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ISSUE
  Thursday
173
  April 22
2004
c o n t e n t s
 
 

Get Your ‘Goat’
Love, Loss, Deep Holes and a Goat in SLAC’s Newest (and Best) Production
 

TV Masterpiece 'Freaks and Geeks’ Finally Gets DVD Dues

Upper-Class Murder
‘The Flower of Evil’ Offers More Morbid Fun from Claude Chabrol

 
 
 

 theReel
 
Opening This Weekend
 
by Jeremy Mathews

“The Battle of Algiers”
Rialto Pictures
(Not rated)
In French with English subtitles
(out of four)

It says something when people have to point out that no scene in a film comes from archival or documentary footage. Made in 1965, Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo’s “The Battle of Algiers” records the French occupation of Algeria and the terrorist attacks that resulted in opposition, and shows both sides escalating an already bad situation.

Bombings that occur in the Muslim quarter offend an already upset population, and Algeria’s National Liberation Front terrorist organization escalates its attacks from police assassinations to bombing public places full of innocent people. The film challenges both the French government’s attempts to silence the call for independence and the terrorists’ random bombings.

While Pontecorvo may have sympathized with the terrorists’ positions, he films every action similarly to how it happened, making all the violence look unnecessary. The tense score by Ennio Morricone and Pontecorvo adds even more urgency to each scene.

The new release of the film includes more complete subtitles, which make the events clearer. In terms of restoration, the picture is supposed to look gritty, and still does, but is pristinely gritty.

The depiction of the riots, press conferences and marching soldiers and the tragic outcome of the terrorist bombings and French political positions are so authentic that it seems like real documentary footage was edited into the film’s dramatic aspects. Pontecorvo reveals the reason behind both sides’ actions, and questions the best way to enact a revolution.


“Clifford’s Really Big Movie”
Warner Bros.
Rated G
(Not reviewed)

Who wouldn’t want to spend 73 minutes with a big, red dog? The only possible way this film could maybe—just maybe—not blow you away is if you’ve lived longer than four years.


“The Flower of Evil”
3 reels (out of four)
See review


“13 Going on 30”
Columbia Pictures
Rated PG-13
(Not reviewed)

The charming Jennifer Garner, with the sexy Mark Ruffalo among the supporting roles, tackles this “Big”-meets-“A Christmas Carol” tale as a 13-year-old girl who receives her wish to jump forward 17 years and avoid all that pubescent unpleasantness. Of course, it turns out that she’s a bit of a bitch now, but maybe her sweet prepubescent heart can turn her life around.


“Man on Fire”
20th Century Fox
Rated R
(out of four)

Before “Man of Fire” turns into a standard revenge film with odd visual ticks, it has an impressive hour of touching drama. Denzel Washington plays an ex-military assassin who now drinks heavily—he dumps his entire flask into a small cup of soda. Upon the advisement of his old friend (Christopher Walken), he gets a job as a security guard for a little girl, as there’s a kidnapping in Latin America every hour and it’s both a status symbol and a serious concern for wealthy families.

Dakota Fanning plays the child of a Mexican businessman (Marc Anthony) and his American wife (Radha Mitchell), whose origin, as discernible from her accent, ranges from the deep south to anywhere in America. The girl slowly cracks her guard’s shell, and their relationship is really quite touching.

Unfortunately, odd, ineffective MTV-style editing and endless revenge investigations mar the last 90 minutes of the film.

Instead of conventional subtitles, the film uses conspicuously designed titles that scroll the text and use varying font sizes. It doesn’t only subtitle Spanish, but some accented English and, in one scene, Washington’s English dialogue. This method, along with director Tony Scott’s tinkering with a flickering picture and aperture, are failed elements that don’t serve the film’s purpose. I’d think the fast editing was an attempt at experimentation, but I think Scott was simply trying to make his opening and a few random moments look like a trailer rather than a film.

If you can forgive the film’s shortcomings, it actually has some very worthwhile stuff in it, including the performances by Washington, Walken and Fanning. The ending even still has some power, despite the murky middle.

 

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