Film Reviews: September/October 2007


| September / October 2007


Europe Unhinged: CINEMA16: EUROPEAN SHORT FILMS

(Warp Films; on DVD)

After slipping through the looking-glass and reading the nonsensical poem "Jabberwocky," Lewis Carroll's Alice exclaims: "It seems to fill my head with ideas--only I don't exactly know what they are." The same can be said for Cinema16's European DVD, a collection of 16 often surreal shorts by European directors including Jan Svankmajer, whose 13-minute screen adaptation of "Jabberwocky," intended as a teaching aid for students of psychoanalysis, slaps viewers upside the head with a collage of doll limbs boiling on a stove and served from a teapot, a wardrobe dancing through a forest, and toy soldiers marching from the sleeves of a boy's sailor suit, only to be bulldozed by what looks like a young girl's casket.

Equally disturbing, in a Brothers Grimm meets Beatrix Potter sort of way, is Run Wrake's Rabbit, an adult fairy tale animated from a set of 1950s educational stickers. Then there's playwright Martin McDonagh's first foray into film, Six Shooter. Billed as a "black and bloody Irish comedy," the 27-minute narrative follows a grieving man's train trip from his dying wife's bedside to the wrong side of a pistol.

There's more to this two-DVD set than doom and desolation. Tony MacDonald's Je t'aime John Wayne is a love story starring a Brit obsessed with French screen icon Jean-Paul Belmondo. And film buffs should appreciate the university projects of Lars Von Trier (Nocturne), Ridley Scott (Boy and Bicycle), and Christopher Nolan (Doodlebug), directors of Dogville, Blade Runner, and Memento, respectively. --Kristen Mueller

CAN MR. SMITH GET TO WASHINGTON ANYMORE?

(At Risk Films; on DVD)

When the baby-faced, squeaky-voiced, 29-year-old Jeff Smith announced he was running for U.S. Congress in Missouri, he was ridiculed by many people, including his family. But as this engaging and fast-paced documentary shows, a grassroots campaign with a dedicated staff of volunteers can still shake up the entrenched political establishment. The movie follows Smith as he campaigns door-to-door in impoverished St. Louis neighborhoods, trying to out-hustle his well-funded, well-connected but aloof and uninspiring opponent, Russ Carnahan, from one of Missouri's most powerful families. Director Frank Popper takes an unsparing look at the not-yet-cynical political neophytes on Smith's staff, using humor, an enjoyable sound track, and many handheld, behind-the-scenes shots to pull in even casual viewers to the palpable enthusiasm exuded by Smith's campaign. --Bennett Gordon