok to teach the Kings son. Of course things don’t go too easily, especially when political affairs interfere with the relationship. So the result is a historical drama that is certainly not boring, but also not too exciting.

The Animatrix * various * 2003

I have had this DVD in my hands several times and I was not the only one doubting whether or not to see this film. I can tell you: I don’t regret I did!

Already a nice surprise was that before I started to watch the films, I quickly jumped through the extras menu and heard that it were the brothers Wachowski themselves who had these films made. No cheap spinoff without consulting the creators of The Matrix trilogy. The brothers Wachowski wanted an animated version of their stories and asked nine prominent Japanese “anime” artists to make a short film. The brothers wrote the stories and came with suggestions, but still left the artists very free to fill in the rest. The result is nine animation films of about 10 minutes each, in different styles and treating different aspects of the world of The Matrix. The first film is an extraordinary realistic part much like the first film. The rest is quite typical Japanese “anime” with a lot of Buddhistic and “Matrixal” symbology. You will get the story of the time before the first film and different aspects of the concept of The Matrix. The extra information is very nice. Also you will get insight into the “Enter The Matrix” computer game, but that is not really my cup of tea.

So, if you like The Matrix, just have a look at this. The atmosphere of the animations is very close to that of the first film and they are done by the best artists and this definately shows. Also if you (like me) normally do not watch “anime”, this “Animatrix” is still a pleasure to watch.

Anazahevun * Jôji Iida * 2000

Of course it is not all horror that comes from Japan. There are also dramas such as “Dolls” (reviewed elsewhere), there is a lot of action and here we have a police / crime / thriller. The film starts as a supernatural thriller with a story much like a Hollywood film that I can’t come up with the title of, but I would have spoiled the surprise if I did anyway, so… Anyway, after a few murders with humorous scenes the film becomes a police investigation film with some thriller/suspense elements. The victims are shown quite explicitly, but it doesn’t become horror anyway. This film is more American/modern than other Japanese films that I reviewed, it is just a nice ‘occult thriller’ which shows that Japanese handle things just a little bit different than we are used to, but not that different in this case.

Amores Perros * Alejandro González Iñárritu * 2000

A long and rather complex Mexican drama. “Amores Perros” tells different stories, but has one central point: a terrible car-accident with which every person in the film has something to do in one way or another. Two and a half hours is not too long, but it could have been less. A nice film with different sides of Mexican life.

American History X * Tony Kaye * 1998

I had wanted to see this film for some time, but it took a while because it didn’t really have much ‘priority’. Eventually I did see it.

As most of you probably know, this film is about a family with a skinhead oldest son (Derek) with heavy influence on his younger brother (Danny). Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) is a very intelligent boy who developes very rascistic ideas under influence of his father who is a a firefighter. When his father got shot during work, Derek flips out and becomes a skinhead. Under presure of a man named Alexander Cameron (Stacy Keach) Derek starts a skinhead gang as he as charismatic intelligencer gets a group of “frustrated and impressionable kids” together. The group developes a liking for nazi symbology and the rooms of the kids and the tattoos they get are in that very vein.
Somewhere in the film, the younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong) tells his older brother something after there was a big fight on the table with the new friend of the mother. Derek shoots and kills the black man who either shot his father (or Derek accuses him of that) or who tried to shoot Derek himself, I didn’t really get that. Anyway, Derek is immediately arrested and has to spend three years in jail where he undergoes a 180 degree change.
The film is told in flashbacks from the time on that Danny wrote an essay about “Mein Kampf” on the day that Derek is released from jail. The flashbacks are in black and white, the ‘normal’ scenes in colour. Danny gets a choice from the charismatic, black principal (Sweeny (Avery Brooks)) of his school: either getting kicked off school or write an essay about how his brother ended up in jail. What Danny didn’t know was that Sweeny and Derek had met several times in jail and that Derek had turned around in ideology.
What Derek didn’t know was that he reached some kind of cult-status while being in jail for what he has done. Getting out he tries to ‘save’ his brother, himself and his family.

