The Palm Springs International Film Festival has grown to such remarkable proportions that over 130,000 people attended its 205 films from 69 countries during the Festival’s run of Jan. 6-17. While 41 of the 65 films nominated for the Foreign Film Oscar were unspooled, it was often the movies that were not nominated that impressed this reporter and has him hoping for their domestic distribution so that others might enjoy them.
The Sound of Noise (Sweden/France/director: Ola Simonsson, Johannes Stjarne Nilsson)
Hands down, the most innovative and imaginative feature, The Sound of Noise takes five actual percussionists and injects them into a loopy but brilliant feature about anarchist percussionists whose outlandish, flashmob public performances turn a city inside out. The only hope to stop them is a music-hating investigator who is sick of hearing how brilliant his symphony conductor brother is. Joyous, unpredictable filmmaking.
Variety named Gass-Donnelly to their 10 Directors to Watch list and rightfully so. He has taken a small town murder story made an indelible impression, with the aid of a totally captivating Peter Stormare as a policeman estranged from his Mennonite community for a previous act of violence. When his ex-girlfriend is involved with the main suspect of a murder, the flawed hero of the tale can barely handle the pressure.
Louder Than a Bomb (USA/Greg Jacobs, Ron Siskel)
Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature, Louder Than a Bomb is the name of the largest youth poetry slam in the world, held each year in
Hello! How Are You? (Romania/Spain/Italy/Alexandru Maftei)
Before the screening, director Maftei joked this is the only romantic comedy ever made in the history of
Copacabana (France/Holland/Marc Fitoussi)
French actress Isabelle Huppert has proved she can play any role and here she plays mother to her real-life daughter Lolita Chammah. When wacky but poor mother cannot afford her strait-laced daughter’s upcoming wedding, she takes a miserable job selling timeshares in
Goethe (Germany/Philipp Stolzl)
Beautifully crafted in costuming, location, cinematography and soundtrack, this portrayal of the early years of literary giant Johann Wolfgang von Goethe accents his legal career, the tragic first love of his life and the suicidal urges that led to his initial success with the publication of The Sorrows of Young Werther. Alexander Fehling is ably supported by a terrific cast, including Moritz Bleibtrau (Run Lola Run, The Baader Meinhof Complex) as his boss and competition for the hand of a beautiful woman.
The Space Between (USA/Travis Fine)
Recent Golden Globe winner Melissa Leo is having a breakthrough year and in Travis Fine’s sensitively written and directed film, she plays an alcoholic flight attendant on the edge of being terminated. In the days after September 11, 2001 she becomes responsible for a young American Muslim boy who lost his father in the
The Recipe (South Korea/Anna Lee)
Last year’s South Korean film Mother was this writer’s favorite film of the year and now, director Lee has co-written with Jang Jin a film from that country that almost defies description. It begins as a gentle parody of detective stories, as a Seoul TV journalist tries to find the cook of a beancurd stew soup that is so perfectly made, it instills an otherworldly sense of well-being to those who merely smell it. But without our even noticing, The Recipe shifts to a gorgeous love story that takes on mythic and poetic dimensions that one wants to savor long after the film has ended.
The Double Hour (Italy/Giuseppe Capotondi)
Sonia (Ksenia Rappoport) is a hotel maid and Guido (Filippo Timi) is a security guard who takes her to the villa he guards, where robbers coincidentally break in. Guido is killed. Or is he? Sonia is in a coma, imagining Guido was killed. We assume. Director Capotondi melds two different versions of reality in this psychological thriller and love story that uses symbology to entrance and trick the viewer in a most challenging and provocative manner.
Womb (Germany/Hungary/France/Benedek Fliegauf)
Hungarian director Fliegauf makes his English language debut with this mesmerizing, dreamlike and disturbing psychological science fiction film. Eva Green plays a woman who loses her lover (Matt Smith) to a car accident but has him cloned and gives birth to a baby who grows back into the boy and eventually the lover she once knew. The psychosexual tension and madness that permeate the relationship, as Smith’s character begins to question his identity, is fascinating, proving that conceptual sci-fi can be just as gripping as aliens and spaceships.