|Deborah Harry and JJ Feild in "The Moab Story," part one of "The Tulse Luper Suitcases."|
Toronto, Day 2
A pair of gorgeously clinical works from Peter Greenaway are balanced by a music groupie-mentary from L.A. and a knockout martial-arts picture from Thailand.
By ANDREA GRONVALL
Friday, September 5:
Peter Greenaway cultists are to be commended for their loyalty. His films
require unflagging concentration to absorb and process the staggering volume
of multi-layered images, texts and tracks. This year the 28th Toronto
International Film Festival is showcasing two sections of his ambitious
multimedia epic "The Tulse Luper Suitcases," and I caught both in one day.
|TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL, DAY 2|
|Includes individual films: "The Tulse Luper Suitcases: The Moab Story" by Peter Greenaway; "The Tulse Luper Suitcases: Antwerp" by Peter Greenaway; "Mayor of the Sunset Strip" by George Hickenlooper; "Ong-bak Muay Thai Warrior" by Prachya Pinkaew; "Matchstick Men" by Ridley Scott.|
Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto, Ontario, Sept. 4-13, 2003.
Related links: Official site | "Tulse Luper Suitcases" | "Mayor of the Sunset Strip" | "Matchstick Men"
| RELATED ARTICLES|
Toronto Film Festival, Day 1|
Our correspondent at the Toronto International Film Festival unearths promising new work from Germany and Korea.
Toronto Film Festival, Day 3|
Another beautiful film from Korea, Kim Ki-duk's "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter .. and Spring," shares a bill with Errol Morris's timely examination of the Vietnam War and the latest from actress of the moment Scarlett Johansson.
Toronto Film Festival, Day 4|
Substantial female roles for adult actresses are among the highlights at the festival, including Cate Blanchett in "Veronica Guerin" and Anne Reid in "The Mother."
Toronto Film Festival, Days 5&6|
A documentary that uses the movies to trace the architectural history of Los Angeles is a highlight among the out-of-the-way offerings at the Toronto Film Festival.
"Part I: The Moab Story" introduces the eponymous hero, a young man of such
radiant beauty he will later, in the deserts of Mormon Utah, be mistaken for
the Angel Moroni. The opening title sequence establishes the deliberately
theatrical elements, as credits appear over actors' auditions for parts in
the large cast. The character names sound Dickensian, a suggestion that the
film aims for the scope of "Nicholas Nickleby" or "Bleak House," novels
initially published as serials (just as these films will be released
Art and artifice are familiar Greenaway preoccupations indeed the formal
visual aspects of his work are more memorable than the dialogue, which
ranges from the kitschy to the rhetorical. His compositions resemble
tableaux, and his figure poses and groupings evoke paintings by Renaissance
masters. But with "The Tulse Luper Suitcases" his camera is more dynamic.
Computer-generated panels overlay key shots to highlight actors and
emphasize developments, as in the scene where a company of Belgian Fascists
gather onstage to discuss Beckett and Kafka, thus signaling the influence of
these two writers on the story ahead.
Linear narrative, such as it is, competes with a dizzying barrage of
numbered objects, the 92 that represent the world. The broadly sketched plot
is advanced or derailed by the frequent title cards announcing the contents
of the suitcases owned by Luper (JJ Feild). The character has appeared in
previous Greenaway films; here he is a self-proclaimed clerk, avid
collector, traveler, writer, and occasional spy. Most of the film he spends
as a captive, during which he is stripped, debased, seduced or menaced,
depending on his jailers' whims.
|Rodney Bingenheimer and entourage in "Mayor of the Sunset Strip."|| |
"Part 1: The Moab Story" follows Luper from his childhood in Wales up until
the onset of World War II, where he is imprisoned in Belgium. "Episode 3:
Antwerp" repeats roughly the last forty minutes of "The Moab Story" before
continuing to the next cliffhanger. The cinematography by Reinier van
Brummelen is extraordinary, the primary reason to seek out these films. As
in previous Greenaway works, there is a great deal of full frontal nudity,
male and female, which would be erotic if the depiction of sex were not so
brutal and gynecological but that, of course, is the point. Without
question Greenaway is a visionary. But the filmmaker's sensibility is
burdened by the accumulated evil of world history, and his view of humanity
is accordingly dyspeptic. "The Tulse Luper Suitcases" leaves a distinctly
sour aftertaste, despite its ravishing imagery.
