Malibu Film Festival
by Dianne Lawrence
April 14-18, 2005
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It can spell only one thing…the 6th Annual Malibu Film Festival presented by Paul Mitchell. The 6th annual Malibu Film Festival is a four-day celebrity Springtime film festival modeled after Cannes and Sundance. This April 14- 18, America’s favorite beach town hosts a slew of new independent films and filmmakers from around the world. Categories include shorts, features, documentaries and animation.
Everyone’s looking forward to the opening night film, Mad Hot Ballroom, a documentary on the discovery of ballroom dancing by a group of New York public school kids, directed by Marilyn Agrelo. I’m looking forward to the surreal Belgium offering “Ellecktra” directed by Rudolf Mestdagh. An ex/journalist/junkie tries to bring a wayward daughter back to her father.
Then there’s “A Hard Straight” directed by Goro Toshima, about an attempt by a group of newly released criminals to reintegrate into society. It’s tough deciding what to see as there are as many interesting offerings in this festival as there are trespassers on a private beach on a 4th of July weekend.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fabulous opening night event hosted by the Viceroy with the Maui and Sons fashion show or the Closing Night Awards Party at Wolfgang Puck’s Granita, where the ever elegant Pierce Brosnan will be honored.
A confident and exciting first feature from Belgium director Rudolf Mestdagh. Visually compelling and beautifully imaginative, the movie begins with the abrupt tragedy of our heroine, journalist Sam, played by the fabulous Gert Portael. A series of sharp edits follow, moving us back and forth between time and events and characters. A young boy dreams of becoming a pilot, a strip dancer in a high class brothel dreams of acting, a schizophrenic beauty is composing a masterpiece, an aging male perfumer is getting closer to creating the perfect scent, a dj is about to ask the girl of his dreams to marry him, all of them slowly inching towards their own harsh tragedies.. Sam has become a junkie and her efforts to drown herself are rudely interrupted as she is pulled back into life and forced to find a crime boss’s daughter. She owes him. All of these separate tales are drawn together in a masterful interplay of beautiful dream like surrealism and starkly harsh realism. Mestdagh has made his job easier by casting his film with superb actors and an excellent editor. Funny, disturbing, poetic.
Hooligans is a merry romp through a part of England not often explored by tourists. After being unjustly expelled from Harvard while studying journalism, Matt Buckner (Elijah Wood) decides to visit his sister in London. She has started a family with a doting husband who just happens to have a hell-raising brother Pete (the very sexy, very talented Charlie Hunnam). He is the leader of a (don’t call it soccer!) football (don’t call it gangs!) Firm the GSE (Green Street Elite). Before you can say “lets get some fish and chips” Matt jumps ship and decides to stay with the seductively dangerous Pete who initiates him into the finer points of Firm honor and ass-kicking. Through Matt we are invited to come along for the ride and get to know the mates, their wars and their ways and hopefully walk away a little bit wiser about the price of violence.
Director Lexi Alexander is a female ex kick boxing champ which may explain her assured hand in directing and storytelling. She is aggressive and straightforward and puts to rest any question about a woman’s ability to handle testosterone driven sensibilities. Some of my favorite moments were scenes of the actual game and the gorgeous camerawork that captured the grace and skill of the players, adults and school kids alike. Soccer is a beautiful, powerful game.
But she gets into a little trouble with the broad punches of the story and characters.
Although everyone appreciates a good brawl, the fight scenes get a little weary and there is something sad about the schoolyard politics that have grown men sitting in a pub getting drunk, plotting revenge and using their imagination to think of ways to humiliate their opponents whoever they are. She never steps outside the action long enough to comment and seems seduced by the explanations her characters give about themselves. There are no real surprises or quirks to elevate the story or characters out of the ordinary. For instance, the ending has the classic squaring off of the rival tribes in a deserted lot for the final blood revenge knockdown…and I just couldn’t help thinking of that hilarious scene in Will Ferrell’s “Anchorman. The Legend of Ron Burgundy” where his anchor team squares off in a deserted lot with a rival networks anchor team when a Hispanic networks anchor team comes around the corner itching to fight and another team comes around the corner and before you know it all the anchormen are beating the crap out of each other. But the film isn’t bad and you learn about the “Firm” phenomena and its fun to watch Elijah Wood nearly grow up and damn that Charlie Hunnam is sexy.
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