The film depicts things totally black and white. In the suburbs where the Vinyards live are black gangs and white gangs, the white gangs seem to be all skinheads. Also in jail the white men are full of tattoos of swasticas and without hair. On the other hand, the film does show quite well how youngsters get these ideas, they are “frustrated and impressionable” and they need only one person with a quick tongue to tell them what to think and to do.
The film is too moralising and there is a way too thick sauce of over-emotional finger-pointing over it. What is rather ‘unamerican’ is that there is no happy end and the end is even open.

All in all a not too great film, but rather amusing.

Amelie * Jean-Pierre Jeunet * 2001

“Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain” is one of these ‘alternative’ films that reached a large audience. It used to play in filmhouses, but it seems that everyone has seen it. It is a comedy, so there was no priority for me to see it, “maybe when it is on tv”. But, my girlfriend wanted to see it, and when entering a ‘normal’ videostore there were six copies of it on dvd and several on video!

But to the film. “Amelie” opens with a brilliant and hilaric scene with strange events and a funny voice-over, a bit like “Magnolia”. It quickly tells about the main-characters in the film, their likes and not-like and the opening is the absolute highlight of the film, in one word: brilliant.
But no worries, the rest is also very enjoyable. Amelie (Audrey Tautuo) is a beautiful young woman who has been a bit neglected in her youth. This led to her living almost completely solitary and in and our her fantasy-world. She tries to help people using peculiar methods, while other people she drives insane with bizare jokes. Then when the times comes that she can help herself to her first love, she keeps playing the jokes she does with other people. In the end all comes well.

“Amelie” is not just a comedy, but more a drama with funny touches. Not always to laugh, but often it is. A very witty script, great story, good acting and you will hardly notice that it lasts over two hours.

This is the film that you want to see when you are in the mood for a comedy, but not one a the cheap kind.

À Ma Soeur * Catherine Breillat * 2001

However the title means “for my sister”, the international title of this film is “Fat Girl”. This film played in the local filmhouse for a while, but I didn’t get to see it and now it was on TV. The film is about two sisters who are on holidays with their parents, the older is pretty, the other fat and depressed. Both want to get deflowered this holidays and of course the pretty girl has most success. On day one she meets an older boy, falls in love, has sex on the room where both girls sleep. When the parents find out it is end of holidays.

The film is quite nice, teenage conversations about sex and the conflicts with parents. The end is terrible though, a bit as if the director couldn’t come up with a descent end.

Alright, but only see it when it is on TV.

Los Amantes del Círculo Polar * Julio Medem * 1998

“Los Amantes…” was one of these ‘bigger’ filmhouse-films that I still wanted to see. It is of the same director as of Lucía Y El Sexo (2001) which is another film I still haven’t seen “Los Amantes” is about two young people with palindromic (Otto and Ana) names who meet and feel attracted to eachother at an very early age When their parents get a relationship the two get to live together secretly having a relationship as well, while their parents see them as brother and sister. When Otto’s biological mother dies he goes even more insane as he already is and leaves his father, stepmother and even Ana The two continue their lives but still hope that fate will bring them together some time. This does happen eventually, but…

The film is slowly told in two versions, a version of Otto and a version of Ana. The two versions go through eachother and after eachother. Sometimes you get two versions of the same event, sometimes not. Because both seem to have difficulty keeping reality and fantasy appart, you don’t know what is real and what is not. You even don’t know if it is a happy end or not!

All in all a nice romantic film.

Almost Famous * Cameron Crowe * 2000

Often compared to “Boogie Nights” (of which I have no review?!) this film. It also plays in the seventies, is a weird combination of comedy and drama and with young actors. Russell is a 15-year old intellectual who gets gripped by Rock ‘n’ Roll music that is already on its return. Following the fictious band “Stillwater” the boy first writes for the magazine “Cream” and later for the “Rolling Stone”. The film shows how Russell gets tempted by the life of a rockstar, their groupies and of course journalists. Amusing.