George Hickenlooper's documentary "Mayor of the Sunset Strip" was a welcome
palate cleanser, as I saw it sandwiched between the two parts of "Tulse
Luper." I bet I'm not alone in never having heard of Rodney Bingenheimer,
although he has been a fixture on the Los Angeles music scene since the
early Seventies. He ran away from home to become one of the most ubiquitous
teen groupies of The Beatles, Sonny & Cher, The Beach Boys, and David Bowie,
for whom he landed a record deal at RCA. He was a rock columnist in the
heyday of music magazines, doubled for Davy Jones on "The Monkees," and went
on to open a weird but happening club on Sunset, Rodney Bingenheimer's
English Disco. But it was in 1976 when he became a DJ at KROQ that he began
to hit his stride, being the first to spin Adam and the Ants, The B-52s,
Blondie, The Clash, The Cure, Duran Duran, The Go-Go's, Joan Jett, The
Ramones, Tom Petty, and The Sex Pistols, to name but a small fraction of the
bands he championed.
Many of those fabled musicians are on hand to share memories of that wild
scene and acknowledge Rodney's place in it. Affection is mixed with
nostalgia and amusement over the extent of Rodney's fixations. Much sadder
is the visit home after years of estrangement with his parents. The irony
is painful: the man who was photographed with every rocker who was anyone
isn't visible among the dozens of portraits in the family room. "Mayor of
the Sunset Strip" is both a celebration of rock before it became all
business, and a poignant look at the vicissitudes of fame. What's original
is the perspective of an eccentric supporting player.
Prachya Pinkaew's "Ong-Bak Muay Thai Warrior" heralds the arrival of a new
action star. The movie unfolds in the rural hamlet of Nong Pra-du, where an
annual contest is underway. The village men race to the top of an ancient
tree and then back again, kicking many competitors off during the scramble.
The winner is a young monastic candidate named Ting (Panom Yeerum), who has been
schooled by his mentor in the discipline called Muay Thai, which means "nine
body weapons." Ting has promised not to use this knowledge improperly, but
his resolve will be tested when a statue in the local temple is desecrated.
A punk steals the head of the Ong-Bak Buddha for the black-market trade in
antiquities, and Ting must journey to Bangkok to retrieve it.
| ||"Ong-bak Muay Thai Warrior."|
Panom Yeerum is a true discovery. His body is perfectly chiseled and his
athletic prowess is eye-popping, not only in the impressive fight sequences,
but also in chases where he dodges all kinds of obstacles while defying
gravity. Pretty amazing, given that none of the action scenes employ
special effects. One particularly ingenious bit of stunt choreography
starts with a fight match on the lower level of a club. The camera follows
the combatants up the stairs, through a wall into another room, then out
through a window to the ground again. "Ong-Bak Muay Thai Warrior" is the
kind of festival movie that's here to show what's commercial in an industry
overseas. The only thing that would consign this film to an American
arthouse is its subtitles. It really belongs in the multiplex.
Its inverse is "Matchstick Men," which is a multiplex movie that's here
because it has artistic pretensions and Oscar aspirations, and Toronto is an
important launching pad for award campaigns. Nicolas Cage elevates the
slender material with another virtuoso performance: he plays a con man who
has so many tics and phobias his future earning power is being compromised,
a situation that does not go unnoticed by partner in crime Sam Rockwell.
Entertaining complications arise, but this is the kind of territory films
like "The Spanish Prisoner" and "Nine Queens" have already explored, and
with greater skill. Sir Ridley Scott directs, and, as always with his work,
the look is great. Cage will possibly get another Academy Award nomination
because he carries this high-profile film, but Robert Downey Jr. in "The
Singing Detective" is a worthier candidate.
On the slate for Toronto, Day 3: Errol Morris' "The Fog of War," Stephen
Fry's "Bright Young Things," Peter Webber's "Girl with a Pearl Earring," and
Kim Ki-duk's "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring."
|| Mayor of the Sunset Strip
Diminutive Rodney Bingenheimer hangs out with a lot of big-time musical icons in "Mayor of the Sunset Strip," a documentary that overrelies on his pixie-ish proximity to fame and his quizzical personality.
|| Memories of Murder
A constantly deceptive detective story in which bad cops who think they're doing good work look for a serial killer in all the wrong places.
|SEPTEMBER 10, 2003|
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